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Flashback: Top five Manchester derbies – Man United vs. Man City

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It’s derby day in Manchester, and you can watch Manchester United host Manchester City in the 167th Manchester Derby live on NBCSN from 3 p.m. ET and online via NBC Sports Live Extra.

But if you need a little something to whet your appetite before then, here’s a look back at five memorable Manchester derbies from the Premier League era.

In the last 20 plus years we’ve been treated to some stunning matches, as the Red and Blue halves of Manchester try to dominate the metropolis in Northern England. Earlier this season City hammered United 4-1 in a demolition job at the Etihad Stadium, so the Reds will be looking to avenge that humbling as bragging right have been with the Blue half of Manchester since September.

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Head-to-head it couldn’t get much closer looking back at the games which have taken place at Old Trafford. Man United have won six, Man City have won seven, while their have been three draws.

So, City have the slight edge heading into this match, but let’s take a look at how some of the most famous derbies of the past two decades played out.

Manchester City 2-3 Manchester United – December 9, 2013

On the way to winning the Premier League title in 2013, Manchester United secured a pivotal win away at the then reigning champions, City after letting a 2-0 lead slip. Robin van Persie sent the away end into raptures, as his last-gasp free kick deflected off Samir Nasri and beat Joe Hart to hand the Red Devils a late, late win. Fergie time indeed. A young City fan tried to get on the pitch and attack United’s players, but luckily Hart was on hand to give him a right good telling off and defuse the situation. Fiery, goals galore, inspiring comebacks and late drama, this had it all.

Manchester United 1-6 Manchester City – October 23, 2011

This match will always be remembered for Mario Balotelli’s celebration. When he scored the eccentric Italian lifted up his shirt to reveal a message stating “Why always me?” Priceless. What was also invaluable was the momentum Roberto Mancini’s City side gained from this record 6-1 win as they used it to surge towards their first-ever PL title, which they eventually won on the final day in the last minute to stop, who else, United from lifting the crown. It remains the Red Devils’ heaviest home defeat since 1955.

Manchester United 2-1 Manchester City – February 1, 2011

Wayne Rooney wrote himself into derby folklore with one of the best goals ever scored in the Premier League era. A cross from Nani on the right found Rooney, who jumped up and swiveled to smash home a bicycle kick in the 77th minute to seal a crucial win in the title race. United went on to win the league that year, and after a strong start in that derby for City, Rooney’s wondergoal was deemed as the turning point in United’s campaign.

Manchester United 4-3 Manchester City – September 20, 2009

Michael Owen didn’t do too much in his injury-hit spell with Manchester United, but that doesn’t matter… who scored a winner in the derby. The former England international popped up in the 94th minute to seal a spectacular comeback for the home side, as Sir Alex Ferguson called it “the best derby of all time”… it was hard to disagree. What a game. Rooney put United ahead early on, but then former United striker Carlos Tevez leveled for City, before Darren Fletcher and Craig Bellamy both scored to make it 2-2. Fletcher then scored again to make it 3-2 to the home side, but Bellamy popped up in the final minute to make it 3-3. However Owen had the last laugh, as his calm finish sent over 70,000 fans wild.

Manchester City 4-1 Manchester United – March 14, 2004

One of the unluckiest derby wins in recent history, as City had only just been promoted back to the Premier League and United’s team was far superior to their neighbors. But Shaun Wright-Phillips, Jon Macken, Robbie Fowler and Trevor Sinclair were all on target to dispatch a poor United team who were in transition as Arsenal continued to dominate the Premier League. Sweet victory for City’s long suffering fans, as the start of a new era at Eastlands was still a few years away.

“Pretty unreal, a fairy tale” — Alonso, Marshall celebrate Sounders title

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Talk about penalty kicks all you want, and definitely talk about that save, but Seattle’s formative heart kept Toronto FC’s vaunted attack off the scoreboard to win its first MLS Cup final.

Veterans Chad Marshall, Osvaldo Alonso, Stefan Frei, and Roman Torres simply got the job done against Sebastian Giovinco, Jozy Altidore and the high-flying Reds.

