Manchester is England’s de facto football capital. While Manchester United are the most titled club in the land, newly moneyed Manchester City are major players after massive investment from Abu Dhabi.

Each won the Premier League title twice in four seasons from 2011 to 2014. With the two most successful managers of the modern era, José Mourinho at United and Pep Guardiola at City, at the helm, life was never dull, either in terms of achievement or expectation.

National Football Museum/Peterjon Cresswell

Football tourists who flock to Manchester every weekend can also visit the National Football Museum, set in the towering glass Urbis building slap in the city centre.

Although Mourinho’s United won the Europa League in May 2017, the club hasn’t put in a credible challenge for the title since the departure of manager Sir Alex Ferguson in 2013. Champions League semi-finalists in 2016, City won a memorable title in 2012. In the last three minutes of the last game, City had overturned a 2-1 deficit at home to struggling QPR to win 3-2, two injury-time goals wresting the title out of United’s grasp and bringing it to City for the first time in 44 years. Three minutes had reversed four decades of near complete United dominance.

Even in the late Victorian era, the two clubs were top dogs in town, winning the Manchester Cup seven times in its first eight seasons. Back then, United were the railway team of Newton Heath, City were Ardwick, formed by St Mark’s Church in Gorton. Both were based in the east of the city – each gained their present name either side of 1900.

National Football Museum/Howard Hockin

Under club secretary Ernest Mangnall, United won their first league titles and FA Cup. Mangnall switched to City in 1912 – giving that September’s derby, won by City at United, extra spice. Back then, the club secretary had a managerial role, so Mangnall is considered the only man to have been at the helm of both clubs. Mangnall both arranged for United to move to Old Trafford south-west of town, and for City to move from Hyde Road in West Gorton to Maine Road in Moss Side, south of the centre.

It was not a popular decision. In 1928, an unhappy City director created Manchester Central FC, based at Belle Vue, off Hyde Road east of town. Though coached by the great Billy Meredith, one of the few men to have played with distinction for both City and United, the club only lasted five years. Central were revived in 2015, with an under-21 side in the Cheshire League and an under-18 team in the Lancashire Floodlit League.

With Old Trafford bombed out in World War II, Manchester United, under former City player Matt Busby from 1945 onwards, spent several years at Maine Road. Under Busby, a young United side captivated the nation until it was tragically cut down in its prime in the Munich Air Disaster of 1958. Busby’s Red Devils bounced back in the 1960s, the star trio of George Best, Bobby Charlton and Denis Law arguably the most celebrated in English football history.

Until City’s recent Abu Dhabi investment, the late 1960s saw both Manchester clubs at their height, United lifting the European Cup 18 days after the Sky Blues won the league crown in 1968. Defeat for title-holders United at home to Sunderland on the last day of the season let in their local rivals. Derbies then were fervent affairs, Best taking the greatest pleasure out of jinking past City hard man Mike Doyle. Both ended their days as alcoholics.

The Lost Dene/Peterjon Cresswell

City fans, perceived to be more numerous in Manchester itself, also celebrated European silverware in 1970. From then on, until the investment of 2008, rejoicing was pretty much limited to schadenfreude at any United failures. The classic moment came in 1974, a cheeky backheel by ex-United star Denis Law, playing for City again after 13 years, that condemned United to relegation. He didn’t celebrate.

United dipped post-Busby only to revive under Ferguson with the introduction of the Premiership in 1992. Ferguson’s team, Eric Cantona and all, were made for live TV. Cantona, and later David Beckham, became global celebrities. United dominated a decade that ended with the treble, including the Champions League in Fergie time. Famously, Ferguson had set out at Old Trafford ‘to knock Liverpool off their perch’. Manchester City weren’t even in the equation.

That all changed after 2008 and City’s last-gasp title win of 2012. With United runners-up by 19 points in 2017-18, the Sky Blues look like ruling the roost for many a year to come. United’s global reach, however – and Old Trafford‘s 75,000 capacity compared to the Etihad‘s 55,000 – sees them regularly at the top of the world’s richest clubs list.

