The Liverpool vs Manchester United fixture is arguably the biggest game of any calendar year in English football. This high octane clash between the two giants of English football is quite unique with a tinge of romanticism attached to its history.
Apart from the usual pre-requisites to be considered as great derby rivals – passion, grandeur, history, diversity and controversy – Pool-United fixture borders on a different realm altogether that fascinates the romantics.
Unlike other great top flight events, where balance of power has shifted frequently (El Clasico for that example) here the domination has changed after decades and even more.
If the 60’s era, dominated by the trio of Best-Law and Charlton belongs to United, then definitely 70’s and 80’s can be seen as Liverpool’s golden era under Bill Shankly and Bob Paisley. Likewise, United regained the supremacy in the 90’s under Sir Alex Ferguson that has continued in the modern era.
Interestingly, the two teams haven’t always been a joint title contenders, nor have they reached their dizzy heights at the same time.
In fact, the results do not determine always the outcome of the league winners. In Old Firm derby, if Celtic would have lost twice to Glasgow Rangers, or say Real Madrid losing out to Barcelona twice in a season, one could almost predict the title winner with a certain degree of conviction.
Here, it hasn’t always been a title deciding clash for ages. Liverpool won twice against United in 2008/09 (their best season so far in recent years where both the teams were involved in the title race) and yet went on to lose the title to their arch rivals.
Post Ferguson era has seen United being knocked off the pedestal while Liverpool are on the rise. Last season the Merseyside giants were close to winning the league while United failed to finish in top four. It seemed like a ‘winds of change‘ in this historic rivalry, but the story line this season has threatened to break the traditions of this derby.
When was the last time the two clubs were challenging simultaneously to book a place for next season’s Champions League?
Also, gone are those days when either of the teams had a prolonged domination on the fixture. For instance, Danny Murphy’s winner at Old Trafford in 2000/01 came after United had not lost in previous 10 meetings with Liverpool. Likewise, Diego Forlan’s famous brace at Anfield came after United failed to beat their rivals in previous six outings.
The two clubs are incomplete without each other. Historically, socially, culturally, economically – the two cities have seen major ups and downs in the last century, but the rivalry has always been the lens through which these two historical clubs have re-established their identity.
From Liverpool fans gloating about five European trophies to Ferguson’s desire to knock Liverpool off their f***ing perch; Kenny Dalglish bringing his young daughter to berate Ferguson “You’ll get more sense out of her”, or recently Suarez-Evra race row – these incidents have had added spice to this derby, but somewhere you feel it has never crossed that line that can tarnish this unique feel of this rivalry. Hatred? yes. But, it has never been violent, cruel, bloody and vitriol.
Leaving aside some idiots fans and their moronic behaviours, the two clubs have always been respectful towards each other and shared their sympathy on the club’s biggest tragedies.
Post Ferguson era opens up a new chapter in this rivalry. This Sunday therefore brings a different flavour, one that promises to break the tradition, but certainly not the spirits.
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