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OPINION: What does Liverpool vs Manchester United mean?

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You’ve heard it all before. The two most successful teams in England, the Manchester Ship canal sparking industry competition and all of the 231 games that have been played in its wake. 

The media hyperbole and ‘Super Sunday’ sensationalism have made this game greater than the sum of its parts in recent years where the football rarely matches expectations.

With six draws in the last eight meetings between the sides, fans are often left walking away wanting more and a feeling of disappointment clouds over the fixture. 

Yet in spite of all of this, nothing feels the same as the few days leading up to a game against Manchester United. Football is a sport fuelled by narrative and this game remains packed with it, even more so in the falloff of United in recent years. 

With Liverpool holding 18 league titles to their name for the last 30 years, it’s almost inevitable that the number will finally rise this year – 18 years on from when Sir Alex Ferguson said his “greatest challenge was knocking Liverpool right off their f**king perch.”

The Liverbird now perches itself at the very top of European and World Football and its followers couldn’t be happier to see it there.

With strategic transfers and football’s best coach, Liverpool’s escalation in the last four years has been unrivalled – yet without the fiery breath of the Red Devils swarming behind them, does English football’s most poignant game still hold the same weight?

Absolutely. 

As the two most followed teams in the country, every Liverpool fan knows a gloating United supporter and obviously vice versa.

The rise and fall of both clubs in recent years has opened up tormenting opportunities respectively – from Roy Hogdson’s miserable tenure to David Moyes disastrous spell, they’ve both had their fair share of mockery. 

A marked date in fans calendars, the week of gloating at work, school or to your family means everything in the moment – especially if this season can be topped off with a title win. 

Titles have been won and lost on the battlegrounds of Old Trafford and Anfield when these sides have met before which may go some way to explaining the somewhat dull affairs of recent years.

Liverpool find themselves in an unfathomable position of strength, 14 points clear at the summit of the Premier League.

Meanwhile, United have become the textbook definition of mediocre under Solskjaer but remain the only team to get a result against Liverpool so far this season with that 1-1 draw at Old Trafford.

The rise of Manchester City has sparked a new rivalry for Liverpool but it’s another name – it’s just not United. As Jurgen Klopp said in his pre-match press conference:

“We know what it [the game versus United] means to our supporters. Very Important. We have more natural enemies than most clubs.”

For Liverpool fans, it’s a desperation to embarrass. Think back to Fabio Aurelio’s joyous face in that famous 4-1 win in 2009 – we can praise Liverpool in this current moment but they could do with a resounding result and performance over United as another string to the bow. 

With the wealth of attacking talent at Liverpool, they’ve managed 29 goals in 16 Premier League games against the rest of the “big six” with only four goals versus United in three league games – an equal defensive record with their Manchester rivals. 

When you consider the defensive frailties that United have suffered in recent years, Liverpool should be closer to the goals record versus Arsenal – nine goals in three league games. 

Sadio Mane remains the only member of the famed front three to score against United since becoming Liverpool players – a staggering statistic considering they share 234 goals in red between them at the time of writing. 

Out of everyone, they will be desperate to score against United and potentially create a result that will be remembered by generations.

This game will forever be the deciding fixture for Liverpool, regardless of the trophies a win over United remains sweeter than ever.