How many fans does man city have ? The English Premier League is the world’s richest football competition. Its wealth has attracted many top players to the league, which has helped the teams competing in it become incredibly popular worldwide. This popularity, however, is not evenly spread throughout the league and there is a huge gulf between the most and least popular teams. Manchester United have over 80 million followers on Facebook and are by far the most popular team. They are also the most successful having won 20 English top flight titles; the majority of which were achieved during the 90’s and 2000’s.
Manchester United, however, have not won a Premier League title in over a decade (since the departure of their legendary manager Sir Alex Ferguson at the end of the 2012-13 season). It will be interesting to see whether over time other teams can bridge this huge gulf as younger fans around the world start following teams that are having current success. Manchester Uniteds’ ‘noisy neighbours’ Manchester City are the most likely candidates to do this. Data shows they have become much more popular since they started winning premiership titles in the 2011-2012 season.
The other top spots are taken by recent champions league regulars and other members of the so called ‘Big Six’; Chelsea (2nd), Manchester City (3rd), Liverpool (4th), Arsenal (5th) and Tottenham (6th).
At the opposite end of the table are newly promoted teams, yo-yo teams and perennial survivors, which include the likes of Burnley, Brentford and Bournemouth. These teams all have under 800,000 on-line fans (that’s less than 10% of Manchester United’s total). It’s always going to be tough for these teams to compete with the more popular clubs, but the longer they stay in the premiership the more chance they will have to increase their global appeal.
We will continue to keep an eye on the data, however, it seems almost inevitable that the gulf between the most and least popular teams in the EPL will widen as access to greater wealth enables the top clubs to keep winning silverware, which in turn leads to more fans and greater wealth. The doomed European Super League was a glimpse into the ‘ambition’ of the owners of the top clubs to protect their income and effectively close the door on open competition.
Most Manchester United fans are not from Manchester
It’s certainly true that the vast majority of Manchester United fans are not from Manchester. The stereotype is supported by a 2014 YouGov poll, which found that only 28% of British-based Manchester United fans are actually from the North West of England.
In keeping with the Cockney Reds jibe, London and South East was the region with the next highest number of Reds, with 12% of Great Britain’s Manchester United fans residing there.
So, even before factoring in the club’s enormous global fanbase, we know that at least 62% of United fans do not live in Manchester.
By contrast, the same survey found that 49% of Manchester City fans live in the North West. Even allowing for the glory-hunting impact of City having won three Premier League titles in the eight years since the poll was conducted, which might have spread the City fanbase a little further around the country, it seems pretty conclusive that a higher percentage of Manchester City fans come from Manchester than do Manchester United fans.
So, that’s done and dusted, right?
Well, not quite. The question we set out to answer was: do Manchester United or Manchester City have more fans in Manchester? Just because a higher proportion of City fans are from the Manchester area it doesn’t necessarily follow that most people in Manchester support City.
Number of Manchester United season ticket holders in Manchester vs number of Manchester City season ticket holders in Manchester
Another study that tried to get to the bottom of this and other related questions was conducted by Manchester Metropolitan University in 2002. It looked at the postcodes of season ticket holders from both clubs to determine which side had most season ticket holders from Manchester.
The study found that Manchester United had 7,808 season ticket holders with a Manchester postcode, while City had 6,678 season ticket holders with a Manchester postcode.
Despite United having slightly more season ticket holders from Manchester, City — perhaps tellingly — had a higher percentage of season ticket holders from Manchester. The figure show that 40% of City season tickets holder were from Manchester, compared to 29% of United season ticket holders.
The findings of that study are based on each club’s 2001 season ticket database, which was analysed by MMU. Clearly, City’s stadium capacity, on-field performances and financial standing have all changed dramatically since then, as have both club’s ticket prices and number of season tickets holders. United now have more than 50,000 season ticket holders (they had 27,667 when the survey was conducted), while City — aided by their move from Maine Road to the Etihad Stadium — now have around 36,000 season ticket holders (compared to 16,481 in 2001).
It also has to be said that while being a season ticket holder is a decent barometer in this regard, it is by no means the only measure of whether somebody from Manchester supports either one of the teams. Armchair supporters, people who have to work at weekends and those with no more than a passing interest in football apart from on derby day might all consider themselves to be fans of City or United to some degree.
Where do City and United fans really come from?
In 2012, arguably around the peak of the rivalry between the two Manchester clubs, local newspaper the Manchester Evening News carried out a — by its own admission — unscientific survey to determine where in Manchester fans of each club hail from.
As you might expect, the study found City strongholds in Stockport and the areas in south Manchester near City’s old ground, Maine Road. Equally unsurprisingly, Salford and the M16 postcode area near Old Trafford was dominated by United fans.
Perhaps most helpfully for our attempts to answer this question, the survey received 2,163 responses from United fans and 1,175 responses from City fans — does that small sample size offer a clue as to the breakdown of Manchester’s football allegiances? It’s hard to say for sure.
Social media clues
A 2020 study of Premier League club Twitter accounts suggested that Manchester United have 7,218,427 UK-based Twitter followers, while Manchester City have 2,005,012 UK-based Twitter followers.
If we take those figures and apply the YouGov poll percentages from the start of the article to them, we can estimate that around two million of those seven million United fans and 982,000 of those two million City fans are from the North West.
Again, it’s not a perfect measure. Does a Twitter follow equate with support for a club? Does having more followers in the North West also mean you have more followers in Manchester?
What is striking is that the 2:1 ratio in United’s favour is almost identical to the Manchester Evening News survey.
So, do Man United or Man City have more fans in Manchester?
It’s very hard to say due to the difficulties in establishing what constitutes a fan and finding reliable statistics on which to determine where footballing loyalties lie within Manchester.
Putting together all the various and, when it comes to answering this question, in their own ways flawed pieces of evidence, it is notable that United always seem to come out on top when it comes to the number of fans. The fact that this is by similar margins in a couple of the surveys we’ve considered makes this a compelling if not entirely concrete conclusion.
On the balance of probabilities, we’d have to hazard a guess that while a greater proportion of Manchester City fans are likely to hail from Manchester (thereby arguably making them the club most grounded in the local community within Manchester) it seems likely that there are more Manchester United fans in Manchester than Manchester City fans.
In short, it looks like Manchester City have more of their fans in Manchester, but Manchester United have more fans in Manchester.
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