Welcome to Manchester/Peterjon Cresswell

Way up in the north-east, almost nearer to Oldham than Manchester, Broadhurst Park was unveiled in  2015 as the permanent home of breakaway community club FC United of Manchester. Now in the National League North, England’s sixth flight, the club formed by disgruntled United fans in 2005 has risen up through the divisions, playing home games at any number of grounds across Greater Manchester. Symbolically, the official opening game at Broadhurst Park was the visit of a team from Benfica – on May 29, the anniversary of the victory of Busby, Best and Charlton over the Portuguese giants in the European Cup final of 1968.

Also with links to United after five members of the famed Class of ’92 took over the club in 2014, Salford City came under fire in 2018 for buying their way to success after promotion from the National League North to the National League. Based at Moor Lane since 1978, more recently renamed the Peninsula Stadium and its capacity increased to 5,000-plus, the Ammies gained further national attention when featured on a BBC documentary.

Beating Notts County in the FA Cup live on TV during the same season of 2015-16, Salford City performed further heroics in a replayed tie with Hartlepool in Round Two. After two promotions in three seasons, the club now sits in the fifth tier, its ambition evident from the purchase (and salary) of former Aberdeen striker Adam Rooney.

For the time being, admission is a simple £10 at the gate (£5 for over-60s and children 5-16s). The X43 Witch Way bus runs from Chorlton Street (stop EZ) near Manchester Piccadilly to the junction of Bury New Road and Moor Lane every 15-20min, journey time 20min. The ground is a 7-10min walk past St Paul’s Church, surrounded by golf courses. Surprisingly, for a management that runs football-themed cafés and hotels in London and Manchester, there is currently no regular clubhouse bar.

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Premier Inn Manchester Old Trafford: 53.465240, -2.288160
Hotel Ibis Manchester Salford Quays: 53.469725, -2.282585
Ramada Manchester: 53.469806, -2.282608
Copthorne Hotel Manchester: 53.467981, -2.284422
Trafford Hall Hotel: 53.461774, -2.278972
The Lowry Hotel: 53.483115, -2.250559
Hilton Manchester Deansgate: 53.475498, -2.250714
Joe\'s Bar: 53.483468, -2.234142
Night & Day Cafe: 53.482708, -2.235175
DRY: 53.482797, -2.235181
Rosso: 53.480765, -2.241816
Sawyers Arms: 53.480791, -2.248193
The Lost Dene: 53.480528, -2.248367
The Green: 53.479829, -2.229985
The Paramount: 53.476559, -2.242696
The Courtyard: 53.471989, -2.242270
O\'Sheas: 53.475496, -2.238184
Manchester United/Old Trafford: 53.463679, -2.286615
Manchester City/Etihad Stadium: 53.482198, -2.203445
FCUM/Bury FC: 53.580315, -2.294877
Manchester Piccadilly station: 53.477256, -2.230890
National Football Museum: 53.485822, -2.242118
Holiday Inn Express Salford Quays: 53.469938, -2.288675
The DOCKyard: 53.472704, -2.297962
Craftbrew: 53.471349, -2.294622
Lime: 53.471062, -2.294104
Renaissance Manchester City Centre Hotel: 53.484168, -2.246345
Mitre Hotel: 53.484620, -2.244229
Shakespeare Pub: 53.481766, -2.240056
Town Hall Tavern: 53.480368, -2.244142


Manchester Airport is 14km (nine miles) south-west of the city centre. It is linked to Manchester Piccadilly train station (15mins, £3.80) by rail, as well as by various bus services. Airport-recommended Arrow Cars (0161 489 8899) charges £24 to Piccadilly and £20 to Old Trafford.

