The Football Association held its first meeting at a pub in London on 26th October 1863. The first FA Cup final took place on 16th March 1872 and the first England international (vs. Scotland) took place in Glasgow on 30th November in the same year. Professionalism was legalised on 20th July 1885, shortly after the formation of Newton Heath L&YR FC in 1878 (later Man Utd) and St. Mark's (West Gorton) FC in 1880 (later Man City). With professionalism came financial pressures, leading to the creation of the Football League.
|William McGregor, the founder of the Football League|
So whilst no clubs from Manchester itself were included, the inaugural league had six teams from Lancashire and six from the Midlands, with Manchester (then the centre of the global cotton trade and a huge transport and business hub) the obvious place to hold any meeting of the twelve clubs. Newton Heath joined the first division for a brief spell in 1892, with Manchester City making their first appearance in the top flight in 1899. It wasn't until 1904 that a London team were represented at this level (Woolwich Arsenal).
What's most interesting about the early years of the Football League is how relatively provincial it was, with small towns such as Bury achieving greater success. No team from Manchester or London won the league until Man Utd in 1908. This is in marked contrast with the current Premier League, which is dominated by teams from the two cities (as Paul Wilson noted earlier in the season).