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Manchester United supporters, with their triumphant red, show their rivalry with Manchester City fans, showing off their blue pennants. Sunday’s derby is at Etihad Stadium, Manchester City’s home. (Phil Noble/REUTERS)
Manchester United supporters, with their triumphant red, show their rivalry with Manchester City fans, showing off their blue pennants. Sunday’s derby is at Etihad Stadium, Manchester City’s home. (Phil Noble/REUTERS)

premier league

Locking horns and dividing a city, the Manchester derby Add to ...

One such fan is an East Londoner by the name of David Beckham, who created quite a stir on more than one occasion recently, with the former United player stating that no amount of money can help City acquire the rich history and tradition of its great rival.

“He talks about history,” Parker said. “Manchester City were the first club in this city to win a championship title; Manchester City were the first club to win the FA Cup; Manchester City were the first club in England to win a domestic and European title in the same season. We’ve got the largest ever capacity in a football league game of 84,000; we’ve got the largest ever capacity in our stadium for an FA Cup game and I could go on and on.

“David Beckham talks about history when he knows absolutely nothing about it, but to be fair to David, there’s only so much information you can get in those limited number of brain cells.”

But while Beckham’s cerebral capacity can be debated, the contents of United’s trophy cabinet cannot. A record 19-league titles and three European Cups reside there, but most of those have been won under the unprecedented run of success since Ferguson assumed the Old Trafford hot seat in 1986. Though the current City squad has a long way to go to rival United in the silverware department, for one City legend, last season’s success shows that the club has finally rediscovered its lustre.

“We’re on a level and we probably might be better than Manchester United as a team, but I think it’s brought Manchester City back into focus where they should have been,” Mike Summerbee said. “We had a period from 1965-75 and probably a little bit beyond that into the early ’80s when Manchester City had a really strong side.”

As a member of City’s 1968 title-winning side, Summerbee knows all about bringing success to the sky blue side of town, and was playing in the derby on the day United was relegated from the old First Division in 1974 – a situation that is almost unthinkable these days and unlikely to be repeated with both clubs riding high at the top of the English Premier League.

Following on from their championship success last season, City is not about to rest on its laurels and is planning to make its stay at the top of the English game a lengthy one. Taking the lead from its neighbour across town, City is embracing the worldwide appetite for the game, opening up club stores in places such as Abu Dhabi, embarking on far-flung preseason tours, and looking to boost the game-day experience. With its £153-million ($243-million) turnover in the last financial year less than half that of United’s, there’s clearly room for growth in that department.

And with top-level soccer now the norm rather than the exception, City is also constantly upgrading its 48,000-seat Etihad Stadium home – converted from its former role as the centre piece of the 2002 Commonwealth Games – and recently doubled the size of its press conference room at the behest of UEFA, after being told the original was inadequate for Champions League interviews.

It appears the current Manchester City squad is also inadequate for Champions League soccer at present, too. European soccer’s most coveted trophy remains elusive, painfully so after Manchester City exited the Champions League on Tuesday with the lowest point total – three – ever accumulated by an English club in the competition. But while Ferguson is sitting pretty with two European crowns to his name, the 48-year-old Mancini is unfettered, feeling he has time on his side, even with rumours swirling that failure to successfully defend the Premier League crown this season will cost him his job.

“Ferguson won his first [Premier League title] after seven years and his first Champions League after 14 years,” Mancini said. “I have another 12 years to win a Champions League.”

Whether Mancini is still in the job by then – he said he “probably” would be – the Italian’s immediate concern is stopping United disappearing over the Premier League horizon Sunday. United tops the table, three points clear of its rival, and avoiding defeat is a must if the defending champions are to stay in touch over the Christmas period. But whatever the result, having the eyes of the soccer world trained on Manchester this weekend is a win-win situation for the city.

“I just think the heartbeat of football is up north and it’s good for the city of Manchester that both clubs are involved,” Irwin remarked. “Manchester has always been on the list of cities renowned for football because of United but obviously with City jumping on board, it’s even more so now.”

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