Sunday’s game sees United take on Manchester City at Old Trafford in a game where both teams will be looking to cement their place in the Premier League’s top four to guarantee Champions League football for next season. With the rivalry between the two teams as fierce as ever, secondary maybe only to United’s rivalry with Liverpool, we take a look at five of the players who have crossed the great divide and turned out for both teams over the years.
Billy Meredith – United 1906-1921, City 1894 – 1906 & 1921-1924
The mercurial Billy Meredith’s career took off in 1894 when he signed for City from Northwich Victoria after previously working down the mines and playing for local team Chirk in his native Wales. Meredith signed for City as an amateur and continued to work down the pit for a year or so, travelling back and forth to Manchester for matches.
Meredith spent 12 years at City during his first spell at the club, winning the Second Division title in 1899 and the FA Cup in 1904 as well as being appointed club captain at the age of just 21. His time on the blue half of Manchester ended in controversy as he was suspended for attempting to bribe an opposition player.
While still serving his ban he joined United on a free transfer where he became part of a formidable forward line that won two First Division titles, an FA Cup and two Charity Shields between 1908 and 1911 under manager Ernest Mangnall. He stayed at Old Trafford until 1921 when on 7th May he became the clubs oldest ever player when he took to the field against Derby County at the age of 46 years and 281 days.
Meredith was one of the most talented players of his age and had a terrific injury record considering the physical nature of the game at the time. He was famous for chewing on a toothpick during games as well as for his role in setting up the Players Union, one of the forerunners to the modern day PFA. He remained close to both Manchester clubs until his death in 1958.
Sir Matt Busby – United manager 1945 -1969 & 1970-71, City player 1928-1936
Arguably the founding father of the modern day Manchester United won the FA Cup with City and captained Liverpool. Doesn’t sound believable does it? But it’s true.
Busby spent eight years at City as a player, the highlight of his time there being an FA Cup win in 1934 before transferring to Liverpool two years later. The Second World War put an end to his playing career and he took the reins at Old Trafford when the conflict ended in 1945.
Sir Matt set about transforming the club from a mediocre side to one of the most exciting teams in the country. He built three great teams, most notably the Busby Babes who captured the imagination of the country before eight of them perished at Munich.
The great man set about building another team and finally achieved his goal of winning the European Cup in 1968, ten years after the disaster. He retired the following year but made a brief comeback in 1970/71 after the sacking of Wilf McGuiness before serving on the board for many years until his death in 1994.
Busby left a legacy at Old Trafford that is still present to this day, one that has been apparent this season with his philosophy of developing young players continuing with the successful introduction of the likes of Paddy McNair, Tyler Blackett and James Wilson to the first team.
Denis Law – United 1962-1973, City – 1960 -1961 & 1973 – 1974
Law signed for City from Huddersfield Town in March 1960 for a record fee of £55, 000 and helped the club survive in the First Division the following season. An unhappy spell with Italian club Torino followed before he was snapped up by Sir Matt Busby on his return for a new British record fee of £115, 000.
Law’s goals helped to continue United’s revival after Munich and the club won the FA Cup in his first season. League Championships in 1965 and 1967 followed before injury prevented from playing in the 1968 European Cup final victory over Benfica.
Over the next few years injuries began to take their toll over ‘The Lawman’ and he was eventually released by Tommy Docherty in 1973 as he tried to rebuild a side that was clearly on the slide. Law returned to Old Trafford the following season to haunt Docherty and United by scoring that infamous back-heeled goal that effectively condemned his beloved old club to relegation, his lack of celebration was apparent as United fans invaded the pitch shortly afterwards.
Brian Kidd – United 1967-1974, City 1976-1979
‘Kiddo’ holds the distinction of having played and coached at both clubs and is currently still part of the coaching staff at Eastlands.
Kidd burst onto the scene as a United player when he scored in the European Cup final over Benfica on his 19th birthday. Over the next few years he didn’t quite live up to the potential he had first showed, drifting in and out of favour in a team that was by this stage clearly in decline. He left the club in 1974 to join Arsenal and linked up with City a couple of years later. He later went onto play for Everton, Bolton and in America.
Kidd returned to United in 1988 and was instrumental in the development of young players that went on to become the backbone of the side under Sir Alex Ferguson. He left in December 1998 to take charge of Blackburn Rovers but could not prevent them from being relegated as United went on to lift the treble. He has been involved at City since 2009 in various roles and was assistant manager in 2012 when City dramatically snatched the title from United’s grasp in the dying seconds of the season.
His successes with both clubs beg the question, who does he really support?
Carlos Tevez – United 2007-2009, City 2009-2013
‘Carlos Tevez is his name and he hasn’t got a brain cos he won’t be winning trophies anymore’ was the end to a song that had considerable popularity around Old Trafford about five years ago after Tevez had completed his move across the city.
But Tevez did win trophies at City, the FA Cup in 2011 and the Premier League the following year as the prodigal son returned from playing golf in Argentina after refusing to come on in a Champions League match earlier in the season to bolster City’s title charge.
He arrived at United in 2007 after signing for West Ham in controversial circumstances the year before. He became part of one of the most formidable United forward lines ever alongside Rooney and Ronaldo in a side that won the league twice and reached the Champions League final both seasons he was with the club.
He departed in 2009 after falling out with manager Sir Alex Ferguson in a move that probably had heavy influence from his agent and of course, money. He is now at Juventus and who knows where he might end up in a few years as this footballing mercenary’s career continues.