It’s exactly nine years since Manchester City tipped Manchester United to the Premier League title under unfathomably dramatic circumstances.
Sergio Aguero’s iconic last-gasp strike represented the culmination of one of the most intense and turbulent title races in the history of English football.
Just when United thought they’d snuck into top spot ahead of their fierce local rivals on the final day of the season, City’s now all-time record goal scorer slammed the ball beyond Paddy Kenny to clinch the first Premier League trophy in the club’s history.
The scenes of delirium that ensued inside the Etihad Stadium will be replayed for generations.
Up at the Stadium of Light, meanwhile, the mood amongst the United camp quickly descended from jubilation to shock.
As news of Aguero’s strike filtered through into the stadium, there was a palpable shift in the atmosphere.
Suddenly the chants from the away end faded and were replaced by pandemonium in the home end.
The Sunderland fans in the ground erupted as the confirmed scoreline from City flashed up on the electronic board.
And to rub salt into the wounds, the supporters begun to do ‘The Poznan’ – a post-goal ritual City fans adopted after a Europa League clash against Polish outfit Lech Poznan in 2010.
Naturally, the antics of the Black Cats supporters didn’t sit well with anyone associated with United.
This was a prime example of football tribalism at its most brutal and opportunistic, and it’s unlikely any set of supporters would have passed up the opportunity to ridicule a club that had for so long been the dominant force in English football.
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However, that acknowledgement certainly didn’t alleviate any negative feelings from United towards Sunderland, and Sir Alex Ferguson‘s speech at the club’s end-of-season awards proved as much.
While speaking the day after the stunning season conclusion, Ferguson drew a comparison between the 1991/92 season and the 2011/12 season in a cutting, brilliant speech to the players and staff.
“I’m a dinosaur, I’m an absolute dinosaur, but what I am is a winner.
“I said to all the players yesterday. When we lost the league to Leeds United in 1992, the young players came out that day and the Liverpool supporters were asking for their autographs.
“Giggs, Scholes, Neville, Beckham. And they were teeing them up. They were teeing the autographs up. And I said to Giggs and the boys. Remember this day.
“And exactly what I said to them yesterday. Those Sunderland fans who were cheering for City, remember the day, we won’t forget that I’m telling you.
“Well done to the players, fantastic group, they will be alright. Don’t worry about them, they’re a great bunch of lads. Brilliant, well done boys.”
Judging by the tone of Ferguson’s speech, it’s fair to assume that United fans have enjoyed Sunderland’s demise in recent years.
The club are mired in League One but do have the opportunity to earn promotion to the Championship via the playoffs this season.
But more importantly, Ferguson’s speech alludes to a broader point regarding his faith in the strength of the club and their ability to bounce back from setbacks.
Just twelve months later, United won the title off their city rivals in what came to be Ferguson’s final season in management.