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Last Updated: Tuesday, 21 August 2007, 14:55 GMT 15:55 UK
Scouse v Manc
Manchester United fans mock Liverpool fans at a match

By Finlo Rohrer
BBC News Magazine

The struggle over the fate of Argentine defender Gabriel Heinze is the latest episode in the long tradition of hostility between Liverpool and Manchester United. But does this rivalry go beyond football?

Liverpool and Manchester both used to be mere parts of Lancashire. Now Lancashire is something you might just about see when you drive between them.

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Since the beginning of the industrial revolution, these two cities have duked it out for economic supremacy.

Manchester made the earlier running, dominating the textile industry, while Liverpool's position as the world's pre-eminent port, gateway to North America and a key nexus in the slaves and sugar trade triangle, helped it fight back.

It is often suggested that Liverpool looked down its nose at Manchester, feeling itself to be grounded in the loftier areas of insurance, finance and shipping, while its opposite number at the end of the East Lancs Road made its money from the altogether grubbier business of cotton mills.

The Liverpool gentleman and the Manchester man
Old-style mockery

There was a saying "the Liverpool gentleman and the Manchester man".

But whatever the mythology, the tables have been turned in recent years. Manchester has adapted more confidently and more completely to the post-manufacturing, post-heavy industry British economy.

Different outlooks

Its city centre has been redeveloped, warehouses converted into offices and loft apartments, quaysides transformed into cultural centres.

Sir Bob Scott, mastermind of Manchester's Commonwealth and Olympic games bids, as well as Liverpool's Capital of Culture, and lauded in both cities, says this has led to a difference in outlook, with Manchester thinking nationally and Liverpool thinking regionally.

You could be worse, you could be Scouse, eating rats in their council house
New-style mockery

"My overwhelming sense was that Manchester was looking to London and Liverpool was looking at Manchester. But [as a port] Liverpool looks out on the world, Liverpool is [historically] almost more conscious of New York."

You might think economic differences wouldn't filter down to popular culture. But respective economic status provides some of the animus in the terrace insults. United fans like to sing an offensive ditty to their Korean star Park Ji-Sung which concludes "you could be worse, you could be Scouse, eating rats in their council house".

Similar accents

Mancunians are happy to mock their Liverpudlian cousins in stereotypical terms. And Liverpudlians regard Manchester as the more dangerous city to live in, associating it with guns and gang violence.

And yet one might assume that Manchester and Liverpool would find common ground in being cities that have coped with periods of decline and unemployment. Both have areas - Toxteth and Moss Side come to mind - that are national bywords for deprivation.

Salford Quays
Greater Manchester has the edge economically

To many people from the south, those with mild Liverpool and Manchester accents sound similar. They share similarities in vocabulary. The term "scally", where much of the rest of the country opts for "chav", is just one of many words they share.

Liverpool has perhaps the greater sense of isolation and distinctness from the rest of the country. It is much joked that some Liverpudlians think civilisation ends at the Runcorn bridge, but the city really does look as much to the sea as it does back across the land.

When Sir Bob arrived in Manchester in the late 1960s he noticed a city already starting to arrest the decline.

"One was very aware of a city coming back up on the back of sport and the arts. In Liverpool when I went in 2000 one was aware of exactly the same thing, going through the same experience but just much later."

Superior architecture

There are some who feel Liverpool has to strive to be like Manchester, to compete, because the alternative is doom. Manchester always seems a little surer of its place in the country.

"Liverpool has to find a new life otherwise it will simply be a derelict port," Sir Bob adds. It has the superior architecture and the current buzz, but is still a long way from catching up.

Royal Liver building
But Liverpudlians boast of the best architecture

It would take a particularly blinkered, rose-spectacled Liverpudlian not to admit that, despite Liverpool's furious last decade of redevelopment, their regional rivals have the drop on them economically.

One measure would be demand for office space. According to commercial agents DTZ, office space in Manchester typically rents for 28.50 per square foot per annum compared with about 21 in Liverpool. Manchester's 19 million square foot of office space compares with Liverpool's 3-4 million.

Mike Taylor, Oldham-born chief executive of BusinessLiverpool, traces rivalry back to the days of the Manchester Ship Canal and its bypassing of Liverpool.

