Manchester: The Greatest Place On Earth Whether You Support Manchester City Or Manchester United

From the humour to the music, the politics, the football and the clothes: Manchester is the greatest city in the world. Carlos Tevez wants to leave having played for both Manchester United and Manchester City - he clearly doesn't know what he's missing.
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From the humour to the music, the politics, the football and the clothes: Manchester is the greatest city in the world. Carlos Tevez wants to leave having played for both Manchester United and Manchester City - he clearly doesn't know what he's missing.

From the humour to the music, the politics, the football and the clothes: Manchester is the greatest city in the world. Carlos Tevez wants to leave having played for both Manchester United and Manchester City - he clearly doesn't know what he's missing.

Let us imagine for one moment a Sliding Doors scenario, where Sheik Mansour and his untold riches had bypassed Eastlands and headed a little further down the M62 to purchase his football club. Extending this flight of fancy a little more contemplate if you will the reaction of the good denizens of Liverpool as two of their star players, Carlos Tevez and Mario Balotelli, openly criticise their beloved city.

‘There’s nothing to do in Liverpool,” says the Argentine. “There’s two restaurants and everything’s small. It rains all the time, you can’t go anywhere’

‘I am not happy in Liverpool,” agrees Balotelli, whilst flinging scrunched up unpaid parking tickets at the journalist’s head just to amuse himself. “The city is not to my tastes’.

The civic outrage would prompt the Liverpool Echo to shut its mailroom, local radio stations would be in meltdown, whilst a protest pop single featuring a familiar roll-call of famous faces would be hurried into shops. It would probably be a cover of Get Back.

Whereas in Manchester – on both occasions – there was a collective shrug of the shoulders. Even agreement. ‘Yeah, it is a bit s*** ‘round here’.

This self-deprecation should never be confused for apathy. Mancunians are as proud of their home town as Geordies, Cockneys and, yes Scousers. The insouciance stems from a confidence – an in-built swagger – that is stamped into every resident’s DNA.

Mancs know that they have a lot to crow about…but don’t like crowing. They know they could easily counter Balotelli’s dismissal of their birthplace by name-checking Lowry, Robert Peel, Alan Turing and David Lloyd George. They could point out that Manchester was the cradle of Marxism and left-wing politics, modern-day industry, the trade unions and suffragette movement, punk and Madchester. But what’s the point in trying to explain all that to a guy who ties himself in knots putting a training bib on? Carry on Balo, as you were. You’re an extravagantly gifted centre-forward, not an employee of the North-West tourist board.

The fact is that this former Cottonopolis, the capital of the north, is – as the terrace song puts it – full of tits, beer and City. Oh Manchester is wonderful. For the more discerning it is also brimming with cleavage, chardonnay and the Halle symphony orchestra. For the rest there’s Subway.

The weather…well, let’s put this one to bed. It’s a myth. Always has been.

There is something for everyone in this cosmopolitan, exciting, bittersweet, friendly, dangerous town. Canal Street - the cities gay village – nestles alongside studentville which in turn merges seamlessly into some pretty tasty areas where a sudden bang probably isn’t a car backfiring. Hobos bustle alongside bohos. Wannabe baby-faced gangstas cycle past Northern Quarter libertines. It is a city that embraces – is built on - contradiction and its little surprise that four of its finest sons called their band the sweet and sour Stone Roses. It’s an entirely apt name considering their environment growing up, surrounded by hard, imposing Victorian architecture whilst listening to the efflorescent riffs of Johnny Marr.

Historian Simon Schama, talking about the birth of the Industrial Revolution, once noted that "Manchester was the very best and the very worst taken to terrifying extremes’ He could have been talking about two hundred years ago. Or last week.

The humour around these parts is sardonic and dry and usually designed to prick pomposity. There’s little warmth to it, unlike across the Pennines, and quick-witted quips and wisecracks is traditionally the domain of those nearer the Mersey. Instead it’s adult piss-taking spoken with a straight face, even a tinge of derision. I love it.

The weather…well, let’s put this one to bed. It’s a myth. Always has been. The yearly rainfall is significantly below the national average. So stick that in your brolly and open it where the sun don’t shine. But let’s play along anyway. The drizzle actually suits Manchester; it enhances its gothic charms and makes the Beetham Tower shimmer. The city centre looks a bit odd in dazzling sunlight if truth be told, as if something isn’t quite right, like John O’Shea’s wedding snaps or a big broad grin on the Mona Lisa. Rain and Manchester go together hand in glove, which is appropriate given that The Smiths wouldn’t have formed without the heavens opening from time to time. As Morrissey once said, when asked why he started the band, ‘I’d walked home in the rain once too often.’

Additionally it encourages better clothes – cool-as-f*** cagoules and winter coats – whilst all you southern jessies stroll around in cargo shorts and hideous ankle socks.

So it may be balmy in Buenos Aires Carlos but personally I have no wish to go there. Not even on vacation. I guess that makes us quits.

Give me Manchester any day. For behind the scruffy, dour façade there is a warmth and spirit like no other place on earth. It is also possibly the only metropolis in the world that has its own garden. I’m sorry Cheshire, you just are.

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