Manchester United rules - or do they?



Manchester is a city with a rich history in sports, especially football. The city hosts two major football clubs, Manchester United and Manchester City. The former play at the Old Trafford ground, England’s biggest club football ground, while the latter play at the City of Manchester Stadium.

Manchester United Football Club has brought great fame and glory to the city of Manchester because of its exploits in international fields of competition. For many people, Manchester United is not only a great football team but one of the city’s premier ambassadors of goodwill to the world. The team proudly represents some of the best qualities of the people and city of Manchester.

With this as background, United is probably the more popular of the two Manchester football teams, wouldn’t you think? Such may not be the case as there has been a long-standing belief that Manchester City actually has more local fans than their more famous namesakes. A few years ago, a Manchester University research study discovered that Manchester United has 9,000 season ticket holders in the M postal area compared to Manchester City’s 7,000 season ticket holders. City fans quickly pointed out, though, that the research study was conducted before the City team moved to the larger City of Manchester stadium. As a result, no one is really sure which team is more popular among the locals. What is certain is that as far as nationwide and international support is concerned, United has a far larger fan base than City.

To be perfectly honest, Manchester United has the kind of rich and accomplished sports history that can make any native son or daughter of Manchester proud. They have been one of the most successful football clubs in English football history, winners of the FA Premier League/Football League 15 times and the FA Cup 11 times. In addition, Manchester United has also won the League Cup twice, the European Cup twice, the UEFA Cup Winners Cup once, the Intercontinental Cup once and the European Super Cup once.

As a tribute to United’s nationwide popularity, the club has held the record for the highest average attendance in English football for over 34 years. The only time they did not hold the record was during the 1987-89 period when the Old Trafford stadium was being renovated. In some circles, it is believed that the Manchester United Red Devils are the most widely supported football club in the world.

Manchester United was established in 1878 as the Newton Heath Football Club, which served as the works team of the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway depot. The club nearly went bankrupt in 1902 but was saved by J.H. Davies who subsequently re-named the team as Manchester United. During World War II, the Old Trafford Football Ground was severely bombed, leaving United without a stadium. They had to seek the assistance of their then more illustrious neighbours, Manchester City, and both teams shared Maine Road as their home stadium for some time.

The appointment of Sir Matt Busby as United’s manager after the war signalled a turning point in the team’s athletic fortunes. Busby instituted the practice of tapping players from the club’s youth team, then an unheard-of practice, but which soon produced impressive results as the team soon won the Football League in 1956 and 1957. The run ended in 1958 following the tragic Munich air disaster when eight of the team’s players perished. After a shaky period where some thought the club would fold, United once again made it to the winner’s circle by winning the Football League in 1965 and 1967 and the European Cup in 1968.

It took a while before United would again savour the sweet taste of victory, but in the nineties and early noughties, Sir Alex Ferguson led the club to eight league championships in 11 years, the last one during the 2002-03 season. The team also made history in 1999 as the first team to win the elusive treble, the UEFA Champions League, the FA Premier League and the FA Cup in the same season.

Manchester United and Manchester City are only two of the city’s local football teams. Recent estimates indicate that Greater Manchester has the most number of football clubs per capita anywhere in the world. Among the other professional football teams in Greater Manchester are Oldham Athletic, Stockport County, Bury, Wigan Athletic, Rochdale and Bolton Wanderers.

In anticipation of the 2002 Commonwealth Games, which Manchester hosted, several first class sporting facilities were constructed and this further boosted sports development in the city. These venues include the Manchester Velodrome, the City of Manchester Stadium, the National Squash Centre and the Manchester Aquatics Centre.

Among Manchester’s other professional sports teams are the Wigan Warriors of the Rugby League, the Salford City Reds, the Oldham Roughyeds, Rochdale Hornets, Swinton Lions, Sale Sharks, Belle Vue Aces, Manchester Phoenix and others.

Many famous sports personalities trace their roots to Manchester but there are too many to mention here. Aside from successfully hosting the Commonwealth Games in 2002, Manchester has tried to host the Olympic Games twice but were beaten by Atlanta in 1996 and Sydney in 2000.

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