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The Gordon Hill column: Years and years of derbies and now a season-long rivalry

Well well, this week I am going down memory lane to the old local derby: Manchester United vs Manchester City. I think the last time these two big clubs hammered it out for an entire season was way back. I remember the derbies I played in; City were a tremendous team then.

Ask the majority of Manchester United fans what they dislike most about the derby game and your chances are they'll answer ‘Manchester City’. I recall I played in a Manchester derby on a Tuesday night after we had just lost to Southampton in the FA Cup final - it was like playing in another final.

I must say that supporters do look at a local derby differently but I can assure you there is no animosity between players and managers. Although there is obviously great rivalry between the two camps, they have the utmost respect for each other.

United’s attitude and success is one reason why City could win the league this season for the first time in a long while. United have given their neighbours from across the city incentive to do well, and lift themselves out from under the shadow of Old Trafford. City have a great new stadium and a brand new team, so it would be great for them.

Inner-city rivalry

I have experienced inner-city rivalry in London with Millwall. I know how competitive and intense a local derby can be, but nothing down south compares with the atmosphere generated by the battles up north.

Up north, there is no such thing as a casual supporter; you are either a red or blue, United or City, no half-way. In Manchester, you can feel the tension mounting a week before a local derby in the streets, and in the pubs and clubs - everyone seems to talk about the forthcoming clash.

Supporters in the north are fanatical about their clubs and it is great; I revelled in that atmosphere. I loved being part of it, particularly the verbal banter between the two rival fans. One of my closest friends is a City supporter, and sure we argue about the merits of both sides, but certainly don't come to blows. That attitude still applies today to the majority of City and United fans, thank goodness.

To prove I do not dislike City, I'll state here and now that if United don't win the league, I hope City go on and claim the title. At this moment, City are a strong, disciplined outfit with a good manager in Mancini. All at the club have worked hard, so if they do take the title, they will have earned it.

Split-second

They have some great individuals who can turn a game in a split-second but having said that, so do United. I love the way this season is turning out, as it has been a long time City and United have been at each other’s necks for most of the season.

I remember some great games and some great City players who I had the pleasure to play against and become friends with: Joe Corrigan in goal; Mike Doyle, Dave Watson, and Willie Donachie in defence; in midfield, you had Asa Hartford, Gary Owen; and, up front there was Joe Royal, Brian Kidd, Dennis Tueart, Peter Barnes.

Wow, that was a team to play against, but we had some great players as well like Lou Macari, Stuart Pearson, Martin Buchan, Jimmy Nichol, Brian Greenhoff, Steve Coppell, Sammy McIlroy and me. We were all top players in them days, and all home-grown internationals.

Great memories from derbies will go on and on because that is the beauty of Manchester City versus Manchester United.

By Gordon Hill

Gordon Hill was capped six times for England in the 1970s and made 132 appearances for Manchester United, scoring 51 goals. He scored both United goals in their 1976 FA Cup semi-final win against Derby and played in the Red Devils' 2-1 FA Cup final triumph against Liverpool in 1977.

He has played for Millwall, Derby, QPR and FC Twente, and managed Chester City and Hyde. He has also played in Finland, the USA and Canada where he managed the Novia Scotia Clippers in the Canadian Soccer League.

As a media commentator, Hill has worked with Sky Sports, BBC, ITV and Talk Radio. He lives with his wife Claire in McKinney, Texas, where he owns and runs Texas-based club United FC



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