There is a joke that the unofficial greeting in the US state of New Mexico is “red or green?”, implying that each conversation opens with asking whether someone would prefer red or green chilli peppers. Is the unofficial greeting in the northwest England city of Manchester “red or blue?”, to determine the allegiance to one of the city’s two football teams, Manchester United or Manchester City.
The red half of the city has long been dominant over the blue half. Mahchester United became the most successful team in English football league history in 2010-2011 season by wining the Premiership a record 19 times, surpassing Liverpool’s record of 18 league titles, which they had achieved in 1988. In 1988, Manchester United had only 7 to their name! The 12 titles since 1992 have been largely down to the most successful manager ever in English football, the Scottish (Glaswegian) Sir Alex Ferguson.
A few years ago, in 2008, the Manchester City football club was bought by one of the richest men in the World, Sheikh Mansour of Abu Dhabi, who has given the club nearly unlimited money to buy the best players in the World, and to recruit one of the game’s up-and-coming stars of management, Roberto Mancini. One of the stated aims was for Manchester City to be able to challenge their neighbour’s dominance of the domestic game. 3-4 years on from his buying the club, Manchester City are now vying with their more successful neighbours to win this year’s Premiership title, a title Manchester City have never previously won (they last won the old English League title in 1968).
Where the title goes this season will probably all come down to the match this evening between them. Going into the game, Manchester United have a 3 points advantage over Manchester City, but if City win tonight at home in the Etihad Stadium, Manchester City will go above United on equal points but with a better goal difference. With only two matches remaining for each club after tonight, if Manchester City can win all their 3 remaining games including the derby with United this evening, the title will be theirs.
There has not been a closer race for the title in several years, and to have one between such bitter rivals is what sporting contests are all about. The English FA are expecting viewing figures for tonight’s game to be over 650 million people worldwide, which will probably be a record. I will be in running club, but by the time I finish the game should still be on, so I will listen to the 2nd half on the radio.
Who will have the bragging rights on Tuesday morning, the red half of Manchester, or the blue half? As my team is Chelsea, I am neutral. Who do you want to win?
Manchester City won 1-0, in a tense game. The title is now theirs to lose.