“We knew what a great offensive team they are,” Marshall said. “Giovinco and Jozy are incredible. The amount of goals they put up this postseason is pretty ridiculous, so to keep them off the board for 120 minutes is incredible.”

[ MLS CUP: Seattle wins in PKs | 3 things ]

The man in front of him, Alonso, was a prime reason for that. Countless connecting passes and perfect spacing limited TFC’s chances with the ball. After an MVP caliber season, you could argue that Alonso deserved just as much of a shout for MLS Cup MVP as winner Frei.

“In the final you have to give everything you have to win,” Alonso said. “I step on the field to play for my team, play for myself, and play for my family. And I think I did that.”

Both Alonso and Marshall spoke of the moments following Torres’ match-winning PK, as the Sounders crew flew down to pitch to celebrate in front of a rave green and blue visitors section high above BMO Field.

[ MORE: Bradley apologizes to fans ]

[ MORE: Altidore, Frei on that save ]

“I think I threw my back out on the run to Roman, and he flew right by me,” Marshall said. “It was just nuts. I lost my voice in a matter of 20 seconds. It’s just so exciting.”

Alonso was filled with pride for the fans at the game, and the ones back in Seattle who stood by the Sounders after a midseason coaching change.

“They deserved this, the trophy, because they are always there for us,” Alonso said. “Even when we were down at the bottom of the table. This trophy means a lot for me.”

Marshall admitted the words weren’t coming to him, even an hour after the game.

“I don’t know if I can. It’s an incredible feeling, from where we in July, the Kansas City game, to this moment right now, it’s pretty unreal, a fairy tale.”

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Bradley lauds “fearless” teammates after heart-wrenching MLS Cup loss

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Michael Bradley paused to collect himself, several times actually, before apologizing to Toronto FC’s supporters.

The game of football, with its soaring highs and gutting lows, was the latter now. TFC had dominated Seattle over a lackluster 120 minutes, Bradley engineered several big interventions and some delightful balls that didn’t have an end product.

[ MLS CUP: Seattle wins in PKs | 3 things ]

Much of that won’t be remembered, though, because Bradley passed his penalty kick right into the path of a waiting Stefan Frei. Surrounded by reporters in the TFC locker room, Bradley chose his words carefully.

“When you put everything you have into something, when you come in every day ready to pour your heart and soul into something, the highs are amazing and emotional and incredible in a positive ways,” Bradley said. “And the setbacks… hit you hard. Every guy here is going to have to take the time to get over this one, to let it hurt, let it frustrate you, let it anger you.

“It’s not for the weak, and you see that on nights like tonight.”

[ MORE: Altidore, Frei on that save ]

Bradley was one of the final men to emerge from the showers at BMO Field, and he answered every question with brutal honesty.

“On behalf of the team, we can only thank every person in this city for their support and for the passion and the emotion and the energy that they put into this, together with us,” he said. “I’m sick to my stomach that we couldn’t reward them with the biggest trophy tonight.”

In defeat, it was easy to see why TFC’s locker room is drawn to its captain. Bradley shirked nothing, answering the tough questions and humoring those who would lob softballs about his family.

Among the former was this response, one of those quotes that moves a team into formation.

“The margins are so small, and on nights like this you have no choice but to go for it,” he said. “We talked about having a group of guy who were gonna, on the biggest of nights, be fearless and go after things in an aggressive way. And we did that. We were strong, brave, and went after the game in a really, really hard away from the first minute right up until the 120th minute.”

That Bradley missed a PK will howl to the moon in Toronto to the wee hours of this Sunday morning, and his critics will be happy to join in. But as the 29-year-old prepares for a winter that could see him head across an ocean before returning for World Cup qualifying and another MLS season, Toronto can be happy to put its faith — and its backbone — in No. 4.

