Why Are There 2 Manchester Teams? (A Detailed History)

Last updated on December 24th, 2022

The city of Manchester has its roots deep from the age of the Roman Empire and has become renowned for several notable features across the ages. Above all, the city hosts two of the greatest clubs in world football: Manchester United and Manchester City. 

Here is what you need to know about these two Manchester clubs:

A Brief History

Manchester is one of England’s great cities imbibed with a rich history and culture. The city is located in the Greater Manchester county of Northeastern England with a population of over half a million. Most of these inhabitants shower Manchester United and Manchester City with their patronage. 

Since the past century, the city has been divided when both clubs face off on the pitch and for the rest of the year. The Manchester Derby is one of the most anticipated games of the year which usually occurs at least twice in each Premier League season.  

Why are there 2 football teams in Manchester?

The late 19th century was a defining era for sports. After Sheffield FC started in 1857, the establishment of football clubs became a wildfire trend and resulted in many clubs springing up across the world. 

21 years later, Manchester United was founded by railway workers as the Newton Heath LYR Football Club based in the Newton Depot area of the city. In 1880, Newton Heath contested its first professional match against the Bolton Wanderers reserve team which they lost by 6 goals to nil. Afterwards, they joined the regional league known as the Lancashire Combination before entering England’s First Division in 1892.

However, Newton Heath FC did not last more than two seasons in the first division before getting relegated to the second Division. By 1902, the club was facing liquidation after accumulating tons of debt. Four local businessmen came to the club’s rescue with individual investments of £500 to cover the £2,670 debt. 

The club was renamed Manchester United by John Henry Davies on April 24, 1902 and subsequently returned to the first Division in 1906. The Red Devils finally clinched their first league title two years later.  

On the other hand, Manchester City was founded by the church wardens of St. Mark’s Church, West Gorton, Manchester. The duo established the club as a means to curb neighbourhood violence and engage the youth in leisure extracurriculars. 

The club’s original name was St. Marks Club in 1880 and then Ardwick Association Football Club in 1887 before they were christened as Manchester City FC in 1892. Manchester City won its first honour in 1899 after clinching the second division title and won their first major trophy after the FA Cup triumph over Bolton Wanderers in 1904. 

Other Clubs

Although both clubs are the major Manchester teams now, Manchester City and Manchester United were among a bunch of the city’s fledgling clubs in the early 1900s. However, most of these other clubs were unable to find stable success and later folded. 

A major example is Manchester Central FC which was formed in 1928 by John Aryton, a former Manchester City director. Aryton established the club to serve the east part of Manchester after Manchester City’s departure from the area. However, the club only played in the Lancashire Combination and Cheshire County League. 

They would repeatedly apply to enter England’s main football league pyramid but to no avail. In 1931, Manchester Central FC was in pole position to take Wigan Borough’s position after the latter resigned from the league

However, a formal complaint was lodged by Manchester City and Manchester United. United, in particular, who were struggling for support & finance, desperately swayed the authorities to decline Manchester Central’s third bid. The club folded soon afterwards. 

Other clubs that existed in the city include:

  • Manchester North End FC: Founded in 1992. Competed in the Lancashire Combination and Cheshire County League until they folded in 1939.
  • Denton FC: Founded in 1880. Competed in the Manchester League and Lancashire Combination until they dissolved in 1915.
  • Northwich Manchester Villa FC: Founded in 2005. Competed in the Northwest Counties league until it was dissolved in 2016. 

Some other clubs in the city have survived under the hegemony of the big duo. In fact, some of them are inspired by the big duo and established by their fans. However, most of them compete in the lowest levels of the English Football Pyramid and enjoy little patronage from the city’s inhabitants, they include:

  • Maine Road FC: The club was formed by supporters of Manchester City FC and takes its name from City’s former stadium used from 1923 – 2003. It currently competes in England’s 9th tier of football, the Northwest Counties league. 
  • Whythenshave Town FC: Established in 1946 and currently plays in the Northwest Counties league.
  • Abbey Hey FC: Founded in 1902 and competes in the Northwest Counties league.
  • FC United of Manchester: The club was formed by Manchester United supporters in protest against the Glazer takeover. United currently plays in England’s seventh football tier, the Northern Premier League.