City transport consists of buses, local trains and the light-rail tram Metrolink. There are several types of Travelcard, perhaps the most useful being the Weekend tram-only £5.80, valid from 6pm Fri until Sun night. There are also dearer tram/train, tram/bus and tram/bus/train combinations. Single tickets vary according to length of journey – Piccadilly to Old Trafford is £2.80. Buy tickets from machines at tramstops. On buses, pay the driver, change given.

Multi-transport Day Saver tickets are only available Mon-Fri after 9.30am, otherwise you need to buy singles, returns or a day ticket for one form of transport.

Street Cars (0161 228 7878) has set fares for both main stadiums and Manchester Airport and offers online booking.

The Lowry/Howard Hockin


Sleep beside Old Trafford at the Hotel Football, the first of its kind in the UK, with a rooftop five-a-side pitch for hire. Also close, the Premier Inn is directly behind North Stand on the other side of the busy Wharfside Way/Water’s Reach junction. Rooms from £29 though availability very limited on match days.

Also nearby is the budget Ibis Manchester Salford Quays, formerly the Etap, and mid-range Ramada Manchester Salford Quays, both on Trafford Road. The upscale Copthorne and mid-range Trafford Hall Hotel on Talbot Road are equally handy. Surrounded by the water but a ten-minute walk from Old Trafford alongside the redeveloped dockland complex, the Holiday Inn Express Manchester Salford Quays offers an affordable but comfortable stay.

City’s Etihad Stadium is currently light on nearby lodging. In town, the high-end Lowry attracts the football fraternity. The Hilton Deansgate is another footballers’ fave.

Just off Deansgate, the Renaissance Manchester City Centre Hotel is a well located and reliable four-star, while a short walk from the National Football Museum, the Mitre Hotel is an old-school cheapie set above its own pub and the historic Sinclair’s Oyster Bar.

The DOCKyard/Tony Dawber


The city’s bar hub is the Northern Quarter, where you can catch the post-match post-mortem on the big screens in Joes bar on Oldham Street or hang out with the hipsters at Night & Day or Dry. Player-spotting should be a doddle at Rio Ferdinand’s Rosso.

For something more down-to-earth, there’s the homely Sawyer’s Arms and the Lost Dene, beside each other on Deansgate and both showing live games. Also central, The Green is a sports bar with indoor golf; the cavernous Paramount is a Wetherspoons bar geared for live games and the Courtyard on Chester Street has huge screens. Big screens also feature at O’Sheas at 80 Princess Street.

Equally central, the Town Hall Tavern (20 Tib Lane) is a decent spot for football watching, as is the Shakespeare Pub (16 Fountain Street).

Among the new crop of waterside venues to have sprung up as Manchester becomes a media hub and ever more trendy, are CraftBrew with any number of sought-after draughts; swish Lime, with its terrace and TV screen; and award-winning TheDOCKyard, also with craft brews. All these are close to the MediaCity tram stop or a 20-odd minute walk from Old Trafford.

National Football Museum/Peterjon Cresswell


The four-storey, free-of-charge National Football Museum (Mon-Sat 10am-5pm, Sun 11am-5pm) opened in 2012 at the Urbis Centre by Victoria Station, moving from its previous home at Preston FC. At any given time it displays only a fraction of the 100,000-plus items in its collection.

The highlights are found on the first floor. Here modern technology brings you audio clips of classic matches from the BBC archives. Interactive touch-screen displays unveil the history of any club you desire or football’s role in war. Cabinets contain obscure trophies (Rous Cup anyone?); balls from the World Cup Finals of 1930 and 1966; shirts, medals and other artefacts. LS Lowry’s famous ‘Going To The Match’ painting is a welcome inclusion.

Kids should enjoy the games, penalty shoot-out booth and ‘Match of the Day’ TV studio experience. On the darker side, there’s a section on disasters and tragedies, including Munich. The second floor deals with officialdom and innovation, the third art and photos. There’s a souvenir shop and café at the top.