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Altidore, Frei react to “that save” after Sounders claim MLS Cup

TORONTO, ONTARIO - DECEMBER 10:  Stefan Frei #24 of the Seattle Sounders stops Michael Bradley #4 of the Toronto FC during the penalty kick phase during the 2016 MLS Cup at BMO Field on December 10, 2016 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Seattle defeated Toronto in the 6th round of extra time penalty kicks. (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images)
Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images
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When it comes down to it, Jozy Altidore and Toronto FC were inches away from becoming MLS Cup champions.

The man who walked away with MLS Cup MVP was the reason they didn’t.

[ WATCH: Frei’s big save ]

Deep in extra time, Altidore leapt high to loft a header toward the far post. Frei adjusted his body for one dramatic lunge, just slapping the ball toward Roman Torres for a clear.

“(Altidore) does the right thing because he goes against the way that I’m coming from, and that point you just move your feet as quick as you can see what’s possible,” Frei said.

Altidore thought it was in.

“I thought so,” he said. “It was a tough ball to begin with. … It was a hell of a save. At the end of the day you’ve got to pull off something special.”

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Three things we learned from Seattle Sounders’ MLS Cup triumph

Seattle Sounders players chase defender Roman Torres (29) after he scored the game-winning shootout goal to defeat the Toronto FC during shoot out MLS Cup soccer final action in Toronto on Saturday, December 10, 2016. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Mark Blinch/The Canadian Press via AP)
THE CANADIAN PRESS/Mark Blinch/The Canadian Press via AP
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MLS Cup 2016 was the most well-played game of soccer all year — far from it, in fact — but the Seattle Sounders are MLS champions for the first time in their eight-year history anyway.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS Cup coverage ]

Three thoughts on a poorly-played, but thoroughly intense 2016 finale…

A cup final, it most certainly was

The numbers of cup finals which feature brilliant, composed attacking play is hugely outweighed by the number of cup finals featuring a total lack thereof. Whether it was down to nerves, the frigid conditions in which the game was played, or a combination of the two, Saturday’s final at BMO Field was yet another example of the latter.

The telling stats: 40 fouls between the two sides (just three yellow cards shown); zero first-half shots attempted by the Sounders, and just three shots in total over 120 minutes (zero on target).

The only moment of true quality came in the 108th minute, when Stefan Frei made the best save you’ve seen all year to deny Jozy Altidore and keep the Sounders on level terms (WATCH HERE).

Michael Bradley, man of the match (until his PK)

As we’ve come to expect, Bradley was anywhere and everywhere on the field for TFC, at all the right times. With Osvaldo Alonso playing the part of warrior in the Sounders midfield, and Jonathan Osorio’s attacking prowess preferred to the defensive chops of Will Johnson alonside Bradley, it was up to the U.S. national team captain to singlehandedly track and mark Nicolas Lodeiro out of the game. He did just that, and so much more.

Then, came his penalty kick, TFC’s second, which was hit with so little pace and no more than three feet to Frei’s left for the easiest save he’d make all night.

The greatest comeback in MLS history

You’ve heard it all by now, but it doesn’t make what the Sounders did from August to December any less remarkable — from ninth place on the day Sigi Schmid was fired (two days before Lodeiro arrived), to the MLS summit in four and a half months. Clint Dempsey, the Sounders’ highest-paid player, was then lost for the rest of the season a month later (irregular heartbeat). No team in MLS history had ever overcome a points gap that large (10) that late in the season to even qualify for the playoffs, let alone advance in said playoffs, reach MLS Cup, and lift the trophy.

Brian Schmetzer, a Seattle native and member of the Sounders family since his own playing days beginning in 1980, replaced Schmid with (presumably) the idea that he’d see out the lost season as interim head coach before making way for a big-name hire this winter. He won eight of his first 14 games as a head coach instead, led the Sounders to the four-seed in the Western Conference, and delivered to his hometown the ultimate prize on Saturday.

Watching the Portland Timbers lift MLS Cup 2015 was undoubtedly the toughest pill to swallow for anyone in Rave Green, but to end their Cascaida Cup rivals’ reign as defending champions by winning that very piece of silverware themselves … that’s a one-up that’ll last a lifetime.