Hos­til­i­ties re­sume be­tween Liver­pool and Manch­ester United at An­field

Global Times - Weekend - - SPORTS - By Jonathan White Page Ed­i­tor: wanghuayun@ glob­al­times.com.cn

Manch­ester United’s Bel­gian mid­fielder Marouane Fellaini cel­e­brates scor­ing dur­ing their English Pre­mier League match against Crys­tal Palace in Manch­ester on Septem­ber 30. Photo: VCG

Lots of his­tory has passed be­tween the cities of Liver­pool and Manch­ester, much like the waters of the Manch­ester Ship Canal that links them – the con­struc­tion of which many hold to ac­count for the long-stand­ing en­mity be­tween the two cities. But like the sight of the words “Liver­pool Ware­hous­ing Co Ltd” and “1932” on the side of the dis­used build­ings in the shad­ows of Old Traf­ford, which sits at the end of the Ship Canal where the Sal­ford Docks once bus­tled, that is the past. In truth, the only real ri­valry be­tween Liver­pool and Manch­ester nowa­days is that be­tween Liver­pool Foot­ball Club and Manch­ester United. It is a ri­valry that goes all the way to the board­room, with the last player to trans­fer di­rectly be­tween the two Phil Chis­nall who swapped Old Traf­ford for An­field in 1964.

Liver­pool and Manch­ester City have no real ri­valry to speak of, sim­i­larly Manch­ester United and Ever­ton – per­haps a case of my en­emy’s en­emy is my friend – but this is a fix­ture that trumps both the Manch­ester and Mersey­side der­bies for pas­sion and es­teem. The cities are within spit­ting dis­tance: Liver­pool’s ground is just a shade over 30 miles (48 kilo­me­ters) from Manch­ester United’s Old Traf­ford. And over the years the fans have tested that out, with one Liver­pool fan spit­ting at Eric Can­tona as he climbed the fa­mous Wem­b­ley steps fol­low­ing his win­ner in the 1996 FA Cup fi­nal. While that be­hav­ior is un­called for it is not nec­es­sary, the ex­cep­tion in a ri­valry that has often seen tem­pers fray be­tween sup­port­ers in the stands, the man­agers in the dugouts and on the pitch in front of them: There have been 16 red cards in the 50 Pre­mier League meet­ings be­tween the two.

For fans of ei­ther city’s red sides, this is the first fix­ture that you look for ev­ery sea­son and the big­gest game of the sea­son re­gard­less of the rel­a­tive for­tunes of your team. They will both have put a ring around Satur­day when sec­ond­placed Manch­ester United travel to sev­enth-placed Liver­pool for the Pre­mier League’s lunchtime kick­off and the two clubs re­sume their bit­ter lo­cal ri­valry for the 199th time. Jose Mour­inho’s men will make the short jour­ney to An­field with the hope that they can over­come their big­gest test of this fledg­ling sea­son and widen the gap be­tween the sides to 10 points at the fi­nal whis­tle. The truth is that for fans of ei­ther side, the league ta­ble doesn’t mat­ter. Vic­tory does. This is the big­gest game of the sea­son for both sets of sup­port­ers and still re­mains by far the big­gest game in Eng­land de­spite the re­spec­tive re­cent fail­ings of both teams.

Past glo­ries

His­tor­i­cally these are the most suc­cess­ful clubs in the coun­try, and they have called upon some of the finest play­ers and man­agers to have ever graced the game. Manch­ester United have 20 league ti­tles to Liver­pool’s 18, while Liver­pool have won the Euro­pean Cup five times to United’s three. Both sides see these statis­tics as de­fin­i­tive proof of su­pe­ri­or­ity over the other. The Manch­ester side’s suc­cess of the 1950s and 1960s was blown out of the wa­ter by Liver­pool’s sheer dom­i­nance of the fol­low­ing two decades be­fore United went on a two-decade run of tro­phies of their own. These are all for­mer glo­ries. The league ti­tle has not resided at Old Traf­ford since 2013 but their five-sea­son bar­ren pe­riod is noth­ing com­pared to Liver­pool’s 27-year wait for the ti­tle – a drought that has now sur­passed Manch­ester United’s own 26 years of fail­ure that ended in the Pre­mier League’s first sea­son.

This will be the 51st league meet­ing be­tween the teams since that first Pre­mier League in 1992-93. The record – 13 Liver­pool wins, 27 Manch­ester United wins, 10 draws – would sug­gest that for­tune will fa­vor the vis­i­tors on Satur­day, as does the cur­rent league ta­ble. Liver­pool man­ager Jur­gen Klopp’s record of three wins, three draws and one loss in head-to-heads with Jose Mour­inho over the years sug­gests that the home side are fa­vorites. The two draws be­tween the sides un­der those man­agers last sea­son hints that hon­ors will be even. It’s hard to pre­dict, es­pe­cially given the im­prob­a­ble match-win­ners An­field has wit­nessed in the past.

Cult he­roes

This is a game where cult sta­tus calls loudly. Diego For­lan’s ca­reer at United never ful­filled the prom­ise he de­liv­ered else­where, but he is for­ever im­mor­tal­ized in song thanks to a match-win­ning brace in 2002-03. Gary Pal­lis­ter was never known for his goal-scor­ing but he too notched two in a United vic­tory in 1997, while John O’Shea net­ted a stop­page-time win­ner a decade later. Arthur Al­bis­ton was another de­fender with a last-minute win­ner way back in Oc­to­ber 1981 – a rare goal for the left back as he only scored six in nearly 400 ap­pear­ances for United – while Gary Neville didn’t even score but se­cured his sta­tus as pub­lic en­emy No.1 in the eyes of Liver­pool fans and a 5,000 pounds ($6,600) fine from the FA for cel­e­brat­ing Rio Fer­di­nand’s last-ditch win­ner in front of the vis­it­ing Liver­pool fans at Old Traf­ford in 2006.

In­ter­na­tional hang­over

United fans would wel­come another un­likely hero and Mour­inho might need one given his in­jury con­cerns. Paul Pogba is still out in­jured while the French­man’s re­formed re­place­ment Marouane Fellaini has joined him on the treat­ment ta­ble af­ter pick­ing up a knock on in­ter­na­tional duty for Bel­gium. Klopp has his own prob­lems with the tal­is­manic Sa­dio Mane ruled out af­ter an in­jury ac­crued while rep­re­sent­ing Sene­gal. The in­ter­na­tional hang­over could ex­tend be­yond the in­jury lists with both play­ers from both sides jet­ting around the world on World Cup duty last week. Liver­pool lost 5-0 to Manch­ester City in their last game on the back of an in­ter­na­tional break while United la­bored to a draw with Stoke City.

There should be no ex­cuse not to be up for this game, know­ing what it means to the fans and the clubs, and the at­mos­phere will be red-hot. The equiv­a­lent game last sea­son was no­table for United’s lack of pos­ses­sion and un­will­ing­ness to go for­ward, but even with­out his in­jured mid­field­ers Mour­inho has a very dif­fer­ent side this time out. United have been in free-scor­ing form in his sec­ond sea­son while Klopp’s side have im­pressed in at­tack but been left want­ing de­fen­sively. It’s per­fectly set up to go down in his­tory.

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