The History Of Football Rivalries


From historic rivalries between clubs that will never end to periodic rivalries that form between managers and players, they are part of the reason why we get so enthralled by watching football. This blog will run through the history of football rivalries including the biggest footballing rivalries to date…

Rivalries in football derbies

Historically, derbies have been the most intense games in football. A football match can be called a derby when it is between two clubs that are situated geographically close to one another (although the term is applied more loosely than this – more on that later). Because of the close concentration of fans of both teams and the fight for local pride, these matches invite the highest stakes.

  • The Manchester Derby

This is the oldest featured rivalry in this article, with Manchester City and Manchester United first facing each other in 1881. They have played a total of 187 matches in all competitions, with United leading with 77 wins vs City’s 57. However, statistically speaking, City has been the more successful of the two in the past decade. This has led to City having a notable rivalry with Liverpool (sparking the Klopp versus Guardiola feud) as the two teams have battled repeatedly for the Premier League title.

  • The Old Firm Derby

Both based in Glasgow, this is a local rivalry between Celtic and Rangers that dates back to 1888 and is one of the most intense rivalries in the history of football. A major part of Scottish history, violence is not rare at these matches. They are closely matched, with Rangers only just leading with 168 victories over Celtic’s 162.

  • The Merseyside Derby

Liverpool’s local derby rivals are Everton. Merseyside football fans are amongst the most passionate in the world so this is always a loud match where the two teams fight for dominance of the city. Liverpool is the more successful of the two teams and boasts 97 wins versus Everton’s 67 in their overall history, but nothing stops the Blue Noses from taking any chance they can to antagonise the Reds. These two teams’ histories have been interlinked since the very beginning. Their first meeting was in 1894, 10 years after a disagreement led to Everton moving from Anfield to Goodison Park and Liverpool FC being formed to take up the use of Anfield.

  • The North West Derby

Not all derbies are formed because of local rivalries as Liverpool and Manchester United are 35 miles apart but have such a longstanding disdain for one another that this rivalry is often called a derby. The two most successful and most popular teams in England fighting it out to show who the best redmen are is as entertaining for neutral fans as it is for fans of either club. This has sparked plenty of memorable football moments and rivalries between players such as Gary Neville and Jamie Carragher.

El Clasico

This is Europe’s most famous match, seeing Barcelona and Real Madrid clash in La Liga and other competitions. The two biggest cities in Spain, this rivalry is linked to politics, with Madrid seen as representing Spanish nationalism and Barcelona representing Catalan nationalism. This is where the rivalry between Ronaldo and Messi stemmed from, as fans argued over which player was the best of their era following record-breaking performances from them both.

As two of the biggest teams in La Liga, both Real Madrid and Barcelona are popular teams to bet on.  If you want to find out more on the latest betting odds on La Liga, Premier League, the World Cup and more, you can find out more by visiting online betting sites like

Manager rivalries

Managers may not be on the pitch, but they are responsible for some of the most iconic rivalries in football. We’ve already mentioned Klopp vs Guardiola from recent years, but one of the most famous footballing rivalries ever comes in the form of Alex Ferguson vs Arsene Wenger, managers of Manchester United and Arsenal respectively. They went head to head for over 17 years and often had scathing remarks for each other as coaches of some of the strongest Premier League sides of all time, constantly battling it out for trophies. Victory seems to be with Ferguson though, as he holds 23 wins to Wenger’s 16.