Children were being used to warn looters of approaching police in Manchester, as the riots spread north of the country.

Organised gangs of masked rioters rampaged through the Manchester city centre, many on mountain bikes, wreaking devastation and destruction.

Shop windows were smashed with iron poles, looted and set fire to in similar mayhem seen in London earlier in the week.

Looted shops included the fashion boutique owned by former Oasis frontman Liam Gallagher.

Despite riot police being positioned across the county, the youths smashed shop windows, looted and set fire to shops, in similar mayhem seen in London earlier in the week.

The rioters also hurled missiles at police, who were drafted in  from Northumbria, Stafford and North Wales, but appeared impotent in the face of all the destruction.

But in a new development, youths including young girls, appeared to embark on organised and efficient attacks rather than random looting and vandalism.

While other attacks had been pre-organised on Twitter and Facebook, Manchester's gangs simply organised their attacks on the streets.

Police appeared woefully unprepared for the violence, which they deemed the worst they’d seen in 30 years.

Garry Shewan, Greater Manchester Police’s Assistant Chief Constable, said the rioters had “brought shame” on the city. He added that arrests would be made.

ACC Shewan, who joined the force after moving to the city in 1981, called the scenes "senseless violence and senseless criminality on a scale I have never witnessed before".

"These are pure and simple criminals running wild tonight," he told the Telegraph.

"They have nothing to protest against there has been no spark. This has been senseless violence and senseless criminality on a scale I have never witnessed before.

"Shops have been targeted, looted and set on fire and I, like everyone else, am absolutely appalled by the shameful actions of these criminals who have attacked our cities and have put Manchester and Salford in the spotlight for all the wrong reasons."

He added: "This is nothing more than senseless violence with absolutely no regard for people, their property or livelihoods.

"These criminals have also attacked some of my officers and other emergency services who are simply trying to do their job to keep the public safe and restore order."

"I would ask all members of the communities across Greater Manchester to think very carefully and seriously about who they support and who they want to bring to justice for those acts which have ripped the heart out of two great cities."

ACC Shewan said that offenders had been caught on CCTV and his message for them was "we will be coming for you".

Councillor Pat Karney, a spokesman for Manchester City Council said it was one of the worst days the city had ever suffered.

He said: "We are talking about nine, 10, 11-year-olds with balaclavas on walking up the main shopping street in Manchester as if it was a great night out."

Police arrested 47 people including one suspected looter who handed himself in after seeing himself on Facebook.

A spokesman for GMP said: “If you have been using social networking sites to incite disorder, expect us to come knocking on your door very soon.”

As youths embarked on running battles with police in Manchester city centre, a branch of fashion store Miss Selfridge was set on fire.

A jewellery store was also reportedly attacked before plain-clothed police nearby ran in to arrest two looters from the shop.

Witnesses reported seeing children acting as “look outs” to help evade arrest, who would call out to gang members when police were nearby.

Other rioters, who set off fireworks, were seen talking to drivers of cars on mobile phones, exchanging information, while they drove around the streets in what appeared to be co-ordinated manoeuvres.

Police sealed off much of the city centre and used a " reverse kettling " strategy to clear the city centre by gradually pushing rioters away from the main shopping areas.

Trouble flared just after 5pm after a gang of 150 youths raced into the Arndale indoor shopping centre in a bid to break into the JB sports store.

In Piccadilly Gardens, an amusement arcade was plundered and machines were overturned in Piccadilly Museums with coins strewn across the carpet.

Mohammed Shafiq, of the Ramadhan Foundation, said last night that he witnessed up to 1000 youths, some of whom ransacked a closed restaurant.

"There are group leaders who are shouting orders 'please move on. Ten minutes. Police coming',” he said.

“This was not random. It is pre-planned and pre-organised thuggery."

Graham Stringer, Labour MP for Blackley and Broughton, added: "It was known that this was coming to Salford and Manchester, and now shops have been looted and set on fire.

"Businesses have been seriously damaged. There are a lot of questions that the Chief Constable needs to answer. The police need to get control of the streets, which they have failed to do."