Manchester has been named the UK's Greatest Sporting City in 2018, according to a study undertaken by ESPN and the University of Bath.
Propelled by Manchester City winning the League Cup and the Premier League, and Manchester United finishing second and reaching the FA Cup final, the city topped the ranking after scoring highly in many of the 12 factors that fans identified as key to a great sporting city, including Local Talent (2nd) Community (6th), Social (9th), Success (1st), and History (4th).
When asked for his thoughts on what makes Manchester such a great sporting city, Manchester United midfielder Ander Herrera said: "Because the last two top positions in the league are two teams from Manchester, also because two of the best managers in the world are in Manchester.
"Our stadium is amazing, everyone wants to play in our stadium, and everyone wants to visit our stadium. The rivalry between the two teams in the town, a lot of things."
Last year's winner Liverpool drops to second place, Edinburgh moves to its highest ever ranking in third while the capital drops out of the top three for the first time into fourth place. The top five is completed by Leeds, which finished fourth in 2017, and had two consecutive fifth placings in 2015 and 2016.
Andy Burnham, Mayor of Greater Manchester said: "We are not just a power in professional and elite sport like football and cycling -- but also in building participation right down to the grassroots.
"For our clubs at the top to succeed, there needs to a dedicated hard core of volunteers from across Greater Manchester who are willing to give up their evenings and weekends to create an environment for young people to thrive. Whether it is junior football, community rugby, amateur boxing or village cricket, none of it is possible without a strong network of coaches and parents. "We are proud of our professional clubs but for the people across the region who are passionate about junior and amateur sport they should take immense pride in Manchester being named the UK's greatest sporting city."
"We are proud of our professional clubs but for the people across the region who are passionate about junior and amateur sport they should take immense pride in Manchester being named the UK's greatest sporting city" Andy Burnham, Mayor of Greater Manchester
Ex-Manchester United player, Bryan Robson, attributed the award to Manchester's breadth of different sporting talent:
"The city itself has great facilities around the area. Having the standing of clubs like Manchester United and Manchester City -- that's a great starting point for anybody to have two of the best football teams in the world," Robson said.
"The stadiums stand out. To have that talent coming through. When you look back at the Manchester lads: [Paul] Scholesy, the Nevilles, [Nicky] Butt, [Ryan] Giggsy they all come from the same area and that gives it a great start. I've always looked and Manchester has always had great boxers as well. A lot of boxers come from the city and you go around Manchester and everybody really is into their sport. So you can see the passion that the fans have for sport so it doesn't surprise me that Manchester was first. We always seem to have decent cyclists as well."
Blackburn has risen a remarkable 27 places -- the biggest ever move up the rankings -- jumping 25 places from 33rd to eighth. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the city ranked first for Matchday Atmosphere, driven by fan enthusiasm for Blackburn Rovers' promotion from League 1 to the Championship.
Perennial bottom place dweller Blackpool has moved from 49th place for the first time, moving up nine spots to 40th. Swansea take the seaside town's place -- mirroring the football team's relegation from the Premier League into the Championship -- with the Welsh city plummeting in the rankings, crashing 21 places from 28th to 49th.
While Sheffield, which last year finished fifth, have the unwanted honour of being the biggest faller in the rankings, dropping 24 places to 29th. Neighbouring Doncaster jumps 17 places to join the top 10 of ESPN's Greatest Sporting Cities for the first time.
The north of the UK continues to dominate the top of the list with four of the top five, and eight northern cities listed in the top ten. East Anglia is the worst-performing region -- its highest placing city is Norwich, at 31st in the overall rankings, followed by Peterborough in 39th and Ipswich which occupies the 44th spot.
Scotland is the best performing region of the UK, with both Edinburgh and Glasgow in the top ten, and Dundee in 16th - the city's joint highest ever rank, climbing 15 places from 2017's rank of 31st. Aberdeen is in 24th, also its best position in the list after an 11 place jump from 35th.
ESPN also divided the research into individual sports to reveal the best places to be a fan of football, cricket, rugby union and rugby league. Liverpool claims the title of best city to be a football fan for the second year running, with Leeds maintaining its position as the best city for both cricket and rugby league fans, and Bath maintaining its status as the best city for Rugby Union fans.
As part of the research, ESPN also asked fans to rank 12 factors that help make up a great sporting city. Those factors were then each given respective weightings to apply to each city's results. This year, fans ranked Value for Money as the most important factor, with 19 percent of fans saying it was the most important factor, while 18 per cent said Matchday Atmosphere was the most important. Club Success for a city's professional teams received 14 percent of fan votes and was unsurprisingly topped by Manchester this year.
"The impressive performance of Blackburn, and Swansea's fall to the bottom of the list, show how the performance of a city's football teams impacts the mood of fans" Assistant Professor Thomas Curran, University of Bath
Commenting on the research, Assistant Professor Thomas Curran, University of Bath, said: "Now we are in the fourth year of the research some interesting trends are starting to emerge. The impressive performance of Blackburn, and Swansea's fall to the bottom of the list, show how the performance of a city's football teams impacts the mood of fans. Manchester is blessed with two of the biggest clubs not just in the UK, but the whole of Europe, so City and United's strong performances last season have helped take them back to the top spot.
Steven Saunders, Senior Editor ESPN.co.uk, said: "Manchester's consistency has been impressive over the years. It has never dropped out of the top two, and now returns to first place in the fourth year. The success of the city's football clubs has driven them back to the and the top score for success, combined with strong scores in important factors such as Local Talent, Community and History makes them worthy winners."
The full report can be found on the Bath University website.