None of these clubs are expected to reach either City or United’s levels due to the duo’s hegemony over the city.

Why are Manchester United and Manchester City rivals?

Here are some reasons why Manchester United

The City

Like several big cities across Europe with multiple clubs, Manchester hosts both the Blues of Manchester City and the Reds of Manchester United. Any city with multiple clubs also hosts an uneasy tension that explodes during derby matches in a bid for the city’s crown. 

Since they are the two major clubs in the city of Manchester, there is a polarising shadow cast over the city. In Manchester, you are either Blue or Red. Whenever either club enjoys success, it is directly rubbed in the face of the other and embroils the bitterness.

Furthermore, the presence of both clubs in the same city provides an avenue for indirect provocation such as the Carlos Tevez saga in 2009. The Argentine striker switched the Reds for the Blues and was welcomed to City with a billboard that announced the transfer as: “Welcome to Manchester.” 

Tevez’s grand welcome was placed on the billboard at Deansgate, the city’s central area. Sir Alex Ferguson described this stunt as the efforts of a “small club with a small mentality” and branded them as “noisy neighbours.”

Cultural differences

Although staged in the same city, both clubs cater to different demographics of people within the metropolis. 

City fans are mostly a mix of old folks who were attracted by the club’s success in the 70s and younger fans attracted to the team of modern stars like Halaand, Foden, De Bruyne etc. 

Due to their recent surge, Manchester City’s success has caught the attention of young fans while retaining the Blue faithfuls from the past century. City attracts way more young fans than United due to their brand of attractive football and recent dominance.

Trolls refer to the Etihad Stadium as “Emptyhad” due to the club’s many years of low patronage which has resulted in a lack of atmosphere that most top clubs are known for. In fact, many younger fans of the club are seen as “plastics” and glory hunters.

On the other hand, Manchester United enjoys the patronage of many middle-aged folks who enjoyed the club’s ‘Fergie era’ dominance from the late 90s to the early 10s. 

Memorable matches

With all the tension an intense derby brings, several matches mark the fixtures and make them even harder to forget. A bitter loss is engraved for a lifetime and sweet victories echo for ages to come. 

Although most of these matches are regular season games, it adds extra salt to the wound to lose against city rivals. Both clubs have faced off in an endless series of heavyweight matches with high stakes such as knockout ties, title deciders and relegation battles. 

Thus, both teams always perform to their fullest in the ever-intense Manchester derby. Matches like these will be a battle for who rules the city and become obligatory to win. 

In fact, intense derbies are a trademark of football, other city derbies include:

  • Madrid Derby: Real Madrid & Atletico Madrid
  • Rio Derby: Fluminense & Flamengo
  • Buenos Aires Derby: Boca Juniors & River Plate
  • London: Chelsea, Arsenal, Totttenham & West Ham, Brentford, Fulham
  • Milan: Inter Milan & AC Milan
  • Roma Derby: AS Roma & Lazio

Here are some of the most memorable matches that mark the Manchester Derby:

#1 The Dennis Law game

Dennis Law is one of the finest British footballers to grace the game. The Scotsman became a star for Huddersfield Town before he transferred to Manchester City and Torino afterwards. However, it was with Manchester United that Law made his name.

The forward was part of the United trinity alongside Bobby Charlton and George Best. During his 11 year stint, he won the Ballon d’Or, the European Cup and two league titles. However, Law’s time at Old Trafford came to an end after injury woes which coincided United’s decline. 

He later transferred to the Blue city rivals in 1973. That very season, both clubs faced off in a fateful Manchester Derby as United’s relegation fate hung in the balance. Dennis Law scored a backheel goal in the 81st minute, which he didn’t celebrate due to the impending consequence. 

