Saturday, 16 January 2016

Man United vs Liverpool Rivalry Part 2.

A lot has changed for both teams since United beat Liverpool 3-1 back in September. That match was possibly the Red Devils' best performance of the season so far and it was a match that introduced a new hero on the 'Theatre of Dreams' stage, French starlet Anthony Martial.

However, since that victory United's game has become all too predictable and their tactics and results are nothing to write home about. The pressure on Louis van Gaal has risen to such a level that some sections of fans want him gone. Out of the Champions League with a whimper, knocked out of the League Cup by a Championship side and out of the top four in the league shows all is not well at Old Trafford.

Over at Anfield, they dispensed with the services of Brendan Rodgers and brought in the animated German coach Jurgen Klopp. However, apart from his entertaining touchline antics which involves a lot of chest pumping and the over the top celebrating of draws with his players, they are still a work in progress.

Having said all that there is one thing that will never change and it is that this fixture is without doubt the biggest game in the Premier League calender. It is the one that has all the fans' veins pumping with hate for each other. Come Sunday all the problems will be forgotten as there will be only one aim for both teams and that is to win at all costs. Millions will be watching worldwide, so the stakes are high.

Everybody in football has their adversaries, however, none more so than the reds from either end of the East Lancs. A rivalry that has been built up over the years and one that is not likely to get any friendlier anytime in the future.

The tension between the two cities and clubs has been well documented down the years as both teams have fought it out to be the top dog of English football and no matter how hard the hierarchy have tried to broker peace deals there is more chance of a peace agreement between Israel and Palestine. For the hatred is inbred having been passed down from generations to future generations. If you are a Man United fan then you hate Liverpool and definitely vice versa.

It was fanzines sold outside the stadiums during the 80's, 90's and into the new millennium that fueled the fire and gave fans the platform from which to vent their anger and this was followed by the development of social media that has only provided supporters with a bigger stage on which to show their bitterness towards each other with fans using the medium to poke fun at their rivals or more seriously take it to the extreme and downright vile levels of hatred.

Past jealousy has had a lot to do with the friction as in the fifties and sixties it was all about United then during the long wait for the title to return to Old Trafford it was Liverpool who was the top Liver birds until Alex Ferguson famously restored the balance and knocked them off their perch. Now it is the scousers who find themselves in the unenviable position of waiting for their next league success as it's been a quarter of a century since they were last crowned champions and in that time United leapfrogged the Anfield outfit to win the most titles.

Lately, the title has been a step too far for both clubs which has meant a battle to finish in the top four to enable Champions League qualification. Of course, United's priority is to win the title, but if they do not, then to finish above Liverpool becomes crucial and this they achieved last season and by doing so claimed fourth place.

The players down the years have added that extra spice to the matches, especially during goal celebrations, none more so than Gary Neville, who ran the length of the pitch at Old Trafford to show the away fans in no uncertain terms where his loyalties lay that day and he even had his own anthem in which everyone one was reminded of who he hated.

Wayne Rooney seems to be the main target of the Liverpool fans' vitriol due to his allegiance to Everton, but with the departure of Steven Gerrard to the USA the United fans will have to find someone new to aim their particular hatred towards.

However, now that both sides have added new foreign stars to their squads will the intensity of the United vs Liverpool matchday recede? The answer has to be a resounding no as both set of players will only have to walk the streets of their new cities, read what the fans are saying on the internet or listen to the players who have had first-hand experience of what to expect from the games.

In recent times teams like Man City and Chelsea have risen to new heights thanks to the investment of billions into their transfer kitties, but Man Utd vs Liverpool is always the first match that both United and Liverpool fans look for when the Premier league announce the new season fixtures, whether it be at home or away the faithful on both sides plan for those days more than any other games.

So the continuation of the rivalry turns to this weekend as both sets of players and fans will attempt to outdo each other both on the pitch and on the terraces, sorry in the seats. Van Gaal has an unbeaten record against Liverpool as the United manager having won all his four matches which include three league wins and the preseason friendly victory in the USA. But he will have to be on his toes against Klopp as the German coach was partly responsible for the Dutchman's demise at Bayern while he was at Dortmund.

The build up has already started and will rise to a crescendo of hatred by the time the match kicks off. Without any shadow of a doubt this is the big one.

Thanks for reading.

Miles Dunton.