"It was Manchester's response to the fact Liverpool was a world class port. The idea was to take some of that trade directly into Manchester. It's the nature of human beings when there are two large powerful forces in a region there is bound to be some competition."

But Angie Robinson, chief executive of Manchester Chamber of Commerce, says notions of competition, in the mind of ordinary people or of business leaders, is false.

Mersey Ferry
As a port Liverpool looks abroad

"This rivalry is a bit of a myth, particularly from the business community's point of view - they work across the whole of the North West. The important thing is that both cities are the economic powerhouses of the region, important in their own right."

Greater Manchester has luxury, like the Lowry Hotel, which Liverpool is striving for. It's a contrast from the 19th Century when Liverpool boasted the grander buildings. The stunning stock of Georgian and Victorian buildings that are retained make Liverpool the more popular location for shooting films, but Manchester is the media powerhouse soon to boast a new media village and the historic base of Granada.

On the music front can be found the keenest rivalry outside football. Liverpool, as you are unlikely to be allowed to forget, had the Beatles, while Manchester boasted Joy Division, New Order, the Smiths, the Stone Roses and Oasis. Now Liverpool has a new wave of bands led by the Zutons, the Coral and the Dead 60s. But Manchester's greatest musical cheerleader, the sadly departed Tony Wilson, had a lot of time for Liverpool. The rivalry is the stuff of heated pub conversations, but hardly summons vitriol.

That vitriol is found in football alone. Go outside it, and the historic rivalry is merely that, old battles over commerce and a little economic envy.

Below is a selection of your comments.

I grew up in Liverpool possibly the greatest sign that there is rivalry can be found in the vocabularly of the place. I remember at school that the very, very worst insult you could hurl at anyone would be to call them a 'manc'. You could question their parenthood, or suggest you had close relations with their sister, or insinuate what their gran was up to with the bin man and it would all be a laugh. But if you called someone a 'Manc' - well that was verbally going nuclear, such strong an insult would only ever result in a fist fight.
G McEvoy, Brum

Not being from either city, but having lived in both, I have to agree with some of the stereotypes. Manchester, to my mind, is a much more dangerous city - in addition to the drugs and gangs, there's a real feeling of the potential for violence in most of the city centre bars.

Rather than look to New York, I believe Liverpool takes a huge amount from Ireland - it gives me a similar "feel" to Belfast - the people and humour are alike. I have not lived anywhere else that has a more defined pride and local identity as to "being from Liverpool". The same cannot be said for Manchester. Liverpool is on the upslope, whereas Manchester has grown too fast creating a very defined division between rich and poor, with the associated social problems.
SleepyD, Swindon, Wilts

You can't even compare the two seriously. Manchester is a major international city, Liverpool is a jealous historic remnant. Facing Belfast (not NY as claimed) is hardly a reason to call it great. Liverpool's only major export since slavery was the Beatles and they recorded all their albums in London while living in the South East. This is like comparing London and Slough because The Office was based in the latter - it's nonsense.
James, UK

Nowhere else in the country can boast 2 genuinely world class cities, other than the north west. Im a proud Manc, but admit that both cities are indeed great, however, you'd have to say that Manchester is slightly ahead, and is indeed the country's #2 city behind London, and as with London, is the only city that boasts a 'Greater' prefix when describing the general area in which the city is located. Manchester is indeed the capital of the North however, and not many people can argue this.

Liverpool isnt too far behind though, and being a proud northerner, Im very pleased to say that out of the country's top 6 cities (London, Manchester, Liverpool, Leeds, Birmingham and Newcastle), 5 of them are in the north.. if you count Birmingham as northern! The bottom half of the country only has London, and nothing else in terms of major, important cities. Greater London just happens to be as big as the other 5 put together!
Chris Handley, Manchester, England

In recent years Manchester has had the commonwealth games, Imperial War Museum North, the Trafford Centre, the Lowry, Urbis, rebuilt Picadilly station and the Bridgewater Hall. Liverpool has the Super-Lamb-Banana. Enough said.
Matthew Smith, Manchester, UK

Which is your favourite city, Liverpool or Manchester? Erm, neither, they're both ferociously awful. Birmingham, however, is slightly better than either. Although I don't expect this comment to be published as the BBC apparently refuse to accept the existence of what is legally, culturally, and historically the Second City.
Andy Twiss, Birmingham, UK

