This Sunday, Manchester United will travel to Anfield to face their arch-rivals Liverpool. Although Reds are no longer title challengers, and are even struggling to finish in top four, the fixture holds enough significance to English fans and neutrals throughout the world as well.
After all, these are historically two of the most successful clubs in England and therefore the rivalry takes a different gravity.
Well, in terms of on-field glamour, the fixture doesn’t always produce the brilliance and beauty that we associate with El Clasico and likewise the derby doesn’t hold a candle to some of the greatest derbies of the world either. It is a more passionate affair among the fans of both the clubs mainly, as both the clubs have huge fan following in every nook and corner of the globe.
It is something unique – a very special fixture, which cannot be compared with other derbies. There has been no shortage of spice whenever these clubs come in contest. In recent fixtures, Luis Suarez-Patrice Evra saga has added fuel to the fire and though both the clubs do not entertain any bad blood between themselves, as Sir Alex Ferguson paid tribute to the Hillsborough families, sometimes the atmosphere takes a vitriol and hatred shape, as with fans of both the sides have engaged in sickening and acerbic chants relating to dead souls.
Success has been the central dividing line between both the clubs. United is the first English club to win the European Cup, while Liverpool in their hey-days became the envy of entire Europe. At one point of time it seemed like their record of 18 league title is impregnable, but under the helm of Ferguson, that record has been demolished, knocking Liverpool off their ‘f***ing perch’. At least, Steven Gerrard’s five fingers are still there to imprint a stamp of authority on their rivals, regarding the Reds’ total Champions League triumph over them.
But, what is really exciting about this fixture is its suave nature of change of powers. It is not like Old Firm. It is not like El Clasico. It is not like the Turkish derby as well. For those fixtures, the outcome of the match largely decides the fate of the title. Same cannot be said about here. Liverpool can win both their fixtures against them (2008/09) yet ended up finishing below them. Imagine, if Barca win both their toes against Madrid? The league probably is as good as over!
Also, unlike in other derbies, like the Milan derby, here players usually don’t ply direct trade from one club to another, which symbolizes the staunch and rigid approach both the clubs maintain while dealing with such transfers. Ask Michael Owen, and he is not a direct transfer either, how he feels to be called a traitor by the Scousers!
Here, the shift of power has taken place after decades. It is this unique unforeseen act of Time that makes it worth the wait. If the 60’s era belongs to United – the golden trio of Best-Charlton & Law, then 70’s & 80’s have been dominated by Bill Shankly and Bob Paisley era. Again, 90’s & the modern era belong to Manchester United. In this way, power has been shifted gradually like an evolution, unlike in other derbies, where it frequently shifts hand.
Roll on Sunday!