Manchester is a hub for soccer (known in the U.K. as football), boasting one of the most dedicated fanbases in England. The Northern city is home to Manchester United and Manchester City, both members of the Premier League. Manchester United is more popular and well-known with international fans, though you can get a sense of the Brits' overwhelming passion for the game by attending a match of either team.
Manchester United plays at Old Trafford while Manchester City plays at Etihad Stadium, and both football clubs play to massive crowds during home games (Etihad Stadium seats more than 55,000 fans, while Old Trafford holds 76,000). Even if you aren't a serious sports fan or very familiar with soccer, attending an English soccer match is a great way to learn more about the country's culture and get in touch with the locals. Consider planning your trip to Manchester around a game for some lively fun and lots of yelling.
When To See a Game
The Premier League typically kicks off their season in August and continues through the fall, winter, and spring, with the final matches around May. This gives visitors ample time to find a game to watch, and your best bet is to simply check the Premier League schedule ahead of your trip to Manchester. One of the two teams will likely be playing if you're in town during the right months.
Consider the time of year if you're sensitive to the cold, though Manchester has a pretty moderate climate that hovers around 50 degrees F. If you prefer to avoid bundling up, plan to see a match in the late summer or the spring. And, of course, bring a raincoat if the skies look gray.
How To Get Tickets
It's best to purchase tickets directly from either Manchester United or Manchester City. Avoid scalpers or secondary retailers, as it's hard to confirm whether you're getting a legit ticket. Both clubs list approved outside retailers on their websites, and priority is given to members of the clubs, who get access to online priority sales. To have the best chance of purchasing tickets, you might consider buying a one-off membership to your club of choice, though it is possible to get tickets during the general on-sale as well.
Special tickets, including hospitality packages, are also available at both clubs. To purchase tickets for Manchester City at Etihad Stadium, get more information here. To purchase tickets for Manchester United at Old Trafford, get more information here. Some clubs also offer ticket exchanges, which can be a good way to score last-minute tickets.
For those who prefer not to purchase tickets online, you can also call the box office or visit in person at either stadium. If you get desperate and you're willing to pay a markup, visitors can also look for re-sold tickets on sites like Viagogo and LiveFootballTickets, which typically verify purchases.
Tickets for a Premier League soccer match vary in cost, often depending on which game, which teams are playing, and which part of the stadium the seats are in. For members, a seat at a Premier League game generally costs between 31 and 53 pounds. A membership for Manchester United runs about 35 pounds, so it only makes sense to get a membership if you plan to attend multiple games.
Every fan needs a ticket regardless of age, so it's not recommended to bring young kids and babies along with you to a match. Season tickets are currently by waitlist only, so you're better off befriending a local season ticket holder, who can loan their tickets for free to friends.
Where To Stay
As Old Trafford is located slightly out of the Manchester city center, visitors coming to specifically enjoy a soccer match may want to pick a hotel or Airbnb closer to the stadium. The area known as the Quays, a short distance from the stadium, has numerous hotels, both chains like Holiday Inn Express and Ibis, and smaller inn-like properties. Many of the hotels overlook the water, which is an added bonus, and there is also a hip hotel right outside the stadium called Hotel Football, which is a Tribute Portfolio Hotel. Look for special deals and offers at the area properties, many of which have soccer-related packages around game time.
Etihad Stadium, meanwhile, is much farther out, located east of Manchester in the suburbs. While there may be some Airbnbs or vacation rentals in the nearby areas, it's not a destination that boasts a lot of hotel options. Instead, look for hotels in the central Northern Quarter and NOMA, which is also the location of the National Football Museum. Some of Manchester's most popular hotels include The Cow Hollow Hotel, The Midland, and the Stock Exchange Hotel, though the city also features most of the known hotel chains as well. It's fairly simple to use public transportation to get from a central hotel to Old Trafford or Etihad Stadium, so pick your accommodation based on which part of the city you want to spend time in most.
Tips For Going
- Soccer in England is rowdy and loud, so come prepared. Fans tend to drink a lot during matches, and swearing and jeering is normal. Be sure to book your seats away from the visiting team's fans, who tend to be particularly loud. A good resource for understanding each stadium's layout is the Football Ground Guide.
- As it can be tricky to get tickets to a Premier League game, consider attending one of the other games around Manchester. These include the women's clubs at both Manchester United and Manchester City, giving you a chance to be in the big stadiums watching pro athletes without the hassling of scrambling for a ticket.
- Plan to grab a drink or some food when the game ends as the train stations and bus stops will be incredibly crowded with people trying to get home. Look for a corner pub for the local experience.
- If you can't swing a ticket to a Manchester United game, book a tour of Old Trafford and its museum. It's a good way to get a feel for English soccer without actually attending and there's lots of cool trophies to see. Be sure to book online ahead of your tour.
Best Bars To Watch The Game
If you can't make it to the game itself, look for one of Manchester's many sports bars, which often draw a lively crowd of spectators.
- Tib Street Tavern Manchester: Located in the Northern Quarter, Tib is known for showing all the sports, including every possible soccer match. Check their website for the upcoming schedule.
- Manchester235: This Las Vegas-style casino often airs the soccer matches alongside live music and events.
- Cafe Football: Old Trafford has its own sports bar, Cafe Football, which is a great spot to book a table during an away game. Go for the bottomless brunch and stay for the rowdy fans.
- The Green: Sports fans will love the Green, a sports bar that also offers indoor golf and karaoke.
- Dive NQ: Dive NQ is more of a restaurant than a sports bar, but it's filled with TVs showing all the games. It's much hipper than your average sports bar.
- Manchester Bierkeller: Part beer hall, part sports bar, Manchester Bierkeller is good for groups and serves up some solid grub to accompany your many pints.
- The Director's Box: Located right in the center of Manchester, The Director's Box shows games on nine screens while serving up a menu of pub fare.