Both cities are rich in heritage and everyone gloats how both cities are doing so amazing, (Manchester especially after the 1996 IRA bomb), but I can't help wondering if we are just applauding the Londonesque evolution of these two cities, rather than celebrating the history and influence they have carried to the rest of the world.
Jim Humphreys, Bury

If you want a really unbiased view ask a Brummie! Manchester is clearly a bigger city with more economic clout at the moment. But Liverpool, though clearly shabby in places, has a romance that is hard to beat. Pier Head and the Mersey are magnificent. I spent a long weekend in Liverpool in February, full of art, music, food and beer (latter at the amazing "Phil"). I would never stay in Manchester in the same way.
Adam Green, Ludlow

Is it any wonder why we in Liverpool have to put up with this type of one-sided editorial when the BBC and Granada are based there. The local evening news on both channels is riddled with biased material dotted with 'the clip' of 20 year footage of the so called "Riots". The Mail on Sunday published a piece about drug taking in Manchester parks with a photo and caption of Calderstones Park in Liverpool, one of the best parks in the city. As Mail on Sunday readers only look at the pictures it left us looking in a bad light. Oh yes the Mail was always based in Manchester.
Steve Penney, Liverpool UK

Manchester has one thing over Liverpool - rain.
Gerry, Liverpool

I am intensely proud of being Scouse wherever I go in the world. I love Liverpool and miss it now I live in Ireland. It is distinct from the rest of the U.K, the people are open, bright and creative, which I think stems from our geographic position - looking out to other lands. We are not introspective, which is how I feel Manchester is. Scousers do stick-up for eachother because we recognise our shared heritage and the adversities we have had to face, and I think a lot of people from elsewhere, particularly Manchester, feel envious of this solidarity and so are quick to jump on the "self-pity city" bandwagon.
J Jones, Hacketstown, Republic of Ireland

I'm from Liverpool, still living here, and I commute to Manchester to study/research at Manchester uni. I also used to be in a band, gigging around the region, and in both pursuits I've found that the Liverpool-Manchester rivalry doesn't really go beyond a few opening lines of small-talk and the occasional bit of friendly banter. I think most people realise that the so-called 'rivalry' is more of a conversation starter than a precursor to any hostilities. The football, of course, is a different matter, although you will find that most scousers don't mind Man City; the enemy of my enemy is my friend.
Matthew Mahoney, Liverpool

I take it that Finlo Rohrer is from Manchester!?
Dave Carroll, Liverpool

Tony Wilson had it about right when he suggested we Mancunians and the Liverpudlians should probably reserve most of our vitriol for London and the South. Whilst I'm no great lover of Liverpool, it's obvious that our two cities have far more in common with each other than we commonly admit. Manchester has been quicker off the blocks in redeveloping itself and Liverpool is to a certain extent playing catch up. I wish them good luck - anything that breaks up the hegemony of power concentrated in London is a good thing.
Steeley, Salford, Manchester

I think these two great cities have more in common than some people would like to admit. In the week of Tony Wilson's funeral I thought it very apt that there was a large floral tribute for Tony from the music lovers of Liverpool. Now as for the football, that's a differnt kettle of fish...
Nigel Kavanagh, Amsterdam Holland

I was born and raised in Liverpool, love the city and support LFC, but now, after a few years in London, have lived in Manchester for 6 years. Much as I will always be a Scouser, I am proud of what a great city Manchester is and what it stands for in the country. I tend to think of myself now as a supporter of the North (and the North West in particular) as opposed to the South (and London specifically). Certainly you are right that from a business perspective, there is no rivalry between the 2 cities. I think that, with the exception of football, most Scousers and Mancs would say the rivalry is with the South rather than each other.
Steve Morris, Manchester

As someone working in Manchester but having family from Liverpool (although a southerner born in Bristol), I think much of the rivalry dates from the building of the Ship Canal, which took away much of Liverpool's trade. Many things called "Manchester" are not actually in Manchester at all. The docks and racecourse are in Salford, while Man United play in Trafford. The important thing now is that the north-west lags behind the south-east in investment, particularly in transport.
Geoff Kerr, Todmorden, UK

"Some Liverpudlians think civilisation ends at the Runcorn bridge." So does the rest of the country, ha ha!
Mike, Crawley

