Our visit to the Etihad to oppose Manchester City on Sunday is swiftly followed by a home match against United the following weekend as our Premier League campaign restarts with a vengeance after the international break.
It promises to be a testing week for Andre Villas-Boas’ squad – not least because we face a trip to the chilly reaches of Norway to face Tromso IL in the Europa League in between.
But it’s not the first time we’ve faced the two Manchester giants back-to-back on the domestic scene. In fact, this season marks exactly 100 years since we faced City and United in consecutive league fixtures – twice!
We played host to Manchester City in our sixth game of the 1913-14 campaign, having won our opening three fixtures before drawing with Derby and losing to Oldham.
City themselves had had a steady start – but had played a game less – with two draws, a win and a defeat, and it was us who emerged victorious at the Lane thanks to a brace from Billy Minter and a Jimmy Cantrell goal.
Seven days later we headed north to face a Manchester United side enjoying a great start to the season with four wins out of five. And it was the Red Devils who would continue their run as they beat us 3-1, Bert Middlemiss on target for us.
It was a time when the fixtures in the first half of the season closely resembled the schedule for the latter, and as such we faced a second Manchester double-header early in 1914. Henry Sparrow scored in our 2-1 defeat at City on January 24, but we made amends in our next domestic fixture a fortnight later as Minter and Cantrell again teamed up on the scoresheet to give us a 2-1 victory over United on home turf, a game that saw the league debut of Jimmy Banks, who would go on to score 10 goals in 77 appearances for us in all competitions. In between those games, we had lost 2-1 at City in the FA Cup.
We don’t have to look back too far for the last time we faced United and City back-to-back. Following the postponement of our scheduled opening day clash with Everton due to civil unrest in the area at the start of the 2011-12 season, we went to Old Trafford to oppose United on August 22 for our first Premier League game of the campaign.
Three second half goals, however, saw us slump to a 3-0 defeat and it didn’t get much better for us the following weekend as City came to the Lane and beat us 5-1, Younes Kaboul our goalscorer. Those games straddled a goalless midweek Europa League draw at home to Hearts.
Coincidentally, much like the time span between next week’s Manchester meetings and those of a century ago, that season also marked exactly 100 years since we entertained City and United consecutively. On that occasion – in the 1911-12 campaign – we actually played both clubs in two days. We lost 2-0 at home to City on April 8, before Bert Bliss ensured we drew 1-1 with United on our patch the following day – Bliss having made his Spurs league debut against City just 24 hours earlier!
There are two other seasons in our history where we’ve encountered the Manchester clubs back-to-back in the league; in 1968-69, Cliff Jones and Alan Gilzean were our scorers as we drew 2-2 at home to United on October 9, before we crashed 4-0 at City’s Maine Road three days later.
We fared much better in 1995-96 though, as goals from Teddy Sheringham, Sol Campbell and a brace from Chris Armstrong gave us a 4-1 win over United at home on New Year’s Day, before Armstrong again hit the target as we beat City 1-0 at the Lane on January 13. Those games were separated by an FA Cup third round tie against Hereford.