The Manchester Derby ⋆ An Old International

The Manchester Derby

The name sake of the blog, Don Davies, also known as Old International was a Manchester United supporter. He was also a fine football writer, combining literary skills with football knowledge thus providing his readers a highlight to read on their Sunday or Monday mornings.

On one occasion he wrote:

‘No one, not even Gordon Graig, could have wished for a finer setting. Old Trafford lay flooded in golden sunshine. The mosaic of colour banked up on the terraces showed where the oppulent working classes, or a good 50000 of them, stood at ease in rayon blouses or bright short sleeves, enjoying the banter that passed between the rival rattle squads whose strategic concentrations were indicated by broad splashes of geranium red or forget-me-not blue. There match seemed every excuse for rattling, for here was a “Derby” with a difference. City, the guests, came as F.A. Cup holders; United, the hosts, received them as reigning Football League champions; City downcast, were still seeking their first away point; United, triumphant, were defending a prodigious home record; City, traditionally, were supposed to get United on the run in these matches; United, defiantly, were in the mood to snap their fingers at tradition.’

Don Davies was writing about the 1956/57 season when City came as FA Cup to Old Trafford to play United, the league title holders. The 1956 FA Cup Final was remarkable as it established Bert Trautmann as a City legend after he finished the match with a broken neck. United meanwhile where reaping the harvest with the Busby Babes. Davies was an admirer of United which were in their prime under Busby. He was also an admirer of Bert Trautmann, the City keeper in the 1950s:

‘In the course of a lively afternoon Trautmann gave the Preston spectators a few glimpses of the highest reaches of the game’s most spectacular art, and to their honour be it said that they applauded him as rapturously as if he had been their own…’

He had also experienced a period of great goalkeeping. About Swift, Trautmann, Wood, Gregg he wrote:

‘It used to be accepted as axiomatic that goalkeepers like wicket-keepers were a “slate loose” […] Goalkeepers, of course, though they had to take things lying down, were not without resources of their own. […] In this quality of judgment are included so many important things, such as divination of an attacking forward’s intention, a correct sense of positioning and a knowledge of when to sally forth from goal and when to stay put.’.

He described Trautmann as an acrobat who trusted his ‘spring-heeled qualities’ in order ‘to leap across abnormal distances after the shots have been made, and how the Moss Side crowds have revelled in these two masters.’

Today’s derby will see a City side boasting with talent and promise; United on the other hand are still trying to find their swagger under Louis van Gaal. Neither team have won anything last season and as usual both sides will take particular pride in winning the derby today. As Donnie Davies has pointed out United have tradition on their side; though of late City have drawn level with their red rivals from Old Trafford.

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