Liverpool have not won a league title in 19 years and up until last season they didn’t come close to even challenging for the title, with Chelsea emerging as the premier rivals to the trophy which Man Utd have won 11 times in 17 years. The domination of United had taken the sting out of one of the oldest rivalries in football but the occurrences of the last season have certainly heated up matters between the two clubs.
The rivalry between the two most successful clubs in England transcends football. Its roots were formed back during the days of the industrial revolution. In the early 1800’s, Manchester was taking giant strides on its way to becoming an industrial hub. However, a lot of its raw material had to be shipped to England which could reach Manchester only via the port of Liverpool.
The system worked fine until Liverpool slapped a tax on all goods that were brought in through their port for the various importers in Manchester. Manchester retaliated audaciously and constructed an artificial canal which allowed goods to reach them directly. A ship, representing the canal, has made its way onto the badges of both Manchester clubs, United and City.
The hatred between the Mancs and Scousers (named so because apparently they used to survive on a cheap beef stew called ‘scouse’) is mutual, but the rivalry on the football field actually didn’t start until the decline of the other club from Merseyside, Everton.
After the WW II both clubs have had periods of domination over the other. United dominated the 50’s and clinched the 60’s by winning the European Cup under Sir Matt Busby, even though both teams won two League titles in the decade. The 70’s and 80’s saw the utter domination of Liverpool, with them going on to become the most successful club in English football history. With the turn of the new decade, the tables turned and United won 7 of next 11 titles and carried that success into the new millennium. Liverpool haven’t won a league title in 19 years but can still boast of being the most successful club in England with 5 European titles.
In recent times however, Sir Alex’s men have stamped their authority on the encounters. After Danny Murphy’s goal in 2004, no Liverpool player had scored a goal against Man Utd in the EPL till Ryan Babel broke the deadlock last season. United’s league doubles over their rivals along with a few 4-0 and 3-0 score lines had somewhat taken the excitement out of the contest.
At the beginning of the last season, Man Utd were coming off the back off the double winning season while Liverpool ended another trophy-less season in a disappointing fourth position. Right at the beginning of the season, Liverpool stunned United by coming back from 1-0 down at Anfield to win 2-1 and handed Rafa Benitez his first victory over United in the Premier League. They followed this up with a wonderful run and found themselves well ahead of United come January.
Mid-way through the season came “Rafa’s Rant” when he launched a scathing personal attack on Sir Alex, the master of the mind-games. It was followed by both managers trading blows at every pre-match press conference. Ironically though, Liverpool’s form took a dip following the remarks and handed United the lead in the table.
Then came the day which no Man Utd fan would like to recollect. Liverpool came to the ‘Theatre of Dreams’ and humbled the champions 4-1 in a shocking display from the home team. Another defeat, of the once seemingly ‘Unbeatable’ Utd, in the following game set up a fascinating title chase.
However, United ended up lifting the Premiership trophy and more importantly equaled Liverpool’s record of 18 league titles and to the delight of the United faithful, Liverpool were the team they trumped over 38 games to earn it
Last season, the two clubs battled for supremacy on various levels, new signings Robbie Keane vs. Dimitar Berbatov, United’s flair vs. Liverpool’s discipline (although it turned out to be the opposite towards the closing stages of the season), Sir Alex vs. Rafa. United certainly had the last laugh but the double over United and the exciting title chase has certainly rekindled the hopes of the Liverpool faithful. The official season review of Man Utd mocks Rafa as it ends with- “The 11th time in 17 glorious seasons and the 18th title overall. AND THAT’S A FACT!!! !”
The rivalry never really died but the previous season has just brought the spark back into the biggest rivalry in English football.