Manchester City vs Manchester United headlines the weekend’s Premier League fixtures as one of the finest derbies in all of British football.
With everyone from Cristiano Ronaldo to Pep Guardiola and Jadon Sancho to Kevin De Bruyne on display, fans around Manchester will be wrist-deep in their popcorn as the goals, drama and tension inevitably unfolds.
Besides, despite the fact that City clearly have the upper hand in the context of the 2021/22 season, there’s no denying that the Manchester derby continues to pack some serious needle regardless of both teams’ form.
British football’s legendary derbies
So, in celebration of a derby that always leaps off the yearly fixture list as one of the most exciting and thrilling ties of the season, we wanted to take a closer look at the other local match-ups that get our blood pumping.
In fact, we’re swinging for the fences and nailing our colours to the mast by bravely – or foolishly, depending on your stance – ranking what we consider to be the top 25 British football derbies in the men’s game.
Now, we know, that’s a pretty precious subject and it goes without saying that every fan’s own derby is always the one that’s the most important, passionate and meaningful to them – and power to you if that’s the case.
Nevertheless, the simple fact of the matter is that some derbies are better than others and we’ve tried our utmost to leave personal biases at the door; zooming out to give a bird’s eye view on the match-ups to rule them all.
Ultimately, the decisions come down to the opinion of your humble GIVEMESPORT writer, but rest assured that the order will be informed by criteria such as fan atmosphere, historical significance, the games themselves and the gravity of the rivalry.
Oh, and clubs can only feature once with their primary geographical derby taking precedence, so don’t reach for your pitchfork and picket signs when Manchester United vs Liverpool and Chelsea vs Tottenham Hotspur don’t feature.
The top 25 British football derbies
But enough with the disclaimers and housekeeping because we’ve got British football’s 25 finest derbies to rank from best to worst – and you can check out our final selections down below:
25. Crystal Palace vs Brighton & Hove Albion
Let’s kick things off with the lovable oddity that is the M23 derby. In other words, the derby that’s not really a derby, but still has enough derby needle to make our derby list of derbies, you follow?
Ok, sure, so there might be almost 50 miles between the two stadiums and its derby status is often the butt of annual jokes, but there’s no denying that both the fans and players are always fired up when this fixture rolls around.
24. Grimsby Town vs Lincoln City
The jewel in the crown of Lincolnshire derbies, the two passionately-supported clubs are never too many leagues away from each other and consistently deliver edge-of-your-seat games with guts and grit by the bucketload.
23. Port Vale vs Stoke City
Stoke-on-Trent might be England’s least populous city to boast two Football League clubs, but the Potteries derby packs plenty of punch in spite of that fact with almost 200 encounters stirring up plenty of heated atmospheres.
22. Luton Town vs Watford
Steeped in history with the first Beds-Herts derby dating back to Victorian times, the lack of games in the 21st century hasn’t stopped clashes between the two sides from being packed with the intensity of any great derby.
21. Chester vs Wrexham
How many local derbies span two constituent countries? The answer, in case you’re looking for it, is not many, but the Cross-border derby is an exception to the rule as one of lower-league football’s fieriest games.
The fact that the clubs are separated by just 12 miles despite Chester sitting in England and Wrexham laying in Wales means that the derby makes up for what it lacks in high-profile status with pure passion and rivalry.
20. Oxford United vs Swindon Town
The sheer sight of this fixture written down might not inspire fear and nervous laughter, but you better know that it’s a huge deal in that part of the country with tensions spilling over more than a few times such is the level of animosity.
19. Dundee vs Dundee United
There might be fiercer derbies further down the list, but it would be rude not to tip our hats to the battle for Scotland’s fourth-city that is so closely-contested because, well, the contests are as close as 0.17 miles apart. Bonkers.
18. Ipswich Town vs Norwich City
Two traditionally calm, well-mannered and generally ‘nice’ clubs bring their fangs out when the East Anglian derby rolls around, but even that extra level of spice isn’t quite enough to see it competing with the nation’s top, top rivalries.
17. Chelsea vs Fulham
Stamford Bridge and Craven Cottage are barely a half-hour walk apart and although the Blues have dominated their local rivals in recent decades, their derby is nevertheless dripping with British footballing heritage.
16. West Bromwich Albion vs Wolverhampton Wanderers
Now we’re talking. The Black Country derby feels like we’re crossing a boundary into British match-ups with an altogether different level of ferocity with this very fixture having been previously voted as England’s biggest rivalry.
We’re not so convinced ourselves with West Brom having steamrolled almost every head-to-head clash in the 21st century, but there’s no denying that it’s a beating artery of passion in English football’s heartland.
15. Blackburn Rovers vs Burnley
This just screams of a vintage English derby, doesn’t it? The flame of the amusingly nick-named ‘El Lanclasico’ has been burning bright since their first meeting in 1888 amidst the potential of a return to the top-flight next season.
14. Bristol City vs Bristol Rovers
A bit like a volcano, there are often long periods of dormancy where the sleeping giant stays silent, but there’s always fireworks when things kick off – and there’s no denying the fierceness between Bristol’s footballing factions.
13. Exeter City vs Plymouth Argyle
An underrated gem, this, that always punches above its weight in studies of English football’s best rivalries with Devon’s premier sides bringing their county to its feet even if the rest of the nation doesn’t necessarily give it due praise.
12. Portsmouth vs Southampton
Forget history, statistics and recent records, the South Coast derby is one that you feel, and sometimes there’s just no better barometer of a rivalry’s needle, jeopardy and significance than that.
