As Sir Alex prepares to do battle with Sven Goran Eriksson in the Swede's first Manchester derby, we look back at the other Blue bosses he's faced…
1/10/1986 to 1/5/1987
Sir Alex’s first derby challenge, in January 1987, was thrown down by Jimmy Frizzell. Frizzell brought his relegation-bound City side to Old Trafford for an FA Cup third-round tie in front of a 54,000 crowd but Norman Whiteside’s strike in a 1-0 win ended City’s Cup challenge. A 2-0 league victory in March maintained Alex Ferguson’s 100 per cent derby record, and Frizzell moved "upstairs" at Maine Road, becoming General Manager at the season’s end.
1/5/1987 to 30/11/1989
While Sir Alex toiled to rebuild the squad he’d inherited, Mel Machin, the former Norwich head coach, had been charged with the task of getting City back into the top flight. He succeeded in May 1989 and thus his first derby was set for 23 September. The date is ingrained on the memories of all Reds and Blues present. After an early delay due to crowd control issues, United were hammered 5-1. Despite the win, Machin was fired at the end of November, meaning no return visit to Old Trafford.
6/12/1989 to 5/11/1990
Kendall’s track record with Everton gave Blues hope despite the spectre of relegation looming over Maine Road. And by the time February’s Old Trafford derby came into view, it wasn’t just City who were in desperate trouble. United had not recorded a league win in 11 games – and were denied here, the revenge mission falling flat as Clayton Blackmore’s diving header was cancelled out by Ian Brightwell’s sizzling 25-yarder. The following October, United were again staring a Maine Road hammering in the face, 3-1 down with just minutes remaining. But Brian McClair’s dramatic late brace got them on level terms. Just days later, Kendall moved back to Goodison Park.
15/11/1990 to 26/8/1993
Reid arrived at Maine Road from QPR in December 1989 as one of Kendall’s first signings. In the wake of the manager’s departure, Reid became player-manager and his derby bow in the hotseat came in May 1991. A youngster called Ryan Giggs was making his full United debut and a combination of Giggs and Colin Hendry deflected the ball into City’s net for the game’s only goal. City ended the season above United for the first time since 1978 and Reid’s tenure produced a fair head-to-head record in derbies, which included taking four valuable points off United in the 1991/92 title race. In December 1992, Paul Ince and Mark Hughes earned United the points in a riveting Old Trafford encounter graced by the debut of a derby-day legend in the making – Eric Cantona. The following March, Reid’s City again looked to have put one over on United, but then Cantona’s head connected with Lee Sharpe’s cross to level the game at 1-1. By August 1993 Reid had gone.
28/08/1993 to 16/05/1995
The Ferguson-Cantona axis initiated a sustained spell of local superiority, and former Oxford manager Brian Horton was the man on the receiving end. Cantona, having inspired United to an amazing turnaround at Maine Road, was again under pressure ahead of Horton’s first OT derby, two red cards having resulted in a five-match ban. Yet Eric was again an inspiration, his double sealing the match. The following season’s fixtures produced an 8-0 aggregate United win.
2/7/1995 to 27/8/1996
Approaching his only Old Trafford derby, Alan Ball’s team were in dire straits after seven consecutive defeats. It turned into eight after Paul Scholes pounced inside five minutes. Only 35,000 were in attendance as the United Road stand was being rebuilt and no away fans were admitted. Later that season, Ball’s weary troops would go on to further derby defeats in both the league and, more controversially, the Cup, before relegation on the final day.
18/2/1998 to 21/5/2001
After parting company with Everton in 1997, former City centre-forward Joe Royle had a year to wait until his old club came calling. Relegation to the Second Division followed before two successive promotions brought about a first Manchester derby in five seasons. Maine Road’s match was memorable only for David Beckham’s early free-kick winner. Old Trafford’s encounter was no classic, either: Teddy Sheringham scored from the spot before Steve Howey equalised for relegation-bound City. Royle left Maine Road at the end of the season.
24/5/2001 to 11/3/2005
Keegan took over as City manager a year after his resignation as England coach, and the renewal of his celebrated rivalry with Sir Alex brought City their first Maine Road derby win for 14 years. City then earned a hard-fought 1-1 draw at Old Trafford in March 2003, putting City on top in the seasonal head-to-heads for the first time since 1990. Despite going on to lose three derbies in the next two seasons, another victory for Keegan – 4-1 in February 2004 – made him the most successful Blues boss in terms of games won since Tony Book left in 1979.
21/3/2005 to 14/5/2007
Pearce ended his playing career at City and stayed around in a coaching capacity until he was handed the manager's job after Kevin Keegan's departure. Pearce came to Old Trafford for his first derby and left with a point after a 1-1 draw. He then triumphed at Eastlands four months later, winning 3-1 in a match that saw Cristiano Ronaldo sent off. The 2006/07 season was less successful for "Pyscho", with United taking maximum points both home and away. Pearce lost his job after the final match of the campaign.