Between 1967 and 1969 Manchester was home to two English First Division Championships, the FA Cup and the European Cup. It was a golden age for football in Manchester and a time when noisy neighbors were just that and not the local light blue rivals.
It was also a time when many Manchester United supporters could easily remember when City were very much the top dogs in Manchester and United the upstarts that sufferred from financial crisis and on field calamities in equal measure.
The arrival of Matt Busby (a former Manchester City star) just after the war was to be the defining moment in Manchester football history. Forced to literally build United from the ground up (Old Trafford had been bombed and United had to play at Maine Road for a number of years) Busby initially went about shoring up the line up with veteran players and then slowly integrating young local players.
The youth movement was too eventually to hold sway as Busby’s scouts expanded the radius to all parts of Britain and United became known as a team where if you were good enough you were old enough.
Ironically the Munich Disaster forced Busby into re-balancing the mixture of youth and experience through necessity. With so many of United’s players lost at Munich Jimmy Murphy set about rebuilding the team as his boss lay in a Munich hospital desperately clinging to life.
Five years were to pass before United would win another trophy. But even the FA Cup win in 1963 against Leicester City was with a very real shadow of relegation hanging over the side for much of that season.
If United had been relegated there would have been a very good chance the team that would have stayed up would have been none other than Manchester City.
City was relegated with 31 points while United survived with 34 points. Nonetheless City beat United 3-2 and drew 1-1 and the draw at Maine Road came with only a couple of games left and it offered United some much needed breathing space.
With City relegated, United switched into top gear and took the English First Division in 1965 on account of a better goal difference over Leeds United.
But as United prospered City had discovered the management combination that was to lead them back. Joe Mercer and Malcolm Allison were to rebuild City with what might be the most astute set of signings ever made by a team in such a short space of time.
Mike Summerbee, Tony Book, Colin Bell and Francis Lee were all signed along with others and al were to play key roles in City winning the English First Division in 1968 holding of reigning champions United on the last day.
City went to Newcastle and won; United lost to Sunderland at Old Trafford; City won the league by two points.
Of course United would go on to win the European Cup just a matter of weeks later when they beat Benfica at Wembley Stadium in extra time.
For United 1968 proved to be the beginning of a slow decline and relegation came in 1974. Although there was a sprinkling of Cup wins many believe that it took the Premier League title win in 1993 to finally lay to rest 26 years of frustration and false dawns.
City won the League Cup in 1970 and 1976 along with the European Cup Winners Cup in 1970. They were also good enough to push Liverpool to the limit before falling a point back of the Merseysiders when the 1977 title was decided.
Demotion to the lower tier would come in 1983 for City and it would be the start of a roller-coaster existence. Financial trouble, boardroom intrigue, promotion followed by relegation followed by promotion was to become standard fare.
Tomorrow, 43 years on from the last time both Manchester sides could attach ribbons to major trophies it could happen again.
United and City played each other early in the 1968/69 season.
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