From Cantona to Kavelashvili: Five memorable Manchester derby debuts


Claudio Bravo, Ilkay Gundogan and Leroy Sane could all make their Manchester City bows in Saturday's top of the table clash at Manchester United. But how do the pressures of derby day affect those combining them with a first appearance in red or blue.

Here, Omnisport's Dom Farrell looks back at five memorable derby debuts.


Eric Cantona: Manchester United 2 Manchester City 1 (December 6, 1992)

Zlatan Ibrahimovic's instant leap into the affections of Manchester United fans has drawn comparisons with a similarly enigmatic, charismatic forward of Old Trafford renown. Eric Cantona was the catalyst for United's initial golden era under Alex Ferguson, the driving inspiration behind the 1993-94 and 1995-96 "double-double". He also made a habit of scoring at will against City, netting eight times in seven derbies - winning six and drawing one. In fact, Cantona's debut as a half-time replacement for Ryan Giggs in this match marked his only appearance against City without a goal, but it became a symbolic debut in many respects. In 1991/92, United and City came second and fifth respectively in England's top division. Following Cantona's introduction to the rivalry, two seemingly well-matched sides spent the rest of the decade hurtling in opposite directions.

Phil Neville: Manchester City 0 Manchester United 3 (February 11, 1995)

If Cantona was the figurehead of United rise's to dominance, his and Ferguson's task was underpinned by a famously fearless crop of young talent. A prime example of this came when an injury to brother Gary thrust an 18-year-old Phil Neville into a Manchester derby debut. The younger sibling turned in a wonderfully assured performance as goals from Paul Ince, Andrei Kanchelskis and Andy Cole after half-time saw United past Brian Horton's City, who they dispatched 5-0 at Old Trafford earlier that season. It was the first league outing of 263 in United colours for Neville, coming 15 months before he collected the first of six Premier League winners' medals.

Mikheil Kavelashvili: Manchester City 2 Manchester United 3 (April 6, 1996)

Mercurial Georgian playmaker Georgi Kinkladze provided dazzling shafts of light amid the darkness that was Manchester City's on-field reality during the mid-1990s. Convinced there must be plenty more where that came from, then City boss Alan Ball returned to Eastern Europe to bring in his compatriot Mikheil Kavelashvili. The striker enjoyed an ideal start to life in England, smuggling home to cancel out Cantona's opening penalty. Crowd favourite Uwe Rosler, who controversially lost his starting place to Kavelashvili, did likewise after Cole made it 2-1 but Ryan Giggs had the final say, with United bound for the title. Kavelashvili did not score again in the top flight, as City were relegated and the following season he did not make enough Division One appearances to retain his work permit.

Patrice Evra: Manchester City 3 Manchester United 1 (January 14, 2006)

France left-back Patrice Evra claimed 10 major honours during his time with United, although his maiden Premier League appearance on a crisp Manchester day 10-and-a-half years ago did not look like it would be the first of 273. Evra endured a torrid opening 45 minutes in English football, with England winger Trevor Sinclair making merry as he opened the scoring and dominated his marker to help create the second for Darius Vassell. Alan Smith came on for the new recruit at half-time, and a Cristiano Ronaldo red card compounded a miserable outing for Ferguson, who must have been unaware he was watching the first, tentative steps of one of his very best signings.

Benjani Mwaruwari: Manchester United 1 Manchester City 2 (February 10, 2008)

Seeking to give an impressive opening half of the season renewed momentum, Sven Goran-Eriksson slid Portsmouth striker Benjani Mwaruwari under the closing transfer window. Despite falling asleep and missing a flight to almost kibosh the move entirely, the Zimbabwe international was wide awake to the possibilities of an unlikely 2-0 lead at Old Trafford when Martin Petrov swung in an inviting cross from the right. Benjani got a faint glancing touch and sent the travelling supporters into raptures. Michael Carrick's late consolation could not deny City  a first win on enemy territory since 1974. Form and fitness woes meant this remained Benjani's high-watermark in Manchester as he added just three more Premier League goals.