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Saturday 16 December 2017

'Losing derby hurts but fans will feel it more than us'

Phelan's dream was to play for City but United ruled Manchester

Former Ireland international Terry Phelan in action for Manchester City
Former Ireland international Terry Phelan in action for Manchester City
Terry Phelan chasing Manchester United winger Ryan Giggs during a derby clash at Maine Road back in 1993

Even through the mists of time, he can remember the chocolate bars.

It's November 1993, Manchester United have just been knocked out of the Champions League, by Turkish side Galatasaray. Their next game is the Manchester derby, and the City fans had a plan.

"Our supporters all brought Turkish Delight bars to the game, to throw them at the United players," says former Ireland international Terry Phelan, a Manchester City fan who got to play for the club from 1992-95.

That derby game didn't go in Phelan's favour as City lost 3-2, having led 2-0, Roy Keane scoring the winner, so the Turkish Delight jokes fell flat.

And the Manchester derby fixture, in general, didn't go Phelan's way: he played for City against United five times, one draw and four defeats, and losing to United was something he had to just endure.

"I don't think I ever beat Manchester United in all the years I played against them, they were just a bogey team for me," recalls Phelan, who made 143 Premier League appearances with City, Chelsea and Everton.

But the derby was a big deal to him and this weekend he will watch on TV from his current base, Kerala in India.

"I'm still a City fan," he told The Herald. "It's great for Manchester that you have two of the biggest clubs in the world fighting for the league, top of the table, two massive managers.

"And it's not in London, it's in Manchester, the place I grew up. I'm a proud Mancunian, I like what the two clubs and the two managers are doing.

"I just hope City can tip the scales, the front five can really get at United, but I do have a fear that United will park the bus and they are likely to scrape one."

Phelan, capped 42 times by Ireland, grew up supporting City and his 1992 move from Wimbledon gave him the chance to play in the derby. In his first taste of the fixture, compatriot Niall Quinn scored for City but they lost 2-1, Quinn scoring again in a 1-1 draw later that season. The following season (1993/94) produced one of the great derby games, that 3-2 win for United post-Galatasaray. "We played a 3-5-2 and we were 2-0 up, Niall Quinn scored two, I think I set one of them up for him. It was a brilliant atmosphere," says Phelan.

"We were leading 2-0 at half time, we turned to the gaffer (Brian Horton) and we said that we needed to change it as they were going to come at us in the second half, they are going to get a bollocking from Fergie, they will come out and throw everything at us. We wanted to play a rigid 4-4-2.

Pressure

"But we succumbed to their pressure, they got it back to 2-2 and then Roy Keane scored the winner with a couple of minutes left. We had them by the throat and we let them go.

"The defeats in the derby hurt as I was a City fan. I was very competitive, I hated losing a game of head tennis, but losing the derby to United, that was tough.

"But it hurt the fans more, they had to go into work on the Monday morning and face their mates who were United supporters. Players can dust themselves down and get on with it but it's harder for fans." And Keane reminded Phelan of the win the next time they met on international duty. "Roy had a smile on his face, he just said 'sorry I had to score'," says Phelan.

What's remarkable about those derby games is the local nature of the game: in Phelan's first derby (December 1992), only one player from the 22 starting players came from outside Britain or Ireland (Peter Schmiechel).

When the sides last met in the league, 13 different nationalties took part, just three from England.

Before, Quinn and Phelan took on Irwin and Keane; an Irishman has not played in this fixture since 2011 (John O'Shea).

"You had mainly British and Irish boys playing, Manchester lads playing so I think it meant more," says Phelan. "And with the managers under so much pressure, I can't see them playing a Ryan Giggs at 17 in a derby now, I don't think they can do that."

And what of Sunday? "If anyone is going to beat City, it's United, and I say that as a City fan," says Phelan.

"They are the only ones who can beat this City side as Mourinho has the knack, he has the players, he has a bit of steel in the side now, they have momentum.

"I think Pep will be more scared of United than any other team."

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