Mother of all derbies

For the first time in a generation or more, the United vs. City match this Sunday the so-called "Manchester derby" will be a true contest of equals. City v United: A quick glance

sports Updated: Oct 23, 2011 02:13 IST

As with Elvis Presley's death or the Moon landing, those who care about Manchester City can recall where they were and what they were doing when a billionaire sheik from Abu Dhabi radically rerouted the trajectory of their football club and threatened to darken Alex Ferguson's twilight years as manager of rival Manchester United.

City for years was Manchester's other team, the poor cross-town cousin who could only look on with envy and sadness as United bounced from victory to victory under Ferguson and, on the back of his triumphs, built a global, money-spinning brand that sells from Beijing to Baltimore and beyond.

To be a City fan required large amounts of loyalty and no small amounts of masochism and good humor. Former manager Peter Reid recalls that the club was so threadbare that he once paid for a team hotel with his own credit card. When Ferguson was leading United to the final of the 1999 European Cup, City was mired in the purgatory of English football's lower leagues. Five months before United was crowned king of Europe, City sunk to its lowest league position ever, knee-deep in England's third tier.

While United fans gleefully rubbed their hands, City supporters crossed fingers and hoped for better days. One sheik and hundreds of millions of dollars later, their wait is over.

For the first time in a generation or more, the United vs. City match this Sunday the so-called "Manchester derby" will be a true contest of equals. When referee Mark Clattenburg blows his whistle, City will field 11 players who, pound-for-pound, can match United's star-studded line-up for talent and experience.

They've already proved that by building a 2-point league lead over United before this game. That could grow to 5 points if they win. Sunday could be so important in determining whether United or City wins the League next May that Ferguson described it as "a six-pointer" a game that counts double.

For Ferguson, who turns 70 this year, City's phoenix-like rise could ruin his remaining years at United. However, since Sheik Mansour's takeover, City has not yet beaten United in a league game. One reason why this match is so important is to gauge how much closer City has edged to United. "It's probably the biggest derby ever," said Mike Summerbee, a former City player.

Wolves draw
London: Wolverhampton scored twice in the last five minutes to rescue a 2-2 draw against Swansea at Molineux Saturday.

Saturday's results

Wolves 2 Swansea 2; Aston Villa 1 West Brom 2; Bolton 0 Sunderland 2; Newcastle 1 Wigan 0

First Published: Oct 22, 2011 23:09 IST