LIBERATING FOOTBALL TRAVEL

10 best football pubs in Manchester

Watch the match in Manchester over a pint or a stein

Pubs, bars and cafés – best places to catch the action in England's football capital

England’s football capital is also a proper night out, whether it’s traditional pubs on and off Deansgate or trendier bars in the Northern Quarter.

All the major UK-wide chains are very much present in Manchester, half-a-dozen of them set around Printworks, a former newspaper hub, now an entertainment centre close to the National Football Museum. It’s open until way after city-centre pubs close.

Football-friendly options abound near Old Trafford, south-west of town, almost as lively on non-match days and a pleasant stroll from the waterside attractions of Salford Quays.

the bishop blaize

The Bishop Blaize/Peterjon Cresswell

This is that rare beast, a recommendable Wetherspoons. History and location are fundamental here, the pub a goal kick from Old Trafford, close to the site of a former inn of the same name that served the Stretford settlement from the 1400s to 1863. The football heritage is just as revered as the urban one, the stadium constructed in 1909, shortly before United won their second league title.

It’s the Ferguson and Busby eras that the pub concentrates on most, images of Best, Cantona and Law gazing down on a large pub of chatty drinkers. Behind the long bar counter, the oar the Frenchman wielded in the Ken Loach film, Looking for Eric, is also on display, signed by No.7 himself. While the décor is unique, the long selection of drinks and food is standard to most Wetherspoons, wallet-friendly and crowd-pleasing.

The Bishop Blaize, 708 Chester Road, Stretford, Greater Manchester M32 0SF

the brotherhood of pursuits & pastimes

The Brotherhood of Pursuits & Pastimes/Peterjon Cresswell

Close to Albert Square, The Brotherhood lends a little sophistication to the simple pleasures of drinking beer, watching football and shooting pool. Heraldic statues of the lion and the unicorn flank the doorway of this grand Victorian edifice, constructed for the Queen’s Building Society in 1874, and you can even see Victoria herself on the Mount Street side.

Within is a contemporary sports pub, awash with screens, with beer and food dispensed from a long bar counter, bottled varieties available in group-friendly packages. It can great mighty crowded – you can book a table through the website.

The Brotherhood of Pursuits and Pastimes, 2 Mount Street, Manchester M2 5WQ

cafe football

Cafe Football/Jim Wilkinson

While not a pub – the clue’s in the name – this bar/restaurant not only serves the Hotel Football it is housed in, but was created as part of the communal business portfolio of the Class of ’92. Members of United’s youth side who went on to dominate the domestic game later that decade – the Neville brothers, Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes and Nicky Butt – opened this themed establishment right next to Old Trafford in 2015.

As well as a 133-room hotel overlooking the stadium and a rooftop football pitch, it features events rooms hired out on match days. While reservations are usually required when United are at home, the ground-floor Cafe Football is open to non-guests, meaning you can sip your pint of Tetley’s, San Miguel or Guinness surrounded by illustrations of the beautiful game and its most notable exponents.

Cafe Football, Old Trafford, 99 Sir Matt Busby Way, Manchester M16 0SZ

the directors box

Directors Box/Peterjon Cresswell

Breaking everything down to its pig-iron essentials – big-screen football, beer, burgers – The Directors Box feels more like the supporters’ bar shortly before kick-off than any hospitality suite, but does what it says on the tin.

Twofer cocktails every day and perilously cheap deals on Jägerbombs attract the pre-clubbing fraternity, but most of all, this is a place for pints, pizzas and match action. Wherever you sit there’s a screen and craft beers make a welcome appearance, a recent example being Doncaster’s laudable Mad Scientist.

The Directors Box, 37 Booth Street, Manchester M2 4AA

the lost dene

The Lost Dene/Peterjon Cresswell

Though it feels as old as Coronation Street, this popular place on Deansgate only dates back a decade or so, at least under the name of The Lost Dene. Regulars might still remember it as the Hog’s Head, after which this was retro-fitted and rebranded, the classic bitters and substantial pub grub on offer aligning with its desire for authenticity. Football is a major factor here, with screens a-plenty and tons of space to spread out to take in the game.

