I lived in Manchester as a student. Long enough to learn that the nonsense about Manchester City being the “proper” Manc club was precisely that – nonsense. As well as being followed by glory-hunting pillocks from Kidderminster to Kuala Lumpur and all points in between, United (I’m not really proprietary about the word – they can monopolise it if they want, to be honest) remain the club of Stretford, Salford and Wythenshawe, demonstrably a “proper” club, and, like us, the standard-bearer for their fine city on the international stage. Of course, one must always, always hate Man U – but there’s a small part of me that’s quite glad we are playing them this weekend, and not a landfill club like Leicester or a soulless husk like Chelsea. They’re football royalty and, if nothing else, they’re good for a sense of occasion.
One thing we do know – and this is a good thing about a showpiece final being contested by two big Northern clubs – is that both sets of fans will travel in numbers (I’m not going to make the obvious jibe about Man U fans living in London already – it would be somewhat hypocritical coming from this Finchley Mag), make an occasion of it, and their cumulative spend in the capital – in particular, in any pub within half a mile of the grand Euston Road railway termini – will almost certainly offset whatever meagre crumbs have inadvertently fallen their cities’ respective ways from London’s table. Newcastle and Manchester are both great cities with much in common. We’ll find out, on Sunday, who has the better team. But who has the better city? Well, we can turn to that right now.
There’s a reason we have so many call centres on Tyneside. It’s because we have the UK’s most friendly and trustworthy accent. And you won’t find the Mancs disagreeing: here’s professional Manc, Jason Manford, conceding the point. It beats their nasal drone, for sure (although I’ll concede that John Cooper Clarke doing “Evidently Chickentown” simply wouldn’t sound as good in any other voice). The Mags take an early lead. NEWCASTLE 1-0 MANCHESTER
The majestic Georgian sweep of Grey Street (regularly voted the UK’s most attractive urban thoroughfare), the iconic bridges, the allure of Grainger Town. Newcastle’s historic core is stately and handsome. Even the Central Motorway, with its hell-raising double-decker section, random slip roads and huge elevated walkways, recalls a certain type of thrusting optimism expressed through the built environment. Manchester, while its canalside warehouses and great Victorian civic buildings are recognisable the world over, is nowhere near as visually striking. It will also be incapable of winning any prize for urban beauty for as long as it remains lumbered with the sheer ugliness of Piccadilly “Gardens” (rarely has a word done such heavy lifting). NEWCASTLE 2-0 MANCHESTER
We have a mighty river. And we’re by the sea. The Mancs have some canals and that’s about it. Laughable that they’ve bothered to put a ship on their badge, frankly. Sure, Melanie Sykes made them look ever so romantic in the classic Boddies ads, but imagine how much better she’d have looked floating down the Tyne with a pint of Jakehead IPA. NEWCASTLE 3-0 MANCHESTER
Finally, the Mancs pull one back. Newcastle has a fine musical heritage, but come on – we’ve even named this fanzine after a New Order track. Even though Oasis were City fans, surely the most partisan Toon fan would have to concede that Manchester (with The Smiths, Joy Division, The Stone Roses and so on) takes this one. HALF TIME SCORE: NEWCASTLE 3-1 MANCHESTER
RADICAL SOCIOPOLITICAL HISTORY
Manchester has a lot going for it here. The Peterloo Massacre of 1819 (when 60,000 Mancs marched to demand parliamentary reform and fifteen died as the result of a cavalry charge). The birthplace of the co-operative movement (Rochdale). The Kinder Scout mass trespass. But we’ve got the Jarrow Crusade, and of course Emily Davison, the famous suffragette who threw herself in front of the King’s horse in 1913, was a Morpeth lass. It’s an honourable draw here. NEWCASTLE 4-2 MANCHESTER
Trams are rubbish. Pretty much everywhere realised this about a hundred years ago and duly got rid of them. Manchester, in its wisdom, brought them back – in all their slow, short, infrequent glory. Newcastle, by contrast, has a proper metro system, befitting a proper city – the most extensive in the UK outside of London. It’s not perfect – not least as the west end of the city is poorly served, as is the southern part of Gateshead, but we still just about shade it. Still, at least the Mancs have something, unlike Leeds, an unholy mess of a place which somehow manages to be impossible to navigate by car, public transport or on foot. NEWCASTLE 5-2 MANCHESTER
Manchester is close to the Peak District. It’s beautiful, sure, but here’s the kicker: they have to share it with Sheffield, Stoke and Derby. It’s not really theirs in the way that Northumberland is incontrovertibly, absolutely ours. Our very own back yard, our private retreat, miles from anywhere and anyone else, offering peace and solitude that is elusive amid the fleshpots of Bakewell or Edale. Oh, and beaches. Miles and miles of windswept, beautiful beaches. Another win for the Mags! FINAL SCORE: NEWCASTLE 6-2 MANCHESTER
THE VERDICT: An emphatic 6-2 win for Newcastle! I’d take that on Sunday. But whatever the outcome, I’d rather be going back to our place than theirs. Manchester has plenty to commend it – a vibrant city with warm people and rich culture, the de facto capital of the North. But Newcastle? Not arrogant, just better. Perhaps we should put that on a flag.