United fans were angry about the result and invaded the pitch at the 81st minute. However, the FA ruled that the result must stand. In the end, it was Law’s backheel goal that relegated United.

#2 Keane vs. Halaand

In the 2001 Manchester Derby, United Captain, Roy Keane was sent off after inflicting a horror tackle on a City player, Alf-Inge Halaand with a direct high-boot challenge to the knee. The next year, Roy Keane published his autobiography where he relished the tackle stating that he had waited for long to hit Haaland. The FA initially charged him with a £5,000 fine and three-match suspension but indicted him with a further £150,000 fine and five-match ban after his book was published.

Halaand and Keane’s beef stretched back to 1997 when the former played for Leeds. During that fateful match, Keane lay injured after rupturing his ACL. The United Captain was groaning in pain when Halaand loomed over him and shouted at him for faking an injury. 

Moreover, the beef was still relevant 25 years later when the future of Alfie’s son, Erling Halaand, was to be decided. A transfer to Manchester United was spurned in January 2020 and Halaand later mentioned that the Red Devils were not on his list of prospective clubs

Unsurprisingly, Erling Halaand chose to wear the blue of Manchester City in the 2022 summer window. The first derby of the 20222/23 season seemed to have echoes from the 21 years past as Halaand scored a hattrick in a thumping 6-3 demolition. 

#3 “The Best derby of all time”

By the 2009/10 season, Manchester City were warming up to relive the glory days once again after the Sheikh Mansour takeover. That very season, the Manchester Derby would occur four times as both teams faced off twice in the Premier league and League Cup semi finals. 

However, it was the first derby of the season that produced one of the most sensational football matches England had ever seen. At Old Trafford, United gained the lead three separate times and CIty equalised on all three occasions.   

Micheal Owen scored the winning goal in the 95th minute. 

The game was once again honoured at the Premier League 20 seasons Awards where it was voted as the best Premier League match . And why not? It was a hell of a game.

#4 The Clashes of 2012

The 2011/12 Premier League season will forever be marked by the “Agueroooo” moment. However, much more happened before City clinched their first League title since 1968.

The season began with the Community Shield in August 2011 between defending league champions, Manchester United, and FA Cup holders, Manchester City. Fortunately for the Reds, United sealed a comeback victory in stoppage time to clinch the victory and silverware over their neighbours at Wembley.

However, City got their revenge at Old Trafford in October 2011. The Blues were 1-0 up when Johnny Evans was sent off for a foul on Mario Ballotelli. Despite the 10-man effort, the match ended in a 1-6 victory for the away side which was their largest Derby triumph at the Old Trafford since 1955.   

Why always me?” Mario Ballotelli had an excellent performance with two goals to his name that day.

The next Derby meeting saw City’s exit from the FA Cup’s Third Round which geared up the Blues for another revenge. A tense affair which saw Robert Mancini and Sir Alex Ferguson square up on the sidelines ended in a tight 1-0 victory for the home side.

Consequently, the Blues took the lead of the Premier League standings by head-to-head advantage against their neighbours after closing a previous 8-point gap. Finally, Manchester City clinched the league title after victories in their next two matches against Newcastle United and QPR. 

Manchester City were level on points with Manchester United and won the Premier League by head-to-head advantage. Coincidentally, Manchester City’s last league title in 1968 was also won through a head-to-head advantage over their Red neighbours. 

The 2011/12 Premier league title became the second of four consecutive league titles won by either Manchester club. Both clubs claimed two titles apiece between 2011 and 2014 until the trophy left the City of Manchester in 2015.   

United was particularly on the receiving end after winning no major honours that season.


Manchester United and Manchester City are the major clubs of Manchester which have dominated the city’s football scene for over 100 years. Other clubs in the city are very far behind and some are even inspired by both clubs. 

The Manchester Derby showcases a heated display two or more times a season where both teams leave their hearts out to grab the win and local bragging rights. Manchester City and Manchester United have great histories which will be sustained for many years to come.

If you’re looking to buy the latest football merchandise from your favourite club, you can check out the latest deals at Kitbag.

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