The Manchester derby is a fixture contested between two football teams from the Manchester region, Manchester United and Manchester City. Before this fixture, there had been 152 meetings between the two sides, with the first fixture being held in 1881. The non-competitive fixture ended in a 3–0 victory for Newton Heath (who later became Manchester United) against West Gorton (Manchester City). The first competitive meeting was in the qualifying stages for the FA Cup in 1891, which Newton Heath also won 5–1. The most recent match between the two sides had been at Old Trafford in May 2009, when Manchester United won 2–0. In total, Manchester United had recorded 62 victories in competitive meetings with their rivals; Manchester City won 41 of the matches and there had been 49 draws.
Heading into the game, the home side Manchester United were in second place in the Premier League table after five matches, trailing Chelsea by 3 points. Manchester City were in fourth place but level on points with Manchester United, Liverpool, Tottenham Hotspur and Aston Villa, but with a game in hand on all apart from Liverpool. United had won four of their five matches, while City had won all of their first four fixtures.
Manchester United had several players out of contention for the match. Paul Scholes was serving a one-match suspension, and Rio Ferdinand was considered a doubt with a calf injury, although he did eventually recover to start the match. Gabriel Obertan (calf), Rafael (shoulder), Edwin van der Sar (finger) and Owen Hargreaves (knee) were all ruled out through injury, with Hargreaves the only one with a long-term injury. Leading goalscorer Wayne Rooney, who had scored five times, started in a two-man strike partnership with Dimitar Berbatov. Park Ji-Sung replaced the suspended Scholes as the only change to the starting line-up from the previous Premier League fixture against Tottenham Hotspur, when he had been sent-off for two yellow cards.
Manchester City were without top-scorer Emmanuel Adebayor who was serving a three-match ban for violent conduct in their last match against Arsenal which City had given up contesting. He was replaced by Carlos Tévez, who was an injury doubt but was fit enough to start on his return to his former club in the only change for City. Robinho, Vincent Kompany and Roque Santa Cruz all missed out through injury.
The derby turned out to be a classic, with City's Craig Bellamy and United's Darren Fletcher playing main roles. Wayne Rooney gave United first blood after just a bit more than one minute, but Gareth Barry was able to equalise after a quarter of an hour. Midfielder Fletcher then entered the frame, scoring on 49 minutes. A quick equaliser from Craig Bellamy made sure the scores were levelled after 52 minutes. With ten minutes remaining, Fletcher made it 3–2. However, the game was far from won for United, since Bellamy scored a dramatic equaliser on 90 minutes. However, lots of time was added on, and in the sixth additional minute, substitute Michael Owen struck 4–3 from close range to cap a remarkable derby.