December 1992 brought a large slice of festive cheer to manager Alex Ferguson and his Manchester United team.
The Red Devils had suffered a few setbacks – and were languishing in 10th place in the inaugural Premier League season.
New striker Dion Dublin was ruled out for six months with a broken leg, while veteran midfielder Bryan Robson had missed many games through injury.
Then came a bolt from the blue – or more accurately, the white. Mercurial French midfielder Eric Cantona was signed for £1.2m from Leeds United.
Cantona made his debut against Manchester City at Old Trafford on Saturday December 6th. A crowd of 35,408 saw United win 2-1 with goals from Paul Ince and Mark Hughes. City’s reply came from Niall Quinn.
United’s season went from strength to strength after their derby victory. They won the league at a canter with a 10-point margin over Aston Villa. City finished ninth.
Ryan Giggs was voted the Professional Football Association’s Young Player of the Year for the second time in a row and Hughes was top scorer for United with 15 league goals.
December 1992 may have been United’s turn to shine in the local derby, but it was a very different story in September 1989 when City thrashed their neighbours 5-1.
It was the seventh match of the new season – City’s first back in the First Division after two years in Division Two – and more than 43,000 packed into Maine Road to see the spectacle.
City’s football was superb. David Oldfield scored two goals with the other three coming from Ian Bishop, Andy Hinchcliffe and Trevor Morley. Hughes scored for United.
The defeat heightened the pressure on United manager Ferguson – there were even calls for him to be sacked before Christmas.
But the season ended in triumph for the Red Devils who won the FA Cup in a replay against Crystal Palace. It was their first major trophy for five years.
City, under manager Mel Machin until November 1989 and then Howard Kendall, finished 14th in the league on 48 points. United were one place above them on the same total but with a better goal difference.
Manchester derbies in the 1980s began with a 2-2 draw at Old Trafford in September 1980. United manager Dave Sexton was sacked at the end of the season and City manager Malcolm Allison left soon afterwards.
City reached the FA Cup Final under new manager John Bond in 1981 while United won the trophy in 1983, beating Brighton 4-0 in the Wembley replay.
City were relegated the same season. The Old Trafford derby in October 1982 resulted in a 2-2 draw and United won 2-1 at Maine Road in March 1983.
The Blues bounced back to the First Division in 1985, but lost the September derby match at Maine Road 0-3. The return game at Old Trafford ended in a 2-2 draw.
City were relegated again in 1987 while United finished in 11th place. United manager Ron Atkinson had been replaced in November 1986 by Alex Ferguson, who was in charge for the 2-0 league win over City in March 1987.
October 1990 saw an exciting 3-3 draw at Maine Road, but the return match at Old Trafford in May proved memorable for another reason.
It marked the first senior goal of 17-year-old winger Ryan Giggs, who went on to make 672 appearances for United.
United overturned a two-goal deficit at Maine Road in November 1993 to win 3-2. Cantona scored twice along with Roy Keane. City’s two goals were again supplied by Niall Quinn.
Later that year Andrei Kanchelskis was the hero of the hour when he notched a hat-trick in United’s 5-0 demolition of City in November. Cantona and Hughes completed the rout.
City nearly pulled off a surprise win in October 1995 when only a string of brilliant saves by Peter Schmeichel earned United a 1-0 win at Old Trafford. The Red Devils’ scorer was 20-year-old Paul Scholes.
Schmeichel has never lost a derby game – for United or City! He played in 10 matches for United and one for City during his single season at Maine Road in 2002-3.