With apologies to the lower leagues who kicked off seven days ago, this weekend the 2019/2020 English football season kicks off with the return of the Premier League, or The Premiership, or whatever we’re supposed to call it these days. (I much preferred it when the top division was called League 1, rather than that moniker being attributed to the third division as it is now, but nobody asked me at the time, so my opinion means diddly squat here.)
I can sense a collective sigh as you read that this is a football-related post and think I’m about to bang on about my beloved Spurs again. Well rest easy, I’m not.
Even if you have an aversion to all things football, you will be aware that there exists a local bragging rights hostility between certain teams: Glasgow’s Celtic and Rangers; Liverpool and Everton, Tottenham and…um…um…what are they called again…? Oh yes: Arsenal.
But it is to the north west that I’m turning my attention today, where it’s safe to say there is little-to-no love lost between Manchesters United and City.
Again, even the most disinterested in football will know that, until relatively recently, it was United who were the more successful team, dominating the English game through much of the 1990s and pretty much all of the 2000s. More recently, the tide has turned, with City winning the Premiership back in 2011/12, 2013/14, 2017/18 and 2018/19 along with some other silverware we don’t need to dwell on.
This change in fortune was in no small part due to a take over in September 2008 by the Abu Dhabi United Group, followed by massive investment in the squad, the manager, and a brand spanking new stadium.
Here’s the stadium:
Looks lovely, doesn’t it?
Don’t worry, this isn’t about to descend into accusations of City having “bought” the Premiership. A mere £1.3 billion has been ploughed into the club since 2008, which is nothing really. For a start, it’s £0.1 billion more than the government is planning on spending on informing us how we can survive the “sunny uplands” of a No Deal Brexit, for example, but perhaps it’s best we don’t go there (just yet).
Rather, look at the name of the stadium.
For although it is officially called The City of Manchester Stadium, as is the trend these days, naming rights were sold off, meaning it’s The Etihad Stadium.
Most of us will recognise the word Etihad from the United Arab Emirates airline. But those of you curious as to the meaning of the word will be rather amused by this, I think. See this, from the Manchester Evening News, which I suspect was written by a giggling incredulously United fan:
In other words, Manchester City’s home ground is called the United Stadium. Which, given the rivalry between the two clubs, you have to admit is pretty funny (unless you’re a City fan, I imagine).
I feel a song coming on: