• Image about Manchester
Street life outside Churchills
Ben Page

This shouldn’t be too difficult. I’ve heard about Manchester pride from relatives in London, who tell me it’s readily detectable because Mancs are friendly to a fault. Ask a Londoner for directions and he’ll politely oblige you; ask a Mancunian for directions and he’ll take you there himself. That’s what happened when I went looking for the Bishop Blaize, a contemporary pub known for its allegiance to the Reds, which happens to be the color worn by the 300 or so Man U fans who crowd into the place to watch their team on seven big-screen TVs.

These people are loud and proud, downing their real ale and singing top-of-the-lung fight songs that profanely deride the opposition. They chant, they stomp, they drink … and then drink some more. Football loyalties here are generational, and when I approach a middle-age man and his son, he tells me he once lived in Manchester but now resides in Wales, driving more than 140 miles just to come to the pub.

Manchester United ­— whichis liked by more than 19.3 million Facebook users — began its Barclays Premier League schedule in mid-August. If you’ll be in Manchester this fall, you can catch the Red Devils in action at homefor five games, including a match against rival Manchester City(Oct. 23) and against Sunderland (Nov. 5). Check AA.com forflights from the United States to Manchester or London.

“Why did you do that?” I ask.

“Why do you eat?” he replies.

“But you are just watching a game on TV.”

“It’s not a game,” he says. “It’s a religion.”

“Is it that way for Manchester City fans too?”

He smiles slyly. “A City fan’s just a United fan who’s had his brains taken out.”

Pandemonium erupts as Man U ties the score. I leave midcelebration, getting on Manchester’s rider-friendly light-rail system. Returning to the city center, I search for a pub with City fans — although I’m the one who’s feeling a bit brainless after drinking my second pint. Or was it my third?

Manchester may lack the majesty of London and the grandeur of Paris, but the architecture of its city center has something for everyone — red-brick Victorian warehouses and factories built when Manchester led the world in cotton manufacturing; Neo-Gothic structures such as the Town Hall, still the seat of city government; modern steel-and-glass skyscrapers housing a post-industrial city eager to make a statement on the global stage. It’s all here, one style next to the other, and it’s all confusing as hell. There’s no grid to the city. Narrow curving streets seem to circle back on themselves. The same charming road can change names several times. The one saving grace for the directionally challenged, like me, is that you won’t stay lost for long. It only takes 20 minutes to walk from one side of the city center to the other.
  • Image about Manchester
Town Hall on Albert Square
Yadid Levy/Alamy

I get lost searching for Mother Mac’s — a pub, I have been told, that pledges its allegiance to the Blues of Manchester City. The nagging rain makes me impatient, though Mancs seem impervious to it. Many don’t even bother with umbrellas. Walking around wet seems a badge of Mancunian manliness, although I did spot a young couple enjoying a coffee on a café patio as the natty rain peppered their every sip.