On Sunday 8th January 2012 I made my second visit to the Etihad Stadium to watch Manchester City play local rivals Manchester United in the FA Cup 3rd Round.
I was extremely excited to be going to my first ever Manchester derby, having watched so many on TV over the last few years, watching one in real life was a very exciting prospect. We had previously visited the Etihad Stadium to watch City take on Wolves in the Premier League and this was part of the reason that we had managed to get tickets for the Manchester derby.
We arrived outside the stadium with around 2 hours to go before kick off and the atmosphere around was already buzzing. After taking a few photos and buying a scarf with ‘City v United’ on as a memento, we decided to stand near the main entrance to see if we could see any ‘celebrities’ heading in before the game.
The first man I spotted was England’s first ever black international, Viv Anderson, who was friendly and happy to have a picture with me.
Not long after I noticed a nice car with blacked out windows pull up near the entrance and so I thought another famous person may be arriving. My Dad went up to have a closer look and simply said to me “Ryan, its David Beckham”, who was taking his coat out of the boot of the car. I was stunned and couldn’t quite believe it when I saw him literally a few feet away from me. I went staright up to him and asked if I could possibly get a photo, to which he politely replied “Yes”. Sadly, Beckham quickly got swarmed by autograph hunters and had to be escorted to the main entrance by his security man without me getting a photo. I was a little disappointed to miss out on this probably once in a life time opportunity to get a picture with David Beckham, but it was still incredible to speak to him and be so close to someone I have grown up watching and reading about.
I was a little stunned after meeting him, but not long after I also had pictures with Robbie Savage, boxer Amir Khan, Manchester City legends and FA Cup winners Tony Book and Mike Summerbee, current City and England star Gareth Barry and City life president Bernard Halford. I also saw Phil Neville, Patrick Viera and 1966 World Cup winner Sir Bobby Charlton as they walked towards the ground though I was unable to get pictures with them.
The Manchester City team coach also pulled up outside the entrance and I watched Roberto Mancini, David Platt and all the City stars including Sergio Aguero and David Silva make their way to Etihad Stadium.
After a brilliant start to the day, we headed to the City Village to watch Tony Book and Mike Summerbee being interviewed on the big screen as well as visiting the club store before heading through the turnstiles to take out seats for the Manchester derby.
The last time the two Manchester sides had met, City had destroyed the Red Devils winning 6-1 at Old Trafford in a memorable game. City were without a few big players for today’s game with both Yaya and Kolo Toure at the African Cup of Nations, Mario Balotelli injured and Gareth Barry suspended. Meanwhile, United came in to this game on the back of the news that Paul Scholes, who had retired at the end of last season, was returning until at least the end of the season and was named on the bench.
However, despite it being the cup and City missing a few key players, both sides named very strong line ups that included the likes of Wayne Rooney and David Silva, and you got the feeling that this game was more about the bragging rights than anything else.
The early minutes of the game saw City dominate and pile pressure on to the United defence, but they coped well and kept the game level. On the 10th minute, the Reds took the lead with their very first attack of the game courtesy of a quality header from Wayne Rooney that bounced off the underside of the bar and in. Rooney subsequently ran to the corner flag kissing his badge which both squashed any rumours that he may be leaving United and wound up the already angry City supporters.
Things went from bad to worse for the home side when their captain Vincent Kompany was shown a straight red card for what looked like a perfectly good tackle on Nani. I thought the decision was very harsh and it appeared to change the game in United’s favour.
City went looking for an equaliser and Sergio Aguero’s long range effort was tipped wide by Anders Lindegaard in the United net but that is the closest they came as the reds doubled the advantage on the 30th minute. Danny Welbeck turned and fired the ball in to the net first time with a quality finish after the ball had deflected up in to the air off of Samir Nasri.
The game looked all but over just 10 minutes later when Welbeck was sliced down in the area by City defender Aleksander Kolarov and referee Chris Foy quickly pointed to the spot. Rooney stepped up and after his first effort was saved, he managed to nod in the rebound from just inches out to give United a massive 3-0 lead.
The game already looked out of City’s reach and there were fears that it could become very embarrassing when Welbeck nearly got on the end of a low driven cross in front of goal that would have almost certainly made it 4-0.
A double substitution from Roberto Mancini appeared to have weakened City’s line up with Silva and Johnson being replaced by Savic and Zabaleta, but it clearly had the opposite effect and City quickly pulled a goal back with an unstoppable Kolarov free kick to make it 1-3.
United continued to have a lot of the possession without creating too many chances, the best attempt coming from Rooney who forced a decent save from Costel Pantilimon in the City goal. The Reds also brought on the returning Paul Scholes in the hope of stopping City from pulling any more goals back.
It didn’t work and the comeback was really on when Aguero reduced the deficit to 2-3. His first shot was saved but he was first to the rebound and he tapped the ball in to the open net to put City just one goal behind.
This put the voices back in to the City supporters as they began to believe that they could complete this incredible comeback. However, United’s ability to keep hold of the ball for long periods of time kept the City attackers quiet and they failed to have another good chance until late in the game.
As the last few moments approached, City won a free kick in a similar position to where their first goal had come from. Kolarov fired in the free kick but the ball was cleared away. Aguero quickly got hold of the ball and his low cross appeared to hit the hand of Phil Jones but the penalty shout was waved away and a corner was given. The City keeper went up for the corner and he even managed to get his head on the ball but the chance disappeared and as the final whistle went it was 3-2 to Manchester United.
The game had been a classic and both sets of fans seemed happy at the final whistle. I had a wonderful day and I really enjoyed every minute of it. From meeting David Beckham to watching a thrilling game between the two best sides in England at the moment, it will be a day I shall remember for the rest of my life.
Manchester City 2-3 Manchester United
Rooney ’10 ’40 (pen), Welbeck ’30, Kolarov ’48, Aguero ’65Pantilimon, Richards, Kompany (RC), Lescott, Kolarov, Milner, Johnson (Zabaleta ’46), Nasri (Hargreaves ’82), Silva (Savic ’46), De Jong, Aguero Lindegaard, Evra, Jones, Ferdinand, Smalling, Giggs, Carrick, Nani (Scholes ’59), Valencia, Welbeck (Anderson ’75), Rooney