The Battle for Manchester: Fight for glory between City and United explored in book as derby looms

By Matt Davies

The juggernaut meeting of two footballing super-powers and the division of a city rolls round this weekend once again as Manchester City host bitter rivals United.

With the Manchester derby looming, fans of both City and United will be able to kick-back and remember the good old days thanks to a book detailing the clubs’ bitter rivalry.

The Battle for Manchester by Jon Reeves was released in paperback last week and includes memorable moments from the clubs’ origins right up to the present day. (MM readers can get an exclusive 40% off)*

It chronicles the highs of 1968 when United lifted the European Cup for the first time and City won the First Division, to the despair felt following the 1958 Munich Air disaster.

Freelance writer Reeves hopes to have ‘captured the essence and the emotion of one of the greatest rivalries in football’ in just over 200 pages.

Reeves described writing the history of the clubs’ rivalry as a ‘therapeutic experience that has reminded me of what makes football such a fantastic and universally popular sport’.

Talking to MM, he explained he originally wanted to focus on the 2011-2012 Premier League season but adds that the rivalry is not just about the recent past.

“I knew that there was so much more to the rivalry than the events of recent years so I used it as a platform to start and end the book,” he said.

“But I made sure that there was plenty of focus on how the clubs have developed and the rivalry has changed over the years.”

As United chased glory and City faltered in the late-twentieth century, the fire between the sides was partly extinguished but the last five years has seen a change.

Following the injection of funding into City by the Abu Dhabi United Group in 2008, the rivalry between the two clubs was reignited, culminating in City lifting the Premier League title in May.

Some of the biggest names and talents in the game have an affiliation with the two Manchester clubs, from players right up to the very best managers.

United’s Sir Alex Ferguson recently completed 26 years in charge of the Red Devils, and boasts a trophy haul virtually incomparable with any other manager in the world game.

On the other hand, Joe Mercer won four trophies for City during his six year spell as manager between 1965 and 1971.

From a playing perspective, greats including Denis Law, George Best and Bobby Charlton have all pulled on the red jersey while Reeves feels many others have also made a name for themselves in United’s colours.

“In the modern era, for United I’d go with Eric Cantona and Cristiano Ronaldo due to their creative brilliance and ability to inspire already great teams on to even greater heights,” he said.

“And also Mark Hughes and Wayne Rooney for their durability, selflessness and consistency in the big games.”

From the Blue half of the city, Francis Lee, Mike Summerbee and Colin Bell are all profiled, with the trio having made more than a thousand appearances for the Citizens.

“They stand out, not just because of their individual brilliance but also because of the impact they had in unison as an attacking force,” Reeves explains.

“At City, the magic of Georgi Kinkladze, at a time when City generally lacked inspiration made him a huge fans’ favourite,” he added.

“Bringing it right up to date, for me, Carlos Tevez was key to the Blues’ title-winning run at the end of last season.

“Quite simply, Mancini’s men are a more dangerous team with Tevez on the pitch.”

All are featured in Reeves’ detailed history of the two clubs, highlighting the many twists and turns that the sides have encountered in their quests for glory.

The Munich disaster features prominently in the book, due to the impact it had on both clubs in the direct aftermath and in the years that followed.

“Writing about the 1958 Munich air disaster was a particularly emotive experience,” explains Reeves.

“The events of 1958 are seminal to the history of Manchester United and how the club became famous all over the world.

“Finding out more about how Manchester City reacted to the tragedy, as a club and as individual players, was also interesting.

“Many of the City players were friends with the United youngsters that lost their lives in the disaster, often socialising together after games, so that was something I wanted to cover.”

One of United’s most famous years came in the treble winning season of 1999, although City also experienced glory in the same period, returning to the Premier League a year later.

City’s stay in the division lasted just a year, but they were able to bounce back and with billions of pounds worth of investment and are now challenging United on every front.

The Battle for Manchester acts as a poignant reminder of days gone by for City and United fans alike, and is a must read for any fan wanting an insight into the bitter rivalry that exists in the city.

The rich histories of both clubs ensure that the rivalry will continue for many years to come, with the approaching Manchester derby just another part of an already intriguing history.

*Mancunian Matters’ readers get a 40% discount + free p&p if they quote ‘Battle’ when ordering by phone on 01206 255 800 or ordering online here.

Picture courtesy of Sky Sports, with thanks


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