Tue. Dec 7th, 2021

Ask a group of Manchester City fans to find out the moment they realized the club’s fortunes were changing and you’ll probably get many different answers.

Sheikh Mansour’s acquisition of the club in 2008, shortly followed by the British transfer record signing of Robinho, seems like an obvious place to start.

Or maybe the FA Cup semi-final in April 2011, where City defeated bitter rivals Manchester United on their way to winning a first major trophy in 35 years. And how could anyone not mention the AGUEROOOOOOO goal that won the title in 2012?

For me, the derby day’s demolition of United on October 23, 2011 was that moment.

Normally, it would not seem appropriate to attach so much importance to a game against a title rival so early in the season. Yes, it was United and not just any old title rival, but the fact is that if City had lost that day at Old Trafford, they could well have won the league anyway. But the scoreline …

As a 14-year-old who had grown up fearing the after-school days after the derby, when my seemingly innumerable federal-supporting peers would relentlessly laugh in the small old town, I feared the worst that day.

After the joy of the FA Cup victory a few months before, City had rediscovered their innate ability to implode against their neighbors and blew a 2-0 lead to lose 3-2 in the 2011 Community Shield.

To make matters worse – to this day I have no idea what I was thinking – I had agreed to watch the match at the home of a friend with two United fans. We did not have Sky Sports at home, so needs to be.

Vincent Kompany celebrates with the traveling City support after City’s 6-1 victory.

After the 10 minutes I had opened, I was already planning my escape route – the key was in the lock, but there was also a patio door to negotiate. Can I pluck my back out? I had to be careful not to let the cat out. United looked good, and as in most derbies at home at the time, we looked nervous.

Then something strange happened: we scored first. Mario Balotelli’s famous party seemed to inject a certain bias into our game, and suddenly we ran the show.

Shortly after halftime, Jonny Evans was sent off, but then there was only one team to win. We smelled of blood and definitely went to the city.

The laughter on my chubby pre-pubescent face got wider and wider as the reds on each side of me sank deeper and deeper into the couch. I had never before heard United fans quietly during a derby, or witnessed a respite in the almost constant mockery and jokes at City’s expense. It just did not happen.

Seeing David Silva tear United apart that day was an education in how football could be played.

When United pulled back a goal with 10 minutes to go, my stomach felt as if it was made of lead. It happened again, right? Another inevitable United comeback. Images of Michael Owen driving away in celebration clouded my vision.

The last three minutes of the game blew my tiny little mind. We were not just content to scrape a rare derby victory, happy to take the brags for a few months before returning to the ground with a thump like previous years. We were there to take over, to humiliate our tormentors on their own grass.

The score, 6-1, was obviously fun. At the time, we were almost used to scoring six goals against Portsmouth and Norwich City, but against United? It was absurd.

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As I mentioned at the beginning of this piece, in the broader context of that season, the scoring line was probably not indifferent. We won the title difference goal, the 10-goal swing caused by 6-1 ultimately proved crucial, but no one knows how the rest of the season would have gone if the result had been different.

In the big scheme, however, it was incredibly important to take United to the cleaning assistants. More than beating them at Wembley, it meant a change of guard.

City’s derby wins in the years before, which would normally have happened, simply because United had played poorly, but from that point on, City would set the agenda.

By winning 6-1, City United put in their place. Despite the strange success of the decade since, they have not recovered.

What do you remember about the day City beat United 6-1? Follow City Is Our author Alex Brotherton on Twitter to join the conversation and tell us your thoughts in the comments section below.


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