the Anglo-Portuguese alliance) is the oldest one in Europe and dates back to 1373. During most of this allegiance, Portugal was something of a protectorate of England, with the English helping Portugal several times - including the Napoleonic Wars in the early 19th century - and Portugal going into (I World) war for England, among many other examples.
- Portugal and England: The Background
During that period, Portugal and England celebrated numerous other (mainly economical) treaties, including one of the most important ones: the 1703 Treaty of Methuen that stipulated "English textiles and Portuguese wines were exempt from custom duties". It was one of the most innovative treaties between nations.
But a lot more than just economical agreements has endured the test of times and brought both nations a bit closer; while it is generally accepted that the Portuguese Catarina de Bragança introduced tea to the Brits, she was also critical to England's geopolitical ambitions, as her dowry included Tangiers and Bombay. In Portugal, the English presence is felt everywhere: the name of Port Wine companies line the shores of the river Douro, "snack-bar" is just another Portuguese word and the Portuguese tea-time snack (the Portuguese-spelled "lanche") is inspired by the English lunch.
On the other hand, the UK remains one of Portugal's key investors, focusing primarily on financial services and tourism. In fact, the Algarve (something of a British enclave) still accounts for nearly 70% of all destinations from the UK - so much so that anyone sitting at a restaurant in Portugal's southernmost region will probably be greeted in English and handed a menu in the same language.
- Porto and Manchester: The Common Thread
The similarities don't stop there. Even though Porto played an important role in terms of intellectual leadership (such as spearheading the Liberal Revolution of 1820), both Northern cities became even more important with the advent of Industrial Revolution. With it, they suddenly became densely populated areas as the city's factories drew virtually everyone from the surrounding towns and villages.
To this day, there remain in Porto numerous "ilhas" (Portuguese for islands) - a street door that opens into a group of subpar quarters with a common bathroom and kitchen for factory workers - near ruins of old factories.
Shorn of their roots and family, these workers often found themselves stranded. As the 20th century made its way, football clubs took the place of religion - still offering a place of weekly worship and a sense of belonging. Identities were forged and allegiances were made among many a football stand. It is absolutely no coincidence that one of the features both Mancunians and "Tripeiros" most take proud on is their resilience against all odds.
- Manchester United and FC Porto: Losing and Finding The Way
In fact, clubs from capitals often floundered, with the obvious exceptions of Benfica and Real Madrid, sides that clearly benefited of being standard bearers of dictatorial regimes (the difficulties both clubs went through when the Portuguese and Spanish regimes were overthrown should not be overlooked).
The fates of Manchester United and FC Porto have sometimes seemed umbilical tied to each other over the past decades. However, while FC Porto's history mirrors the country's political events (the club's drought took place between 1921 and 1976, an almost perfect parallel to the fascist dictatorship that ruled the country between 1926 and 1974), Manchester United were rather more successful during Sir Matt Busby's years.
The end of the both clubs' lean years was virtually simultaneous and coincided with the arrival of the two figureheads that have left their mark over the past 30 years: Pinto da Costa on the Portuguese side, Sir Alex Ferguson on the English side.
Both men were able to steer their clubs in the right direction and transform the clubs they lead into their country's dominant footballing force. During that time, the two clubs have won numerous domestic titles and twice conquered the Champions League (formerly European Cup) and one Intercontinental Cup - effectively imposing a new cycle on the national scene. Manchester United became one of the richest clubs in the world while FC Porto went from regional minnows to a force to be reckoned with on the international scene, albeit to a far lesser extent when compared to the Red Devils.
(to be continued)