What it's like to play in a Manchester derby, from the last Aussie to do so

Former Socceroos midfielder Danny Tiatto is one of the few Australians to have played in a Manchester derby – and he can’t wait for this weekend’s renewal of hostilities between the feuding tribes.

Danny Tiatto of Manchester City and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer of Manchester United

Danny Tiatto of Manchester City is tackled by Ole Gunnar Solskjaer of Manchester United. Source: Getty Images Europe

The manic marauder, now 43, was a cult figure during his six years at City, where his boundless commitment and frequent run-ins with referees and rivals ensured he was never far from the headlines.

Fondly remembered by the Sky Blues faithful, Tiatto – whose borderline approach brought him six red cards at City - knows what it means to fans to win a Manchester derby.

Though Saturday's Old Trafford clash - to be screened live on SBS - is being billed as the Jose Mourinho-Pep Guardiola Show, Tiatto says the 170th derby is really all about the supporters.

With City lagging behind United 49 to 71 in the wins tally, Tiatto said: "When I was at City fans would come up to you in the week before the game and tell you had to win at all costs.

“You knew what it meant to them and I bought into that. As an Aussie we always like to jump on board and get stuck in and I was happy to do that. I didn’t need too much extra encouragement.

“These games always have a bit of extra spice – I put my best foot forward and I sometimes even left it in there also.

“We used to cop so much abuse from their fans, but for me it was enjoyable.”

The renowned scrapper, who played in three divisions for City and made 139 league appearances between 1998 and 2004, has particularly fond recollections of the 2002 derby.

He was voted man of the match as City eclipsed the Red Devils 3-1 in their final meeting at Maine Road, and went on to be anointed by fans as their player of the season.

“That was a special and memorable day for me,” recalled Tiatto, whose rampaging runs down the left and scything tackles had opponents in a state of high anxiety.

His no-holds-barred ethos was exemplified on another occasion: United right-back Denis Irwin’s Old Trafford testimonial back in 2000 where he had a running feud with David Beckham and Irwin himself was helped off injured after being kicked up in the air by City striker George Weah.

“It wasn't much of a testimonial for Denis in the end,” recalled Tiatto. “I was getting stuck into Dave Beckham and vice versa, and there a few kicks and yellow cards being thrown around in a testimonial. Not what you'd expect!

“I think the City fans took a shine to me because of my never-say-die attitude – that’s one thing the clubs I played for always appreciated a lot more than the opposing teams did."

Tiatto believes, on the field at least, some of the heat has been taken out of the derby by the comparative scarcity of English players involved.

“The passion and emotion was probably stronger a few years back when there were more English players on the pitch, whereas now there might only be two or three," he said.

“But among the fans the passion is still as strong as ever. That won't change."

The Gold Coast-based Tiatto was enlisted as a guest of City's during their ICU Cup foray to Australia and has not been forgotten, even in an era where the club has been touched by untold riches.

“It’s nice to still be remembered and I will be watching the derby on Saturday,” he added. “I was there at a time when we won three promotions.

"We came up from the old second division and went up and down from the Premier League. But we won more than we lost.

"This season I think it’s a three-way fight between City, Manchester United and Chelsea for the title.”

Tiatto feels Guardiola will leave no stone unturned to take City to new heights.

“He's ruthless and single minded as you have seen already with what has happened to Joe Hart and a few others: he will do what he feels need to be done," he said.

“Players not in his plans will quickly be shown the door, and he certainly has the right attitude in terms of what needs to be done to win trophies."

Watch the FIFA World Cup, Tour de France, Giro d’Italia, Vuelta a España, Dakar Rally, World Athletics / ISU Championships (and more) via SBS On Demand – your free live streaming and catch-up service.
Have a story or comment? Contact Us

Watch the FIFA World Cup, Tour de France, Giro d’Italia, Vuelta a España, Dakar Rally, World Athletics / ISU Championships (and more) via SBS On Demand – your free live streaming and catch-up service.
Watch nowOn Demand
Follow SBS Sport
4 min read
Published 7 September 2016 at 8:26pm
By Dave Lewis