Manchester still divided on day after

Dave Hadfield tests the temperature in a city that has just experienced the extremes of footballing fortunes
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In the Trafford Hotel, 400 yards from the money-making machine that is Manchester United's home ground, they were making great play of the fact that Wembley can be made to rhyme with Endsleigh or even, at a pinch, Grimsby.

It was perhaps as well that United's preparations for the FA Cup final (they trained yesterday) stopped them parading the Premiership trophy through the streets of Manchester. There is such a thing as rubbing salt into wounds and in a city always divided by football, but never polarised to this extent, the wounds are deep.

Coming away from Maine Road on Sunday, after the draw with Liverpool that consigned Manchester City to the First Division a father accompanied his son.

"How's he taken it?" a City fan with a face which told of years of suffering, asked the dad.

"He's very young," came the reply. "He doesn't really understand what's happened."

"He will," says Long-Suffering. "He will."

The contrast in fortunes was there for anyone to see yesterday, despite the lack of any set-piece event upon which to focus the joy and envy.

At Old Trafford, where there had been a handful of arrests the night before as thousands of supporters obeyed the herding instinct, it was business as usual. Which meant booming.

At the United Megastore, one of the army of blazered functionaries who keep the wheels of Man Utd Inc turning, surveyed the crowds. "I thought I'd come and see how business was going, in between taking my tour parties round. It's phenomenal. Not as busy as match days, of course, but phenomenal."

For pounds 1.99 punters with accents flown in from Dublin and Scandinavia could buy a poster of Eric Cantona hoisting the Premiership Trophy, rapidly printed from shots taken at the Riverside Stadium the previous night. Equally quickly produced, but less official, were the Triple Crown T-Shirts on sale from stalls on Sir Matt Busby Way.

Cars cruised past the ground, Cantona tricolors flying from their windows. Even the statue of Sir Matt which now surveys the scene had a flag wrapped around its right shin, like a plaster-cast.

But didn't the fans feel a little short-changed not to be able to see their heroes and the prize the day after it was won? "Nah," said one. "We've got to get the Cup now and parade the two together."

Or, as they sang in the Trafford Hotel: "We're all going to Wembley. City's going to Grimsby."

Three and a half miles away at Maine Road, it seemed that everyone had gone to Grimsby already.

The Manchester City Social Club was locked and bolted. Peering in through the door, I could see a woman having a cup of tea and a fag. She made a signal, as if to say, "That's all there is. There isn't any more". I think she just meant that the bar was closed, but it may have had a wider application.

The shutters on the souvenir shop - the size of two terraced houses and only recently prised back from private ownership - were firmly down. Business here was most definitely not booming. On the forecourt of the ground there were just three small girls on bikes and a cameraman from Granada TV looking for something to film.

The best he could manage was me reading the Manchester Evening News, which bore the headline "Triumph and Tears".

Then, as a final indignity, a car drove across the cracked tarmac, with the occupants shouting "Red Army! Red Army!"

City have been here before. They were relegated in 1983, the year that their neighbours beat Brighton in the Cup final, but United were not the dominating presence that they are now. The two clubs were, if not quite on a par, demonstrably in the same business. (Only the most senior City supporters will be able to recall the time when the roles were reversed. At the end of the 1937 season City were champions and United relegated.)

City now make a virtue of their parochial appeal and have many sympathisers in Greater Manchester's satellite towns. Alex Ferguson's team may have a worldwide following, but for many who live a bus ride from Old Trafford United is the dirtiest of dirty words.

At Bolton this season, for instance, the following was sung to the tune of "When the Saints Go Marching In".

The Premier League (The Premier League)

Is Upside Down (Is Upside Down).

We're staying up with the City And the Reds are going down.

They are resilient at City. "I can't see us losing a match next season," said Long-Suffering. "And if Blackpool come up we'll have a lot of trips to the seaside."

And there was sympathy - of a sort - at Old Trafford. "I'm not happy about City going down," said one lad, laden with carrier-bags. "Well, it's six points, isn't it?"

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