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When the Manchester derby was last on a Thursday: United soar, City slump

Manchester City's Premier League clash with rivals United has been rearranged for Thursday, Apr. 27. But it is isn't the first time the two clubs will have met on a Thursday -- that was 23 years ago when two very different clubs met on a freezing night in November.

What happened in 1994?

United, who were looking for a third successive Premier League title, were trying to progress in the Champions League after underwhelming in the previous season, where they'd lost in the second round to Turkish champions Galatasaray on away goals.

The 1994-95 season was the first time the group stage had been introduced, which led to a congested fixture list and contributed to the game being switched to a Thursday.

Sir Alex Ferguson's side were thrashed 4-0 in Barcelona the previous Wednesday but recovered four days later to beat Aston Villa. Ninth-placed City, who were then managed by Brian Horton, had drawn 3-3 with Southampton five days earlier.

Who played?

Manchester United's Eric Cantona was popular among the fans at Old Trafford in 1994.

United were a team full of expensive and experienced internationals that were at the start of Ferguson's trophy-laden dynasty.

Ryan Giggs was the only player who had come through the club's academy that started the game, while costly signings Steve Bruce, Gary Pallister and Paul Ince were the only Englishmen in the starting lineup.

City, on the other hand, started with four players who had joined the club as youngsters and had Niall Quinn and Paul Walsh up front, fresh from their thrilling 5-2 win against Tottenham Hotspur three weeks earlier. However, they were plunged into a goalkeeper crisis when first-choice Tony Coton suffered a shoulder injury that ruled him out for three months and Andy Dibble was then ruled out. Horton drafted in Simon Tracey on loan from First Division Sheffield United for three games, but he failed to keep a clean sheet in any of them.

What happened in the game?

Ferguson had always wanted revenge for the humiliating 5-1 defeat to City at Maine Road five years earlier, which he has described as the "most embarrassing defeat" of his United career. United remained unbeaten in Manchester derbies throughout the 90s: the Thursday night of Nov. 10, 1994, was the highlight.

City had a couple of early chances but in the 24th minute, Cantona put United ahead when he collected Andrei Kanchelskis's long ball and neatly fired past Tracey.

Kanchelskis, a winger, added a second just before half-time and scored again, shortly after the restart, to kill off the game as a contest. Mark Hughes scored a fourth 20 minutes later before Kanchelskis claimed his hat-trick in the last minute to round off a resounding 5-0 victory.

"I will never forget that match," he told the Manchester Evening News in 2010. "Eric Cantona opened the scoring and I got my first goal just before half-time. I scored again just after the break and managed to complete my hat-trick just before the end.

"Mark Hughes also got a goal. I remember that Paul Ince and Cantona played really well and it was a superb occasion for the fans. It was a great game to play in."

What happened next?

United moved to the top of the Premier League the following week with a 3-0 win against Crystal Palace, but were eliminated from the Champions League group stage as they finished behind Gothenburg and Barca. A more memorable game against the Eagles came two months later when Cantona infamously kung-fu kicked a fan and was banned until the following season.

United pushed hard for the title and achieved an even better result than the derby in March when they thrashed Ipswich Town 9-0 with Andy Cole scoring five goals -- still a Premier League record. But they were pipped to the title by Blackburn; needing a win against West Ham, they could only draw on the final day of the season despite Rovers losing at Liverpool.

The following season Ince, Hughes and Kanchelskis were all moved on, opening the door for the Class of '92 to establish themselves in the first team.

Meanwhile, City reacted well from the 5-0 defeat, winning their next three. But that was a run of 10 without a victory as City were plunged into a relegation battle. But they finished 17th -- four points above the drop zone helped by a 3-2 win at Ewood Park that gave United a huge boost in their titles hopes.

Horton was sacked at the end of the season to be replaced by Alan Ball, but the England World Cup winner took City down the following season. Two years later they were relegated to the third tier for the one and only season in the club's history.

Jonathan is ESPN FC's Manchester City correspondent. Follow him on Twitter: @jonnysmiffy.

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