Manchester City claimed a record-breaking fourth consecutive Premier League title last weekend and this coming Saturday they could become the first English club to achieve a Premier League – FA Cup double in two successive seasons. 

Having also emulated Manchester United’s class of ‘99 by winning the treble last season, there is now a real debate to be had about who is the biggest club in Manchester. 

Ahead of Saturday’s FA Cup final between Manchester City and Manchester United, we’ll try to make a case for both clubs.

History with the Red Devils

When debating which of these clubs is the biggest, it really boils down to how much weight recent history holds over that of years gone by. Throughout the 20th century, Manchester United was undoubtedly Manchester’s biggest club. The Busby Babes recovered from the tragedy of Munich to win the club’s first ever European Cup in 1968, thanks to their Holy Trinity of Bobby Charlton, Denis Law and George Best. Between 1964 and 1968, all three players would be crowned Ballon d’Or winners.

Following a couple of relatively underwhelming decades, dominated by rivals, Liverpool, Manchester United appointed Alex Ferguson in 1986 and he would once again transform Manchester United into English football’s most dominant side. Over the next 27 years Manchester United would win 13 league titles, 5 FA Cups, 4 League Cups, 2 Champions Leagues and a European Cup Winners’ Cup. In 2008, Cristiano Ronaldo became the fourth player to win the Ballon d’Or whilst playing in the red of Manchester United.

The Noisy Neighbours

During the latter parts of the 20th century Manchester City would often yo-yo between the divisions as they lived constantly in the shadow of their near neighbours. This gulf between the clubs was perfectly highlighted by the 1998/99 season. Whilst Manchester United were sweeping aside Europe’s elite to win a Premier League, FA Cup and Champions League treble, Manchester City were languishing in the third tier of English football.

However, in August 2008, Manchester City’s fate would change forever as the Abu Dhabi United Group completed its takeover of the club. Manchester City’s new-found wealth meant that they could finally compete financially with Europe’s elite. In 2011, an FA Cup triumph gave Manchester City their first major silverware since 1976, and a year later, they were crowned champions of England for the first time in a generation.

The Pep Era

Whilst enjoying relative success under the likes of Roberto Mancini and Manuel Pellegrini, it was the appointment of former Barcelona and Bayern Munich manager, Pep Guardiola that really accelerated their charge towards footballing dominance.

Guardiola came to England in the summer of 2016 and in the eight years since, Manchester City have won 6 Premier League titles, 2 FA Cups, 4 League Cups and most significantly they won a first UEFA Champions League title in 2022/23. Their continued dominance has seen them break record after record in England and below are just some of the Premier League’s records now held by Manchester City:

Most points in a season (100 in 2017/18)

Most wins in a seasons (32 in 2017/18 & 2018/19)

Most home wins in a season (18 in 2011/12 & 2018/19)

Most away wins in a season (16 in 2017/18)

Most consecutive wins (18 between August & December 2017)

Biggest winning margin (19 points in 2017/18)

Most goals scored in a season (106 in 2017/18)

Future success and infrastructure

Manchester United remain a global institution and as one of the world’s most recognisable sports brands they possess one of the sport’s largest fan bases and highest turnovers however years of failure on the pitch and underfinancing off it has taken its toll. Old Trafford is in need of major refurbishment and in sports science terms, their Carrington training ground has been left behind by Europe’s elite. In contrast, plans are afoot to further expand Manchester City’s Etihad Stadium and their Etihad Campus training facility is home to a training ground with a capacity of 7,000 and the brand-new 23,500 seat Co-op Live Arena.

The Verdict

As a brand it is hard to argue that Manchester United still remain the biggest football club in England however if Manchester City continue to grow both on and off the pitch over the next decade as they have over the past ten years or so then it’s likely that the blue half of Manchester will become not just the biggest club in the city but in the whole of England.


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