I am from Merseyside but now I live on the Manchester border. Manchester has an amazing (if misplaced) sense of its own self-importance. This is typified by their ill-advised Olympic bids. The rest of the country (and world) sniggered at this folly. Imagine Manchester trying to compete with proper cities with a real world-wide heritage. Manchester's reputation is built on hype and spin. It's okay as a regional centre but hardly a world-class destination. Manchester thinks it's the greatest city on the planet whereas Liverpool KNOWS it is.
Marc, Heaton Moor

The full saying is "Salford Lads, Manchester Men and Liverpool Gentlemen". Liverpool does not have to 'strive to be like Manchester', it is by far the better environment. I worked in Manchester for a year, and after three weeks my vehicle was stolen - that has never happened in Liverpool! I always found the vitriol to be more from Mancunians than Scousers - maybe it's jealousy?
George Birchall, Liverpool

Do you actually get paid for this Finlo? Its clear where your preference lies even in the subtlety of the dark clouds over the Liver Buildings. Next time why dont you compare and contrast equally instead of inciting hatred between cities.

As cities, they can not be compared and never should have been. Both have qualities which make them unique and it is like comparing Men and Women - two cities seperated by 30 miles with very different characters - Manchester is from Mars and Liverpool is from Venus!!
Helen, Liverpool

I live just across the water (the Mersey) I work in Liverpool. Knowing that we have the Capital of culture next year, yuo can see the City is alive with the buzz of builders, cranes, renovations and cleanups. The City is preparing itself for the biggest party of its life. However, I cant help but think its not quite living up to its full potential. It location has more to give than most cities. It has distinctive architecture and land marks, and could develop into the next cutural centre of northern europe. What has instead been built with the money of the investment is shops.... hardly cultural.
Russell Jacques, Wirral

Black armband city vs the capital of provincialism - who cares?
Tom , Brum

The Coral are not from Liverpool - they are from Hoylake on the Wirral - whilst this is still classed as Merseyside today, it was always historically Cheshire. I am not a mere West Wirral snob trying to down liverpool, I am merely seeking to raise the profile of the port of birkenhead and the Wirral as a whole which seems to be regarded by many as part of Liverpool. And just for the record, I have lived in Manchester for a while and found no malice or ill will from any Mancunian!
Colin Auty, Birkenhead

I'm from Widnes, which is exactly in the middle of Liverpool and Manchester, and I grew up supporting LFC (and am still a massive fan). But I moved to Manchester 18 years ago, since then I've picked up a manc accent. This makes going to Anfield an interesting experience, and watching LFC games in a MCR pub equally tricky. To answer your question, both cities are my favorites. Were lucky in the North West to have 2 such powerfully iconic cities, and its the tension between them that has bred such success. And Im not talking football.
scouse manc wooly back, Manchester

Yes Manchester does have the edge over Liverpool. You get this sense in Liverpool of exclusivity - if you are not a scouser you are most definitely an outsider. Not to say Liverpool isnt friendly - it can be - but it seems sort of stuck somewhere in the last century - perhaps not hooked on grief but slow to change and wary of the outside world. Manchester however is most definitely looking outward and for this reason deserves the title of second city.
scott blockley, London

I'm pretty sure this article has been written by a southerner in a London office who seems to have no real experience of either city.
Nicola, Manchester

I have buy to let properties in both cities although I live in the South. My heart votes Livepool but my head says Manchester as it is at least 5 years ahead in terms of ambition and development. Both cities are on the up but I find that businesses in Liverpool are less pro-active and need more prodding to get things done. Everything I try and do in Liverpool is an effort, but in Manchester business is done without too much hassle.
Charlie, Guildford

As a born and bred Scouser who has lived in the South West for the past 8 years I still call Liverpool 'home'. Liverpool and Manchester are very different places, but at the same time they have to stick together to defend themselves from the abuse both cities receive from our Southern countrymen. Most people who criticise the North, and especially Liverpool, have never been there, but still think it's okay to "have a dig"! There is of course the big football rivalry between the two cities, but I think that's where it stops. They are both proud cities with great people - something the whinging Southerners could learn from!
Matt, Bath, Somerset

On Merseyside they say that Liverpool is England's second city; in Manchester they know that London is.
Martyn Wilson, Malvern

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