The Lost Dene, 144 Deansgate, Manchester M3 3EE

printworks

Printworks/Peterjon Cresswell

It may not be everybody’s cup of tea, an extremely crowded cluster of high-street hostelries under one big industrial roof, but if there’s a large group of you in need of beer and sport, then this former printing house near the National Football Museum should please most people.

Of the four football-friendly venues, The Bierkeller is easily the best choice, beer sold in great big steins – or, indeed, in boots, buckets, towers and five-litre kegs. This could be the Bierkeller Haus variety, Erdinger Weißbier or Hofbräu Original, and for those afraid of real beer, there’s Carling. 

Alongside, there’s sausages, sausages and more sausages, even on pizza, and everywhere you look are screens. You can book a table or a games package involving beer towers, platters and darts or pool. Walkabout, Yates and O’Neill’s also screen sport, the schedules given on the Printworks website.

Printworks, 27 Withy Grove, Manchester M4 2BS

sawyer's arms

Sawyer's Arms/Peterjon Cresswell

You don’t get more traditional than this corner pub, whose heritage pre-dates the Industrial Revolution. Licensed to sell drinks since 1730, looking every bit like a Victorian hostelry with its dark wood and engraved glass, the Sawyer’s Arms is typical of the Nicholson’s group it belongs to. 

While its many other venerable establishments are happy to make their money on hand-pump ales and heaving plates of roast meat, given this venue’s location slap in the heart of Manchester, it has to screen match action. In fact, you can even book a table for a specific game, through the pub’s website.

Sawyer’s Arms, 138 Deansgate, Manchester M3 2RP

the shakespeare

Shakespeare Pub/Peterjon Cresswell

Filling the ground floor of a mock Tudor building near Piccadilly Gardens, The Shakespeare offers pretty much all you could ask of any English pub: hand-pump ales, a back bar lined with spirits, fish ‘n’ chips, fried breakfasts, a fireplace and Premier League action on flat-screen TVs. Throw in a little history – this is a regular stop on any heritage pub crawl – and the picture is complete. (It also has a fruit machine, in case you’re feeling really nostalgic.)

Beers have moved slightly with the times at least, you’ll find Moretti on draught, and there’s a vegetarian curry among the steaks, burgers and scampi. All in all, a friendly and comfortable place to take in the game.

The Shakespeare, 16 Fountain Street, Manchester M2 2AA

tib street tavern

Tib Street Tavern/Peterjon Cresswell

An overview of football-friendly drinking spots in Manchester would be unthinkable without this independent pioneer that has rubbed shoulders with the trendy boutiques of the Northern Quarter since 2012. It would have been easy for the incoming owners to have set up yet another design-forward drinkery, turned their nose up at football as the pursuit of raucous pubs and poured sought-after beer to chattering creatives.

Not a bit of it. HD screens and sport are as essential to this popular operation as the urban history of the namesake street it also showcases on the walls. Yes, you’re just as likely to be passing half-time comment on the match with someone from PR or fashion, but this is the people’s game, after all, as diverse as the crowd who frequent this place. It’s pretty compact, even with two floors, so blag a table early if there’s a big match involving City or United. Superb staff should ensure swift service.

Tib Street Tavern, 74 Tib Street, Manchester M4 1LG

town hall tavern

Town Hall Tavern/Peterjon Cresswell

Close to the civic institution on Albert Square that it’s named after, this warm and welcoming hostelry allows you to watch the match in comfort, with commentary and without loud crowds. Hand-pump ales and sought after beers from Camden Town Brewery, say, are another attraction, along with a reliably decent kitchen. It’s pet-friendly, too, so there’s a fair number of locals among the clientele, but it doesn’t take much to make this place feel loved and lived-in.

Town Hall Tavern, 20 Tib Lane, Manchester M2 4JA