It’s the ultimate irony. This weekend, before the entire world turns their eyes to Spain for El Classico, will be the fixture that used to grab the most eyeballs in the world. Manchester United and Liverpool will square off for the 192nd time in the two club’s storied history. Just a few years ago this was the match that drew more worldwide viewers then any other game in the world, including the Super Bowl.
The two clubs are not just the biggest rivals in English football, but they are also the two most successful clubs in English football. It was Liverpool who won an English record 18th first division title in 1990. Back then Manchester United were a fledging club, still failing to take off under manager Alex Ferguson.
It was called “The Impossible Dream,” but Alex Ferguson had a goal, to knock Liverpool off their perch at the top of English football. It seemed laughable at the time, United had just seven league tittles compared to Liverpool’s 18. Fast forward to 2011 and the impossible dream was completed as United won their 19th league title. Two years later they won number 20.
But these days the two sides aren’t battling for the league title, they’re battling for fourth place and the Champions League spot that comes with it. While some people may claim that the two sides fighting for fourth place shows a fall from grace, this match is actually one of their biggest in years. Other then FA Cup and league cup ties, the two clubs haven’t met in a match where they were both fighting for the same goal since 2009, when United won the league and Liverpool finished runners up (Liverpool did take all six points from United that season but what does that matter).
This year Liverpool is looking to make the Champions League for a second consecutive season, and United are looking to get back there after missing out last year. The two sides are separated by just two points in the table. In other words, this match is huge.
As a United fan, I am not looking forward to this in the slightest.
I’ll let you in on a little secret. I hate the Anfield fixture. I said it. There is no other match that sucks to lose as much as losing to your biggest rivals, and Anfield has been a disaster for Manchester United lately. With just one win at Anfield since 2007, there are far more haunting memories then good ones. Whether it be the terrible display they put on last season under David Moyes or Nani heading the ball back towards his own goal to set up Dirk Kuyt en route to a hat trick, the bad memories are far worse then the good feelings you get from Rafael’s stunning goal and van Persie’s penalty.
At the beginning of the season it didn’t seem likely that this would be the biggest game for the two clubs. Liverpool got off to a horrific start the first few months of the season, which culminated in a 3-0 loss at Old Trafford. Since that match though, Liverpool haven’t lost a league game; winning 10, drawing three, and flying up the table.
Liverpool now come into this match on great form. While United looked great last week against Tottenham, their form, especially away from Old Trafford, can only be described as inconsistent. The two teams now meet in a match that could very well decide the top four race and how these clubs enter the summer and prepare for next season.
There is so much on the line in this match and it’s going to be tremendous. While I’ll be terrified for 90 minutes waiting for a disaster, if you’re a neutral fan I can promise you one thing: this will be one of the best matches of the season, and could even eclipse ‘El Classico’ as the best match of the day.
For all my other Manchester United thoughts be sure to follow me @pkwestelWFAN