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Manchester derby memories: Cantona and Keane seal Maine Road comeback

Every day this week we’ll be re-living a derby day memory ahead of Manchester City’s visit to Old Trafford on Saturday. Today: Eric Cantona and Roy Keane rescue three points for the Red Devils in 1993.


Mancheser United travelled to Maine Road on 7 November 1993 hoping to bounce back from their mid-week Champions League exit at the hands of Galatasaray.

Manager Alex Ferguson was disappointed that his maiden Champions League campaign in charge of United was ended in only the second round, but a win over rivals Manchester City would help the league leaders refocus on domestic matters.

And from kick-off, it looked as though United were going to run away with the tie. Roy Keane -- playing in his first Manchester derby — was splitting the City defence apart with rampaging runs from midfield. Early on, the Irishman crossed for Mark Hughes, but "Sparky" couldn’t apply the finish; then Keane himself burst through on goal, forcing Tony Coton into a smart one-on-one save — a miss which Keane admitted after the match that Ferguson had "had a word with [him]" about at half time.

But, against the run of play, it was City who opened the scoring, as Naill Quinn found a pocket of space at the far post to head the ball beyond Peter Schmeichel after 22 minutes.

Quinn then doubled the home side’s lead 10 minutes later when he headed in Steve McMahon’s cross.

United went in 2-0 down at the break, and were very fortunate not to have been reduced to 10 men. Hughes could, and should, have been sent off on two separate occassions during the opening 45 minutes. Firstly for a clear stamp on Quinn, then for a malicious kick at McMahon.

In the second half, Eric Cantona started to drop deep off the forward line, and began to pull the strings for United, while Keane continued to act as the driving force in the middle of the park.

And it was Cantona who pulled one back for United, benefitting from some slack defending to coolly slot the ball into the bottom corner of the net after 52 minutes.

The visitors pushed for an equaliser, with Andrei Kanchelskis denied by Coton before, in the 78th minute, Cantona sauntered into the penalty area and connected with Ryan Giggs’s low cross from the right to draw his side level.

But the Red Devils refused to settle for a draw; the onslaught continued until finally, with three minutes to play, Keane smashed home the winner, latching on to Denis Irwin’s left-wing cross and belting the ball into the next from six yards.

United went on to win a Premier League and FA Cup double that season, while only missing out on a domestic treble thanks to a League Cup final defeat to Aston Villa. Many still consider the 1993-94 incarnation of United to be the best side of Sir Alex Ferguson’s 26-year Old Trafford reign.