This weekend marks the first Manchester derby of the season and they don’t come much bigger than this. With both sides already occupying both first and second spots in the league, unsurprisingly, many see this game as a real ‘6-pointer’ that will determine which corner of Manchester the league title will land come the end of the season.
This is a heavyweight match up; in the red corner, weighing in as the current Premier League Champions and one of the most successful clubs in English football, Manchester United. In the blue corner, the challengers, weighing in as the ‘noisy neighbours’, current FA Cup holders with the most expensive team in the Premier League, Manchester City. Matchups do not come much bigger than this in modern day football.
For the fans of both clubs it is one of the most important days in the football calendar, both sets of fans want the bragging rights come Monday, but more than that they want to be crowned top dog of the city. For both the players and the managers this game may never have been so important. Both sets of players come out and said how big this game now is, players from both sides have openly admitted they see the Manchester derby is the biggest game of the season.
For both managers professional pride is at stake, it is a match neither gaffer wants to lose. Fergie has seen Manchester City come and go over the years; the rivalry has always been there, but a lot of the time the competition hasn’t-this season is probably the start of a long battle between the two sides, that Mancini will hope he will be a part of in years to come.
It looks like finally both clubs will not only be competing for this season’s top honours, but they are now competing to win new supporters on a worldwide level and we all know about how glory drives support, Sunday’s result is vital to business. Both clubs now have solid financial sound financial backing, they can afford to spend money on player recruitment, as well as ploughing resources in to making their ‘brand’ as popular as Nike or McDonald’s all around the world. But none of that matters if you do not have the success on the pitch and this game has become a true spectacle in the Premier League calendar, signifying everything the Premier League has come to stand for, only enhanced by current league positions. (Premier League & Sky rub their hands)
For both sets of owners, this game has a different meaning. Manchester United are a renowned worldwide name already, we can see their popularity in their Facebook numbers, with over 20 million fans that like their page and you can bet you will see that paged advertised around the ground during today’s match. Building on their already established brand is of paramount importance as new forces, like City, emerge. Manchester Untied can continue to be at the top, not only because of the manager and players, but also because they are a money making machine and a worldwide brand already.
This is the level Manchester City aspire to be at, as a quick comparison to how far City have to go, despite ploughing millions in to their social media presence, they still only have 1.1 million fan likes for their Facebook page , which although is approx 18.9m fewer than United, a impressive amount for a club the size of City. City need to become a super power in world football, not only on the pitch but as a brand, Manchester United have been a super power since the early days of the Premier League and are lucky that this success coincided with the boom of the internet-during their most successful period they have been able to reach more people across the world than ever before.
The task ahead of Manchester City can be seen with Chelsea’s attempt to catch up Manchester United over the past few years. They have spent money to bring success, they have always competed but never got near the heights of Manchester United, but don’t get me wrong it’s not a bad job when you think where Chelsea came from with limited worldwide presence pre the Chelski revolution.
This game is as important, if not more so, behind the scenes as it is on the pitch to the players, manager and supporters…this game is important on a worldwide level. What you might not realise is the businesses both clubs have become. With the financial fair play rules fast approaching all clubs have to do what they can to appeal to a bigger market, as more fans equals more money. To stay as competitive as possible when the rules are in force, clubs must bring in as much money as they possibly can. To remain a club at the very top of European football you can no longer exist on just the Premier League name alone, your club needs to be a brand of its very own.
This afternoon’s match is the first battle of a new era, where it is a turf war at ground level locally, as well as world war across the globe to win new supporters and if you haven’t got the history, success and winning are the only way to recruit. Sunday’s game will tell the players, Alex Ferguson, Roberto Mancini and the owners of both sides just how far the table toppers have come in a very short distance of time. Off the pitch the both clubs, as businesses can only do so much, but let’s never forget that it will always be on the pitch where football matters most.