The Manchester Derby

Some background:

I'm a football (not throwball, FOOTBALL) fan. I've played since I could walk, and as with anything that interests me I have always kept up with what the best in the world are doing. In 1992, a young fellow named Ryan Giggs was playing for the Famous Manchester United. He was 17 years old. I was amazed, and I have continued to follow him, his career, and his club for the last 17 years.

Throughout that time, Man United has had the biggest players in the world on the stage at Old Trafford: Cantona, Keane, Beckham, Scholes, Stam, Schmeichel, Ronaldo, and Rooney to name only a few. During the Giggs era they have won every possible top tier honor for an English club, including two European Cups, eleven English Premier League titles, four Football Association Cups, the FIFA Club World Cup, and countless lesser accolades.

In short, I have been a fan of the greatest football club in the world for 17 years.

Now, the Derby:

A Derby Day is when two clubs from the same city or region play each other. In the US, there are many high school, college, and professional rivalries that qualify. Jets-Giants, Cubs-Sox, Yankees-Mets, Michigan-Michigan State, North-Henry, ad infinitum.

In football, there are several very important derbies that every fan knows about: Liverpool-Man United, Internazionale-AC Milan, Real Madrid-Atletico Madrid, and Boca Juniors-River Plate (Buenos Aires). In English football, you also have the North London Derby between Tottenham and Arsenal, the Merseyside Derby between Liverpool and Everton, and various other derbies that range from pub leagues to the Premiership.

Now that you have the basics, let's discuss my favorite: the Manchester Derby.

First contested on November 12, 1881, the Manchester Derby has an official Football Association tale of 62 wins for United and 41 for City with 49 draws. Fairly competitive, sure, but as anyone who knows anything about sports rivalries can tell you, the record doesn't matter, its the spirit that counts, and there are few things on this planet more spirited than the blue half versus the red half in Manchester.

Yesterday marked the umpteenth Manchester Derby, and had special significance as both teams are looking likely to finish near the top of the league this year. The game was intense, and truly a rollercoaster ride, as my neighbors can probably attest to given my early morning shouting fits (kickoff was at 7:30am here), but in the end the famous Man United won after a last-gasp strike by former Liverpool player Michael Owen.

Best of all, following the match, City striker Craig Bellamy was captured in this pullitzer-worthy photo interacting with one of the 76,212 Mancunians who made this day, in the words of United manager Sir Alex Ferguson, "the best derby of all time."

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