Manchester Football Clubs and Stadiums

Old Trafford
Debu55y / Bigstock.com

There’s an article on this site regarding the major cities around the world that boast more than one football club. London alone has fourteen, so we weren’t able to give the various cities the sort of concentration that they really deserved, instead offering you a glimpse into the rivalries that exist. If you follow the links, however, then you’ll be able to read articles like this, which go into the sort of detail that we couldn’t in the original post. Read about the Merseyside Derby, for example, or how a European Cup resides in one stadium’s trophy room in Nottingham but not in the other.

The fact that you’ve made your way here indicates that you’d like to read about the rivalry between the two clubs of Manchester and that’s certainly something we can help you with. For a long time it was about as pure a rivalry as you could get when it came to city rivals, with one club getting all of the success and the other getting none of it. That meant it was about nothing more than the two sides’s proximity to each other; though all of that has changed in more recent times. There’s no question that the Red half of the city is the most dominant even to this day, but the tide could be changing.

Adding markers to the map ...

Football Stadiums in Manchester

Stadium Capacity Team League
Old Trafford 76,000 Manchester United FC Premier League
The Etihad 55,097 Manchester City FC Premier League

Manchester City - The Etihad (2.18 Miles to Piccadilly Train Station)

The Etihad
By Little Savage (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Despite being formed two years after their city rivals in 1880, Manchester City were actually the first club in Manchester to win a major honour. It came in 1904 when they won the FA Cup at the expense of Bolton Wanderers. If City’s supporters believed that this win would spur them on to greater successes then they were, sadly, much mistaken. The club wouldn’t win another major honour until the 1930s, being surpassed by Manchester United in this time to the tune of two top-flight titles and an FA Cup. It was a trend that would continue throughout the 20th century.

That’s not to suggest that Manchester City didn’t enjoy any good times, of course. One notably exciting moment for the Sky Blues came at the end of the 1973-1974 season, when the two sides were playing the penultimate game of the season at Old Trafford. United had has a terrible year and were faced with the prospect of relegation if they lost to City. It was a pretty drab affair until the 80th minute, when Francis Lee played a pass towards Dennis Law. Law had previously played for United, making things all the sweeter when he back-heeled the ball past United goalkeeper Alex Stepney and into the net. Despite a pitch invasion by United fans, the result stood and the Red Devils were relegated from the top-flight. Law retired from football soon after the match.

In the world of footballing rivalries, there can’t be much that compares to scoring against your city rivals and former football club with a back-heel to see them relegated. Unfortunately, though, it was a brief bright moment in an otherwise fairly dull existence for Manchester City fans. They endured their own relegations of the following years and in the 1990s had to watch Manchester United thoroughly dominate the Premier League era. Between 1976, when they won the League Cup, and 2011 pretty much all they had to get excited about was the fact that they were supported by the music group Oasis. That and the move out of their old stadium Maine Road to the City of Manchester Stadium, which would later become the Emirates.

For City and the balance of power in Manchester, everything changed in September of 2008 when the Abu Dhabi-based Abu Dhabi United Group Investment and Development Limited took over the club. Buoyed by Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan’s billions, Manchester City outspent every rival club in the Premier League and by 2016 had picked up an FA Cup, two League Cups and two Premier League titles. It’s obviously nothing when compared to Man United’s trophy haul, but it’s enough to suggest that they’ll keep growing and developing for as long as the Abu Dhabi Group find it interesting and amusing to dabble in football. Will Financial Fair Play or other restrictions limit what they can do moving forward? The future will be interesting.

Manchester United - Old Trafford (2.61 Piccadilly Train Station)

Old Trafford
By André Zahn (André Zahn (User:Nic/de:Benutzer:Nic)) [CC BY-SA 2.0 de], via Wikimedia Commons

The future is also interesting for Manchester United. Whilst Manchester City endured a somewhat turbulent few decades prior to the 2010s, the opposite was true for their city rivals. Arguably the best decision the United board ever made was the appointment of Alex Ferguson into the manager’s position on the sixth of November in 1986. Despite a rocky start, the Scot would go on to be one of the most successful British managers of all time. As suggested earlier, it wasn’t that the Red Devils didn’t enjoy any success before Ferguson’s arrival; they won their first top-flight title in 1908 and won six more before the Scot took over, after all. It’s just that he took them from being sometime winners beloved by the UK press, if no one else, to a side that didn’t know how to lose.

Perhaps only Arsene Wenger at Arsenal can be used as a comparison to Alex Ferguson’s time at Old Trafford, such is the manner in which both managers were an indelible part of their football clubs. Just as Bill Shankly has a statue in his honour outside of Anfield because of the way he’s considered to be the father of modern day Liverpool, so Ferguson has one outside of Old Trafford. He also had a stand named after him by the club and the extent to which he’s revered by the Manchester United faithful cannot be overstated. We’re not mentioning Liverpool by mistake here, either. When it comes to rivalries it’s fair to say that there is no love lost between the Red half of Merseyside and their Manchester equivalents. When Ferguson took over at United he said he believed his job was to 'knock Liverpool off their f*cking perch'. Whether he succeeded or not is a matter of intense debate between the two sets of supporters.

Given the proximity of both cities to each other it’s hardly surprising that a rivalry exists that is almost as intense as that between clubs within the same city boundaries. Yet it’s also true that it’s the success of the main teams that has made that rivalry even more fiery. There is little dislike between Everton and Manchester City fans, for example, and Everton and Manchester United supporters are somewhat cordial owing to their mutual dislike of Liverpool. Man City’s growth since the Abu Dhabi takeover has caused hostilities with United to be renewed, especially as the majority of United fans believe that their neighbours are merely buying success. The fact that United struggled to re-find success in the wake of Ferguson’s departure from the club didn’t help, coming at the exact time that Man City started winning things regularly. The future of both clubs remains to be seen, but it’s unlikely that their city-based rivalry is going anywhere any time soon.

Humble Beginnings

Nowadays Manchester United and Manchester City are two of the richest clubs in world football. The Deloitte Money League Table for clubs around the world put the Red Devils top in 2017, thanks to revenue of £513.3 million the year before. Manchester City, meanwhile, broke into the top five for the first time courtesy of a good Champions League run and a £392.6 million revenue. It wasn’t always the case, however. Both clubs actually came from much more humble beginnings, with the first ever derby between the two sides taking place in November 1881 when St. Mark's (West Gorton) hosted Newton Heath in what the Ashton Reporter described as "a pleasant game".

City became City in 1894 and United became United in 1902, but the Manchester Derby was forged long before that decision was taken. St. Mark’s (West Gorton) would go on to become Manchester City and Newton Heath is the club that later became Manchester United. What started as a friendly game between two local sides gradually became much more important than that. Between 1888 and 1893 one of either Ardwick City (as St. Mark’s briefly became) or Newton Heath won the Manchester Cup; a trophy played for by teams based in the city and surrounding areas.