It is England’s El Clásico. The two biggest and most successful clubs in English football. In spite of the recent rise of Manchester City and Chelsea, England’s two premier clubs still stand head and shoulders above the rest in terms of both their history and achievements.
The respective Merseyside and Manchester derbies are both huge games in their own right, but are simply not on the same page in terms of the long-standing hatred and rivalry that exists between Liverpool and Manchester United.Embed from Getty Images
What sets this rivalry apart is the longevity and bitter nature about it. The intense contempt for one another stems not from football, but from the 19th century and the Industrial Revolution. With Manchester dominating the textile industry and Liverpool’s position as the most important port in the country, the two cities have long been fighting it out for economic supremacy.
The close proximity between the two cities allows the vitriol to dig deeper. It takes 45 minutes to drive between the two stadiums, bastions of footballing excellence. Whilst the antagonism still remains in abundance to this day, there is common ground shared between Scousers and Mancunians. Both cities have had to deal with their fair amount of ups and downs, coping with economic success followed by periods of decline and unemployment.Embed from Getty Images
The economic and social differences that shaped the hostility between the two cities have filtered down into the football too. Some may remember the song that United fans used to chant to South-Korean Park Ji-Sung which ended with: “it could be worse, you could be Scouse, eating rats in a council house”. After the Luis Suárez and Patrice Evra race-row in 2011, Liverpool fans used to chant: “We’re not racist, we only hate Mancs”. The hate-filled rivalry started long before the days of Park Ji-Sung and Luis Suárez however.
Liverpool’s incredible success of the late 70s all through the 80s had no parallel, until a certain (Sir) Alex Ferguson started to stamp his authority over the Manchester club, as the Red Devils dominated English football in the Premier League era. Although both have dipped below expectations since Ferguson’s departure, the signs are there that the two clubs are ready to claw their way back to the top. The contempt still exists, and will never fade away.
The historical context behind this fixture is unique. The Merseyside and Manchester derbies do have a passionate edge to them, but it is harder to hate fans from the same city, often from the same families. Scousers and Mancunians are loyal people, and will always back-up their own before anyone else.Embed from Getty Images
What sets this particular match-up apart from derbies in Spain, Argentina and Scotland is not only the huge amount of history and long-standing rivalry between the two clubs and cities, but also the way it captures the world’s attention. In March 2015, the Liverpool vs Manchester United was watched by over 700 million people worldwide, 200 million more than El Clásico of that year, and more than triple the number of Champions League Final viewers.
So when you sit down to watch Liverpool take on Manchester United at Old Trafford today, remember you are watching the culmination of 200 years of anger, hatred and rivalry between two great cities. A lot can be said about modern-day football losing its bite, but the passion in this fixture will never die out.
Written by Dan Walker.