Top Five: Manchester derby villains

With the Manchester derby just around the corner, we take a look at the some of the characters who have made the derby headlines over the years – for the wrong reasons.

The Manchester teams have had their fair share of controversial players over the years, think Eric Cantona’s kung-fu kick, Ronaldo and his ‘simulation’, and while he may have been small, former City striker Paul Dickov could mix it with the best of them.

To go down in history as a Manchester derby villain, however, you need to take things to the next level.

Roy Keane

No list of Manchester derby villains would be complete without mentioning Roy Keane, who effectively ended Alf Inge Haaland’s career with an horrific tackle during the Manchester derby of April 2001.

The red card was a formality for Keane, who later received a retrospective ban and fine when it was claimed in a book that he had planned the assault as revenge for a 1997 incident involving Haaland.

A tackle involving the then-Leeds player had put Keane out of action for a year. Keane later denied this in a 2014 book, but who would believe him?

Denis Law

After 11 years and 237 goals in 404 games for United, ‘King Denis’ went from hero to villain in an instant in 1974 when he scored with a cheeky backheel that effectively saw his former club relegated from Division 1.

Worst of all Law did it playing in the sky blue of City.

“I just felt depressed. After 19 years of trying my hardest to score goals, here was one that I almost wished hadn’t actually gone in. I was inconsolable,” said Law several years later.

Fabian Barthez/Gary Neville

Inspired one minute and insane the next, French keeper Fabian Barthez is certainly remembered by United fans. Barthez, however, had a game to forget in the last ever Manchester derby to be played at Maine Road in November 2002.

Just five minutes in and Barthez spilled Shaun Goater’s half-hit shot into the path of Nicolas Anelka, who duly gave City the lead.

After United managed to pull level, it was then Gary Neville’s turn. The usually-reliable former England defender inexplicably attempted to play a ball back to Barthez before being robbed by Goater, who fired past Barthez to put city back in the lead in a game they would eventually win 3-1.

Mario Balotelli

Super Mario had a love-hate relationship with the city of Manchester. City fans loved him while United fans hated him.

It all started in April 2011 following City’s victory in the FA Cup semi-final, when instead of celebrating with City fans, Balotelli decided to taunt the United supporters by tugging at his City badge.

The fiery Italian further ‘endeared’ himself to United fans in October of that year by scoring the first two goals in City’s 6-1 drubbing of the Red Devils at Old Trafford, the first goal of which was celebrated with the now famous unveiling of the ‘Why always me?’ t-shirt.

Mark Hughes

Stoke boss Hughes was famous in the red half of Manchester for his energetic displays and spectacular goals, but he was equally renown among rival supporters for his aggressiveness and perceived dirty play.

His tenaciousness was famously on display in a memorable derby of November 1993.

Hughes somehow managed to stay on the pitch even after blatantly stamping on City’s Niall Quinn and kicking Steve McMahon, enabling United to pull off a remarkable 3-2 comeback win.