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Manchester Derby: An intriguing battle on and off the pitch

Thursday 7 December 2017

THE MANCHESTER derby this Sunday between United and City promises a classic battle between this season’s English Premier League heavyweights.

Here Simon Chadwick, Professor of Sports Enterprise at the University of Salford Business School looks at the contrasting styles both on the pitch and in the boardroom between the two super clubs.

Professor Chadwick said: “The derby pits the open, expansive style of City’s coach Pep Guardiola against the eternally pragmatic style of Jose Mourinho. And there will be contests across the Old Trafford pitch, with the likes of Sterling, Rashford , de Bruyne and de Gea battling it out for the win.

“Some Manchester traditionalists may see it simply as a contest between Newton Heath and Ardwick. Those whose memories are more recent may alternatively see it as a mismatch between Manchester’s achievers (United) and its under-achievers (City). There are countless other labels we could apply to the game: for example, the aristocracy –v- the nouveau riche.

“Yet no matter how one chooses to see the game on-the-field, the off-field battle is just as intense. After all, the two clubs are among the biggest commercial draws in football. In recent months, both clubs have revealed impressive revenue figures: United at £581 million; City at £473 million. While their costs have also increased, notably due to rising player costs, this doesn’t detract from the fact that both clubs are currently playing around the peak of their commercial games.

“United and City off-the-field, though, are just as different to one another as on it. United is a heritage brand, underpinned by a stock of historically accumulated brand equity. Whereas City is something of a challenger brand, seeking to gate-crash the upper echelons of world club football. While United continues to harvest revenues from its long-established global fan base, City has been working hard to break-out of its East Manchester industrial heartland. 

“United has a brand to protect, City has a brand to build. United is pursuing a sales-driven strategy, seeking to generate value from is commercial partnerships; City is using a relationship-driven strategy to drive its business overseas via its franchise network. United appears considered, conservative even, as City chases down growth through everything from its women’s team to its aggressive engagement with digital and social media.

“Pep against Jose will be compelling, but so too will Sheikh Mansour up against the Glazers 

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Sam Wood

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