The most successful side in English football meets Man United on Monday, a match that is steeped in history and comes with a turmoil of emotions. A match we ought to relish.
I had to think long and hard about the tone here.
The risk of coming across as bold or brash ahead of the biggest game in English football is a calculated one, it takes some soul searching.
Subconsciously, the risk of jinxing the Reds is probably the primary concern.
That risk is embellished by Liverpool’s slow start on the pitch during the new campaign, something we’re not particularly used to under this regime.
Four points dropped from the opening two encounters has seemingly been enough to dent the confidence accrued from the most scintillating season of our lives, and has become a cause for concern ahead of a trip to see our old foes.
The big picture, however, is that we find ourselves in an era where Liverpool are immeasurably superior to Manchester United from top to bottom.
We have earned the right to a bit of swagger and confidence ahead of this fixture, lord knows we have paid our dues.
The background of the rivalry
The history of Liverpool’s discord with Manchester United is said to date back to the 1800s, and the completion of the Manchester Ship Canal.
More recently though, the reality is that the feud relates more closely to the relative successes on the pitch. Liverpool’s all-conquering side of the ’70s and ’80s were followed by Man United’s dominance throughout the ’90s and ’00s.
Ask any Liverpool fan from this generation why they hate Man United and it’s highly unlikely they’ll cite economic reasons.
Growing up in schools and working in offices while a well-oiled Man United machine swept up everything in sight elicited enough collateral damage to cement a shatterproof footballing rivalry.
English football giants
Liverpool and Manchester United are the two biggest footballing superpowers in the country, and there’s some distance before you get to number three.
Manchester City’s recent period of dominance has been tough to swallow, but Liverpool have simultaneously experienced a golden period of their own and no matter which part of the world you’re from, you’re still far more likely to have to deal with a Man United fan than a City fan.
If we are conceited ahead of this one it’s with good reason. Liverpool embarrassed Man United at Old Trafford last October and walked all over them in the return fixture six months later. 9-0 on aggregate.
Even in the era of great Ferguson sides and frankly abject Liverpool sides, the gap was never that prevalent.
Liverpool never allowed the 20-time league champions to toy with them in the manner with which Klopp’s team did last season.
A game like no other
And yet there’s something about this fixture which stirs the soul, puts a knot in your stomach.
It’s the one you start contemplating weeks in advance and no matter how bad things get for our friends down the M62, it’s never a nice one to ponder.
You get the sense that those emotions are reciprocated. Even now that their noisy neighbours are making a habit out of winning league titles, Liverpool are still the side that puts the most fire in their belly.
“City have had their success recently, but I would probably say that United and Liverpool is still the biggest game,” were words uttered by Wayne Rooney.
Liverpool vs. Manchester United has continued to be THE Premier League rivalry, even throughout the difficult patches for both sides.
They are the two sides who capture the imagination of the league’s worldwide fanbase season after season despite rarely going head-to-head for the title themselves.
They share 39 league trophies without regularly tussling together for silverware in May. An enigma.
Liverpool back where they belong?
In September 2002, Sir Alex Ferguson declared his mission to “knock Liverpool off their f*****g perch”, a goal which was accomplished almost a decade later when the Red Devils surpassed Liverpool’s record total of 18 leagues.
Five permanent and three temporary managers have since taken the reins at Old Trafford with varying levels of success, but none have yet found the formula to take them back to the top of the tree.
This brings us to Monday night. Whether you’re boisterous, cautiously optimistic or tense, you will feel alive come 8pm.
It’s an opportunity to take the first real stride towards what will hopefully be a substantial title tilt, and from a wider standpoint, it is another opportunity to really accentuate the gulf.
We don’t want to afford Man United any excuse to believe that Ten Hag can bring them closer to the heights that Liverpool have reached, at least in the short term.
You are allowed to enjoy this.
Let’s relish the driving seat.