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Who are Manchester United’s biggest rivals?

By: Ted Fred Franky, Refuting misinformation, January 14, 2024  5 months ago

It ain’t Liverpool FC

If you listen to the media you and a lot of United fans you’ll hear them claim that their biggest rivals are Liverpool, but this simply is not true. Their rivalry with Liverpool has two sources.

  1. Firstly, if you live in a town between Liverpool and Manchester, such as Warrington, Haydock etc the two most popular clubs are Liverpool and United, so naturally there would be a rivalry there. The majority of Everton fans come from Liverpool itself, whereas Liverpool fans tend to come from the satellite areas such as Southport, Huyton, Knowsley, Formby, Widnes, the Wirral and Chester (Liverpool even have a club shop in Chester – how sad). Manchester on the other hand is split down the middle, if you draw a rough line from Bury south to Wythenshawe, people to the East support City and to the West support United. This reflects the history of the two clubs and has been reflected in many surveys in recent years (see article here). That doesn’t mean there are no City or Everton fans in these towns between Liverpool and Manchester, there are a lot, but just not as many.
  2. Secondly, live league football on TV started in the 1983-84 season. City had been relegated in 1982-83, and so the BBC and ITV needed a rival for United, and they chose Liverpool. United were the biggest club in England, and Liverpool the most successful, so it was a natural marketing choice to ‘big up’ the matches between the two. So if you are an armchair United supporter living in Norfolk or Devon, then of course your rivarly is with Liverpool.

However, when you look into the history, this clearly isn’t the case. There has always been a stiff rivalry between the two cities of Liverpool and Manchester on all fronts. From the Victorian era through to the modern day, both cities have been rivals to be the most prominent in the North West. The rival between the people form both areas is extremely intense. The rivalry between Everton & United, Everton & City and also City & Liverpool has always been strong and violent.

Man City Fans Sky and White Traditional Bar Scarf
Man City Fans Sky and White Traditional Bar Scarf

In the 1980s for example:

  • The only two clubs City did not organise away travel to, were the two away games in Liverpool. Thi was because the coaches and trains would always get their windows bricked, and the costs were not worth it.
  • After the 1981 FA Cup Quarter Final at Goodison Park, the Everton fans assembled en masse to attack the victorious City fans after the match. The police tried to disperse the Everton fans with dogs, before Everton fans returned wth their own dogs to take on the police. The clashes after the game were extremely violent.
  • A Liverpool supporter famously threw a bottle of wine at Joe Corrigan in a league match in 1982. Big Joe was concussed but bravely carried on as there were no substitute goalkeepers then. . City were winning 2-0 and it altered the flow of the match. It was like the Alamo for the following 10 minutes as Liverpool piled forward to take advantage, quickly pulling a goal back. However Steve Kinsey scored the 3rd on the break and City left with all the points.
  • On my first trip to Anfield in 1986, the away sectio had been cut to a small sliver of standing of 1,500 plus 200 seats. After the match, which City lost, the entire away end was herded onto buses organised by Merseyside police. We were driven from the back of the Kennerly Road stand with a full on police escort directly onto the platform at Lime Street, in a similar manner to the way visiting fans are protected in Naples today. The police had chartered a train to take us back to Manchester. Once at Lime St, we were met by hoardes of Liverpool supporters hurling missiles at us (mainly glass bottles) from the concourse over the protective netting. They were smashing everywhere. We had come on the National Express coach and so did not have a rail ticket. So were going to have trouble getting off the platform at Victoria, which we did. Others had driven, it didn’t matter, the response from the police was, “Come back and collect your car tomorrow, we want you out of here.”

So a lot of the history of Liverpool v United rivalry is actually based on the two cities, not the clubs specifically. Even today, the venom and violence from Liverpool supporters towards Manchester City fans is pure lunacy.

Getting Back to “Who are United’s biggest rivals?”

Man City Nero Scarf - Sky/Navy - One Size
Man City Nero Scarf - Sky/Navy - One Size

Well the true answer is Manchester City, and it is for following reasons:

  1. In the 1980s the only all ticket league match at Old Trafford was the game against City.
  2. In 1986, United allocated 4,000 places to most visiting teams (3 paddocks). For smaller clubs this would be cut to 2,400 (2 paddocks), for biggest clubs it would be 6,000 (4 paddocks). That season Liverpool were allocated 8,800 places in the scoreboard end (6 paddocks). No other team received such a large allocation. By contract City received a pitiful 2,400 places. When challenged by the Manchester Evening News, Manchester United Chairman Martin Edwards explained, “We have more demand for this match from our supporters than any other game, therefore we need to allocate as many tickets to our supporters as we can.”
  3. Pick any Manchester United match at Old Trafford that you can find on YouTube, and listen to the songs sung by the United supporters. Unless they are playing Liverpool, you will here the following chants at every single match, sung over and over again:
    1. U.N.I.T.E.D United are the team for me, with a nick nack paddywack, give a dog a bone, why don’t City f**k off home – This is th emost popular United chant of all time.
    2. My old man said be a City fan, I said f**k off bollocks you’re a c**t, I’d rather f**k a bucket …….
    3. Kicking a blue….
    4. They’re gonna die, they’re gonna die Man City are gonna die…..
    5. Build a bonfire, build a bonfire, put the scousers* on the top, put the City in the middle and burn the f**king lot – *Obviously scousers is referring to Everton and Liverpool fans here.
    6. You will also here plenty of other songs which reference City sung at most matches. Google any United match on YouTube now I dare you…..if they really hate Liverpool mre than us, why don;t they chant about them?
  4. The content of United chants about City, are all about assault and battery and also other forms of offence. If you look at the above “Kicking a Blue” is about the pleasure they getting from assaulting City fans, and how that is more fun than anything else that might enter their tiny little minds. The second verse of the bucket song above, insights further violence by suggesting attacking City fans with hatchets and knives. The “gonna die” one talks about ‘how we kill them I don’t know, cut them down from head to toe, all I know is Man City are gonna die” – Manchester United supporters just don’t create or sings chants like this about Liverpool. Yes they come out with a few age old chants (which City also sing), but only it seems, when they are actually playing Liverpool, and that is the big difference.
  5. Every single Manchester United fan was hoping and praying Manchester City would not do the treble in 2023. They were phoning radio stations to say so, saying it in pubs. It was so funny.

There are numerous others from “City’s going down like a Russian submarine” to “Are you City in disguise” and plenty more. In fact, if you go on many United fan websites where they list all the chants they have, the ones about City are all familiar because you can hear them on the TV each time they play. The only chants about Liverpool FC that are different to what City sing are generally about the Hillsborough disaster, and that’s about it. There’s little or no originality or effort put into it.

So why do United fans claim Liverpool are their biggest rivals? It’s quite simple it’s all about belittling the importance of City. However, they can’t help themselves when it comes to chanting when their real feelings come out.

City fans are far more honest as the old songs go:

“Hate Man United! we only hate Man United!”

or

Official Manchester City Scarf – PUMA3
Official Manchester City Scarf – PUMA3

“My father said to me one day, is it red or blue for you,

And if it’s red you’re out the door, and I won’t see you no more,

And then one Saturday afternoon he took me to Moss Side,

He said my son your time has come, and this is your lesson in pride,

You see the scum, you never run, you stand and fight your ground,

And when we win on Derby Day, you’re sure to hear this sound,

Man City Nero Scarf - Sky/Navy - One Size
Man City Nero Scarf - Sky/Navy - One Size

Hark now hear! the City sing! United ran away

And we will fight forever more, becuase of Derby Day!”