Nevertheless, the competition for a top-ten finish is such that we can’t quite elevate it amongst British football’s derby royalty, even if the lung-busting chants of Pompey and Saints fans almost push it there alone.
11. Derby County vs Nottingham Forest
While, yes, Forest might just be a hop across the Trent away from their Nottingham neighbours of Notts County, let’s be honest here and say that their rivalry with Derby has far more box-office appeal.
Not only do the two Midlands institutes find themselves slugging it out in the Championship on a yearly basis, but you know the derby’s huge when silverware – the Brian Clough Trophy – is literally dished out after every meeting.
10. Sheffield United vs Sheffield Wednesday
One of England’s great, historic cities also happens to play host to two of the nation’s most iconic football clubs, so it’s only natural that battles between the Blades and Owls are just as steely as their home town’s famous industry.
9. Hearts vs Hibernian
Two proud clubs founded in the 1870s sharing the capital city of a nation that puts blood, sweat and tears into its football not only makes for one of the sport’s longest-running derbies, but also one of the most passionate.
8. Millwall vs West Ham United
You know it’s one of British football’s biggest derbies, I know it’s one of British football’s biggest derbies and your nan probably knows it’s one of British football’s biggest derbies. It’s Millwall vs West Ham, after all.
Although there have only been three clashes between the sides since 2005 and no doubt plenty of people will be happy about that, we couldn’t forgive ourselves if we didn’t at least give the Dockers derby a place in our top 10.
7. Manchester City vs Manchester United
Has the soul of the Manchester derby waned in recent years? Maybe, maybe, but City’s return to prominence since their 2008 takeover has made it one of the most high-profile and closely-matched rivalries of them all.
While the in-stadium atmospheres hold City and United back from a top-five finish, we’d be out of our minds not to admit that Manchester’s intercity clashes are up to their ears in quality, history and blockbuster entertainment.
6. Cardiff City vs Swansea City
For what the game lacks in immediate geographical proximity – the stadiums are a 40-mile drive apart – the all-Wales clash for dominance in the Land of Dragons makes up for it on sheer passion, determination and competitiveness alone.
When the two south Wales giants slugged it out in the Premier League for the very first time in 2012/13, it really felt as though England’s top-flight had grown a chest-pumping new derby of the likes it hasn’t seen since.
5. Everton vs Liverpool
Few cities in the world live and breathe their football clubs more than Liverpool, so it’s no surprise that the Merseyside derby is always a fast-track ticket to cauldron-like atmospheres that get the eyes of the world watching.
The only shame is that Liverpool have dominated the fixture ad nauseam in the 21st century despite the sheer needle of the fixture, which can see families split between the home and aways ends, continuing to see tensions run high on the pitch.
4. Arsenal vs Tottenham Hotspur
An absolute banker for entertainment, the north London derby is on a roll when it comes to two top-four-contending sides with stellar fan bases slugging it out until one side has scored more goals than the other.
Not only does it mean absolutely everything to Spurs and Arsenal fans when it pops up twice a year, but the rivalry is so palpable and entertaining that it draws in neutrals from around the world wanting to get in on the action.
3. Aston Villa vs Birmingham City
However, for what Arsenal vs Tottenham and Everton vs Liverpool might have in the glamour department, the Second City derby knocks them out of the park with the hostility and suspense that makes a vintage rivalry.
There are few adrenaline-pumping derbies available in British football that make you want to just soak in the atmosphere and watch two historic sides do battle than the fixture upon which Brummie sport is built. A worthy medallist.
2. Newcastle United vs Sunderland
Two footballing cathedrals? Check. Two massive clubs with rich histories? Check. Two fan bases who live for their clubs? Check. Two sides with a great tradition of entertaining football? Check. And one part of the world that adores the sport? Check.
While it’s sad to see two immortal institutions of English football separated by multiple leagues right now, it does little to diminish the Tyne–Wear derby’s well-earned status as the ultimate rivalry south of the border.
1. Celtic vs Rangers
Like, duh. Forget British football or even European football, there’s a very good case for the Old Firm standing head and shoulders above the rest as the ultimate derby in the beautiful game.
Two giants of the sport sharing a city that has football pumping through its veins, the collisions between Celtic and Rangers are a meeting of arguably the most passionate, hearts-on-their sleeves supporters that you’re ever likely to see.
If watching an Old Firm game isn’t on your bucket list, then you can’t call yourself a football fan.
What is the ultimate derby for you?
Ah well, we were never going to please everybody, were we?
The simple fact of the matter is that every local rivalry up and down the country is packed with so much passion that picking the 16th best British footballing derby from the 15th, 14th and 17th can feel a little like splitting hairs.
And that’s the joy of our national game, really, because there’s an extra level of significance, tribalism and togetherness that comes with the advent of whichever derby that gets your blood pumping the most.
So, if the Merseyside derby is more your cup of tea than the Old Firm and the north London derby doesn’t tickle your fancy as much as Millwall vs West Ham, then be sure to let us know why across our various social channels.
Besides, who knows, it could only take a few fireworks and feisty tackles at the Etihad Stadium to see the Manchester derby rising up the ranks. It’s going to be a belter.
This article is brought to you by Virgin Bet. To get involved yourself, head to Virgin Bet FIVES. Across Monday to Friday, you’ll be given five random players for the weekend’s fixtures; each time one scores, you get free cash, up to £50. Go to Virgin Bet for full terms and conditions. 18+ and please gamble responsibly. begambleaware.org