The domestic success of the Blues since the takeover in 2008 has added a different element to the Manchester derby. It used to be United who came into the clash as favourites, but now, more often than not, it is City who are expected to win, regardless of the competition or venue.
It is still the Reds who boast the better record in the derby, but City are gradually catching them up. When the two sides met back in December 2017, it was, in many ways, a throwback encounter. It was an entertaining clash on the pitch, but it was off the events off the field, specifically in the tunnel, that dominated the headlines.
City took the lead at Old Trafford, with David Silva opening the scoring for the away side in the 43rd minute. However, Marcus Rashford levelled proceedings in added-time of the first half. The first period had been an entertaining encounter, and the second half was just the same. The Blues, who had been on top for a lot of the clash, regained the lead through Nicolas Otamendi in the 54th minute – which proved to be the winning goal.
The Reds, according to the match statistics, made 16 fouls, while their opponents recorded 10. Four of Jose Mourinho&aposs men had been cautioned, while two of Pep Guardiola&aposs players had been carded. The fact that the game had to come to a conclusion was frustrating for the majority of spectators – the fiery game had been thoroughly entertaining, but the drama was far from over.
After the game, as is the case following every match, the two managers shook hands. City had beaten their great rivals 2-1 to move 11 points clear at the top of the Premier League table. While Mourinho quickly headed for the tunnel, Guardiola celebrated with his staff before showing his appreciation towards the Blues fans.
Post-match duties saw Bernardo Silva and Kevin De Bruyne – who was named Man of the Match – conduct TV interviews, while Sergio Aguero remained in the tunnel talking. The City players were celebrating their hard-fought victory, but with the away team dressing room being situated close to where the United coaches&apos lounge is located, things took an unexpected turn.
Mourinho, frustrated at the result and the manner of his side&aposs performance, walked to the door of the City dressing room and requested that the Blues players and staff keep the noise and music down – and show some more respect to their opponents. Ederson, who was standing close to the entrance, was annoyed by the Portuguese coach&aposs request, and the pair allegedly began to hurl insults at each other.
As per the Telegraph, Mourinho reputedly said to Ederson in English: “You f****** show respect! Who are you?”
The exchange was followed by a one-pint milk carton being launched in Mourinho&aposs direction. It missed the Reds boss, but hit a wall and splattered over a member of United&aposs staff. The commotion saw United&aposs players come out of their dressing room.
Tempers were flaring, and several people were involved. Romelu Lukaku was quick to move to support his manager, with the Belgian frontman more than happy to get stuck in with the verbal back-and-fourth. City captain Vincent Kompany is said to have been restrained, and then Blues coach Mikel Arteta was thought to have been knocked against a wall or door in the midst of the commotion. The Spaniard suffered a cut to his head during the two-minute scuffle.
Stewards and a police officer stationed in the tunnel were forced to intervene and break up the melee, and things quickly calmed down with both sets of players returning to their respective dressing room.
Despite the altercation, and the fact that Mourinho went to speak to referee Michael Oliver in the referee&aposs room, nothing was mentioned in his interviews with Sky Sports, the BBC and other right holders. Moreover, the Portuguese coach did not discuss the scuffle in his post-match press conference.
Similarly, Guardiola – who came out one minute after Mourinho – also made no comment about the tunnel bust-up.
While the altercation was not discussed, Mourinho and Guardiola still managed to irk each other in their post-match interviews. The former claimed the Blues had benefitted from preferential treatment by referees, while also branding his own side&aposs defending as &aposdisgraceful&apos.
Mourinho had insisted that City were fortunate to seal a record 14th consecutive win, and argued that Oliver&aposs refusal to award a 79th-minute penalty after Ander Herrera went down under Otamendi&aposs challenge was wrong. Instead, Herrera was booked for diving.
“They are lucky, I think they have all these decisions in their favour,” said Mourinho, who had accused City of being divers in the run-up to the match. “We can speak about anything you want, we can bring any football theory, stats, ball possession, but like last season it is a huge penalty in a crucial moment.
“You expect City to score great goals, not to score two disgraceful goals. They had apparent control but the biggest save is the double save of Ederson.”
However, Guardiola recalled similar jibes after the 2-1 win at Old Trafford the previous season, saying: “It was the same. But we won because we were better. In all departments we were better. I dont know the plan from my opponent but we came here to try to win.
“We did the same at Stamford Bridge. I am happy because so many people say you cannot win in England playing like this. Its still only December. If we have an 11-point lead when we play the derby in April then maybe I will tell you we have the title.”
Both clubs were required to provide the Football Association with their versions of the fracas. Unsurprisingly, both sides believed the other to be culpable for the incident. While some form of punishment was widely expected, the FA revealed late in December that “no formal action” would be taken against City or United.
Given that Oliver did not witness the incident – and did not file a report – the FA were left to investigate the skirmish.
“Following a review of the evidence provided by the clubs and independent eyewitnesses, the FA will be taking no formal action,” an FA statement said.
It took some time, but Mourinho eventually explained his part in the incident. He was coy with how he discussed the altercation, but spoke about &aposdiversity&apos.
“The only thing I can say is it was just a question of diversity; diversity in behaviours, diversity in education,” he told reporters when asked about the flashpoint. “Nothing more than that. That&aposs all I&aposm going to say.”
In response to Mourinho&aposs complaint, Guardiola insisted his players had not set out to annoy their neighbours following the victory.
“Our intention was not that [to upset United]. Our intention was to celebrate inside the locker room our happiness, because we were happy,” he said. “If people can&apost understand that then I am sorry. We were so happy, we won a derby and wanted to celebrate in the locker room. If in that we offend Man United not just one player, not Jose, not the players Man United, I apologise.”
City went on to win the Premier League title by 19 points that reason, with United – who recorded 81 points – finishing in second position. In the Manchester derbies that have followed in recent years, there have been few controversies. Now, six years after the tunnel row in 2017, it is almost certain that there will be no bad blood between Guardiola and Erik ten Hag.
Ten Hag, who worked under Guardiola at Bayern Munich, has completely changed the mindset at Old Trafford since his arrival in the summer, while his opposition manager has continued to lead his side at the top end of the table. It will be the second time that City and United have clashed this term, with the Blues having won the reverse fixture 6-3 at the Etihad Stadium in October.