Manchester United rivals: Who are Man U’s biggest rivals and why?

Manchester United rivals: Who are Man U’s biggest rivals and why?

Kevin Omuya
November 2, 2023 at 8:09 AM

Liverpool is one of Manchester United's rivals. Manchester United is one of the most recognizable names in sports and has won more English Premier League championships than any other team in history. Since its inception in 1878, the club has played at the top level of English soccer. As a result, the squad has developed severe rivalries with other great EPL clubs throughout the years.

Man Utd's rivals
Marcus Rashford of Manchester United (right) battles for possession with Virgil van Dijk of Liverpool (left) during the Premier League match at Old Trafford on August 22, 2022, in Manchester, United Kingdom. Photo: Simon Stacpoole
Source: Getty Images

Manchester United is one team that plays in many derby games. United has many rivalries, given its phenomenal success throughout the Premier League era. This article takes you through all of Manchester United's rivals.

Who are Manchester United's Rivals?

Regarding professional football, Man Utd is up there with the best of them. Man Utd's reputation has been forged in every major football tournament, from the Premier League to the Champions League, during its spectacular ascent and the hardships it suffered in the 1980s. Look at the history of Man Utd and some of its most heated rivalries.

5. Leeds United

who are manchester united's rivals?
Manchester United striker Mark Hughes gets past Gary McAllister of Leeds during the Premier League match at Old Trafford on September 6, 1992, in Manchester, England. Photo: Ben Radford
Source: Getty Images

Why are Leeds and Manchester United rivals? While this competition may not seem significant to modernists, it was previously a fierce struggle for dominance in North England. Leeds United was a dominant force in postwar English football, and their proximity to United meant that the two teams often clashed.

Man Utd bounced back from the disaster of Munich and continued its dominance throughout the 1960s. But while they started to fall, Leeds started to climb. In 1964, they began promoted to the First Division, and at the end of the 1968–1969 season, they had won the league title. They also won the League Cup in 1968 and the FA Cup in 1972, when United was experiencing its worst season since Busby's departure.

Although Man Utd won the FA Cup three times between Busby and Ferguson, neither club regained its old glory in the 1980s. Competition for the First Division championship in 1991–1992 prompted a long-running rivalry between the teams.

Although Leeds was victorious, United bounced back the following year to win the first Premier League championship thanks mainly to the efforts of one Eric Cantona, who had departed Elland Road for the more favourable surroundings of Old Trafford just before Christmas. United's four-year reign under Le Roi, during which they won two League and FA Cup doubles, cemented his legacy.

4. Chelsea

Man Utd rivals
Manchester United's Wes Brown (Top) clashes with Chelsea's Joe Cole at Wembley Stadium in London during the FA Cup Final football match on May 19, 2007. Photo: Carl De Souza
Source: Getty Images

Are Chelsea and Manchester United rivals? Chelsea may have a reputation for being too wealthy, but after over two decades of trying to win the Premier League, they have cemented their position in the league's history.

Chelsea were already a formidable team when Russian businessman Roman Abramovich bought them in 2003. In the 1990s, they had numerous heated battles with Manchester United and started fortifying Stamford Bridge. Their success in the FA Cup in 1997 and 2000 and the League Cup and UEFA Cup Winners' Cup in 1998 solidified their position as one of England's elite clubs.

After the money started coming in, they spent heavily to recruit talent, but hiring José Mourinho as manager in 2004 was the decisive move that finally put them on top after more than 50 years of trying. There was a seismic change in English football when The Special One dethroned Sir Alex's Red Devils and Arsene Wenger's Arsenal.

Either Man Utd or Chelsea won every Premier League championship from 2004-2011; the two teams also shared multiple cup titles and played in the 2008 UEFA Champions League Final in Moscow. United won the tournament on penalties after a tense and exciting match against the Blues.

With their 2012 Champions League victory, Chelsea cemented their position as one of the best teams in the world and brought an end to the period of John Terry, Frank Lampard, and Didier Drogba with the sport's most prestigious individual honour. They have won the Premier League twice in the years since Sir Alex's departure, and despite their ups and downs, they are still one of United's fiercest top-4 competitors, so every game still matters.

3. Manchester City

Man utd rivals
Sergio Aguero of Manchester City (left) and Luke Shaw of Manchester United (right) during the Premier League match at Old Trafford on March 8, 2020, in Manchester, United Kingdom. Photo: Robbie Jay Barratt
Source: Getty Images

Are Manchester City and Manchester United rivals? The rivalry between the two has only developed in recent years, even though the two clubs play in the same city. While Man Utd's "golden generation" was racking up championships, City's was demoted to the third level in 1998 despite having had both domestic and European success.

After being promoted in 2003, they spent the following years in mediocrity until being saved by Sheikh Mansour's purchase of the club in 2008. Since then, the club has spent about $2 billion on player wages, resulting in six English Premier League championships.

In 2012, when the English Premier League title was decided on the last matchday, the rivalry between the two clubs reached its zenith. Both clubs had equal numbers of points going into the championship game.

Manchester City needed a victory to clinch the championship because they had a better goal differential. Even after extra time, City was behind by two goals against United. They won the tournament with two goals in two minutes, writing a new chapter in the Manchester Derby rivalry.

2. Arsenal

Are Arsenal And Manchester United Rivals,
Robin van Persie of Manchester United celebrates scoring their first goal during the Barclays Premier League Match between Manchester United and Arsenal at Old Trafford on November 10, 2013, in Manchester, England. Photo: Tom Purslow
Source: Getty Images

Are Arsenal and Manchester United rivals? Manchester United and Arsenal have been one of the main rivals since the late 1990s and early 2000s when both clubs dominated English soccer. Only those two clubs were crowned English Premier League champions between 1996 and 2004. United has won it six times, while Arsenal has won it three times (including the 2003–2004 season, the only unbeaten season in Premier League history).

Just six athletes have ever represented both squads. The two sides were competing for the Premier League championship at the time of Robin Van Persie's signing, and he was a significant factor in revitalizing their rivalry.

Arsenal's attack suffered greatly after Robin van Persie's departure, and Manchester United capitalized by winning the league championship in his first season with the club. The rivalry has lost some luster since both clubs have been rebuilding over the past five years.

1. Liverpool

Manhester United rivals
Ryan Giggs of Manchester United (centre) clashes with Liverpool's Javier Mascherano (left) and Alvaro Arbeloa (right) during the Barclays FA Premier League match at Old Trafford on March 23, 2008, in Manchester, England. Photo: Chris Coleman
Source: Getty Images

Why are Liverpool and Manchester United rivals? Liverpool FC is Manchester United's oldest and most significant rival in the Premier League. Liverpool is the fiercest among other Manchester United rivals in England. In addition, before the English Premier League was established, these two teams had the most tremendous success.

For decades, these clubs have competed against one another on the national and international stages. The fan bases of the two clubs have been at each other's throats for decades, so this rivalry is not without its terrible chapters. Despite the high quality of their matches against one another, Manchester United's arch-rivals have a slightly better record in their rivalry.

Among Manchester United's rivals, Liverpool is the runners-up in the number of English Premier titles won. The rivalry is not only based on the phenomenal success that has made it a severe threat to the other big English football clubs but also steeped in local history.

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Kevin Omuya
Kevin Omuya is a Content Writer with 4 years of experience who joined Sports Brief in 2022. In 2019 he held a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism & Digital Media from KCA University.