Manchester City v Manchester United: The day rivals swapped kits for cricket whites

Neighbours battled it out at the other Old Trafford – and even George Best had a go

As unfamiliar as Sunday’s Manchester derby will be, with no Sir Alex Ferguson in charge, it will at least be football. Even that has not always been the case; on a summer afternoon, on 21 July 1968, City and United met for a game of cricket.

It took place, of course, at the other Old Trafford, Lancashire’s cricket ground. This was probably the very peak of the fame and glamour of Manchester football. United were European champions, England’s first, having just triumphed over Benfica 4-1 at Wembley. And City were champions of England, having beaten United to the title by two points.

The game was arranged to contribute to the testimonial fund of Ken Higgs, the Lancashire stalwart – almost a Glen Chapple of his day –  wearing the Red Rose throughout the 1960s and taking over 1,000 wickets for them.

On those terms, it was very successful, attracting a crowd of 15,000, paying four shillings’ admittance, the day contributing over £2,000 to Higgs’ testimonial fund, which eventually reached £8,390. The popular enthusiasm for the game was no surprise, as this was still three weeks before the start of the 1968-69 season, as well as being the latest contest between the two  big rivals.

And, as Mike Summerbee recalled, there was popular curiosity too. “I think the majority of the crowd came to see if George Best could play cricket as well as he plays football,” he told The Independent. “George was in there just to get the crowd in. He was never a real cricket man. When you’re a footballer, you always have an eye for the ball, but if you’re facing a fast bowler it’s a different experience. It would have been more difficult for George.”

But it meant for a slightly different cricket crowd than usual. “An outsider might well have blinked,” reported The Guardian the next day, “to find such a large crowd bedecked in coloured scarves and armed with rattles and Union Jacks yelling ‘howzatts’.”

City batted first and, bolstered by players with more cricketing experience, scored 168. Francis Lee had played in the Lancashire League,  while Colin Bell and Summerbee had both been accomplished school players.

United, with Best opening the batting with trainer Jack Crompton, could score only 79, despite having accomplished cricketers themselves in David Herd and David Sadler. For some, though, it was an unfamiliar afternoon.

“It was a new experience,” remembered Pat Crerand. “Cricket wasn’t the forte of people from Glasgow, it wasn’t our strongest sport. I think I was out first or second ball.”

So City won, but out on the pitch it was not desperately competitive. Summerbee recalled having a laugh with George Best – “my best pal, my best man when I got married” – about not even having the correct kit and playing in black socks.

The game did not get in the way of Summerbee and Best enjoying themselves either. “We socialised before the game, never mind after the game,” he said. “Or on the middle of the pitch – it was very much a social situation. When the players were off the football field there were some great relationships. And that really epitomised the closeness of the players, playing in Ken Higgs’ testimonial.”

The outcome mattered rather more to the supporters, though. The City fans were all in the Warwick Road End, the United fans in the Stretford End, and when it ended they started to scrap.

“The pitch was invaded by young supporters and a number of bottles were thrown around the ground,” reported The Guardian. “A police spokesman said last night that after the match five young people aged between 13 and 16 years were charged with various offences including carrying offensive weapons, causing a breach of the peace and assaulting policemen.” And with that went any chance of a repeat.

Susan Sarandon described David Bowie as
peopleSusan Sarandon reveals more on her David Bowie romance
Arsenal supporters gather for a recent ‘fan party’ in New Jersey
sportDidier Drogba returns to Chelsea on one-year deal
Arts and Entertainment
The Secret Cinema performance of Back to the Future has been cancelled again
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
Balmain's autumn/winter 2014 campaign, shot by Mario Sorrenti and featuring Binx Walton, Cara Delevingne, Jourdan Dunn, Ysaunny Brito, Issa Lish and Kayla Scott
fashionHow Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Grey cradles Ana in the Fifty Shades of Grey film
filmFifty Shades of Grey trailer provokes moral outrage in US
BBC broadcaster and presenter Evan Davis, who will be taking over from Jeremy Paxman on Newsnight
peopleForget Paxman - what will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
Life and Style
fashionCustomer complained about the visibly protruding ribs
The new dawn heralded by George Osborne has yet to rise
voicesJames Moore: As the Tories rub their hands together, the average voter will be asking why they're not getting a piece of the action
Dejan Lovren celebrates scoring for Southampton although the goal was later credited to Adam Lallana
newsComedy club forced to apologise as maggots eating a dead pigeon fall out of air-conditioning
Arts and Entertainment
Jo Brand says she's mellowed a lot
tvJo Brand says shows encourage people to laugh at the vulnerable
Life and Style
People may feel that they're procrastinating by watching TV in the evening
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Evan Davis: The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing to take over at Newsnight

The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing

What will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
Finding the names for America’s shame: What happens to the immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert?

Finding the names for America’s shame

The immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert
Inside a church for Born Again Christians: Speaking to God in a Manchester multiplex

Inside a church for Born Again Christians

As Britain's Anglican church struggles to establish its modern identity, one branch of Christianity is booming
Rihanna, Kim Kardashian and me: How Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

Parisian couturier Pierre Balmain made his name dressing the mid-century jet set. Today, Olivier Rousteing – heir to the house Pierre built – is celebrating their 21st-century equivalents. The result? Nothing short of Balmania
Cancer, cardiac arrest, HIV and homelessness - and he's only 39

Incredible survival story of David Tovey

Tovey went from cooking for the Queen to rifling through bins for his supper. His is a startling story of endurance against the odds – and of a social safety net failing at every turn
Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little