A tale of two cities - Manchester and Liverpool
The English are generally a very prim, proper, well behaved and highly cultured people. This culture is obvious to the world, be it their literature, habits, beliefs or way of life in general. All of these beliefs go out of the window though when you watch the English at their club grounds. Shouting, singing, swearing and dancing, they appear overgrown children at best. There are basically 5 major areas of football in England – London, Manchester, Liverpool, Yorkshire and The Midlands.
London has a host of clubs in all divisions with 6 in the EPL itself, Yorkshire has Sunderland and Newcastle, the Midlands have Aston Villa, Stoke City and West Bromwich Albion. But the passion and the power are not found in these regions. The power of English football as of now is undoubtedly Manchester while the most passionate are the Liverpudlians, whether they be blue or red.
These two cities hate each other, they do. But then they hate their neighbours too. Be it the Manchester Derby or the Liverpool Derby, I have never seen games such brutal, passionate and loud in my life. Though the fans of Manchester City and Everton have had no major issues or rivalries over the years, it is the United vs Liverpool derby or the Derby of England that really ignites passions.
The Reds of Liverpool have always been the dominating force, except for a period in the mid 80’s when Everton won the FA Cup in 1984, the Cup winner’s Cup in 1985 and the old first division in 1987. Though they did win the FA cup in 1995, that was their last major trophy. They have since then operated on a shoestring budget and even qualified for the Champions League in the 2004-05 season. Its fans are among the most passionate and so are the players. With Everton aiming for an European push, hopefully into the Champions League, they have reached their zenith by punching above their weight all season.
Liverpool of course were the rage in the 1970’s and 1980’s. They had amassed a total of 18 League titles, but have conversely never won a Premier League trophy. Liverpool earned its name though in Europe. With 5 Champions League trophies and three Europa league trophies, they are the most decorated English club in Europe. Anfield has always been a crucible of passion and the European nights seem to bring back the best in the fans and the players. A shadow of their former self at the moment, Liverpool after the departure of Alonso, Torres and Benitez are no longer a ‘Top-4’ side, the Champions Leagues nights have been missing since a long time, and while Rodgers’ project stutters and stops, it seems that it might be quite sometime before the elite in Europe visit Anfield again.
The matches between Everton and Liverpool are full of passion, grit and red cards. This is the fixture that has produced the most red cards in English football, while Liverpool have won 88 of these derbies, Everton have won 66 with the other 65 drawn.
Manchester United, until very recently, was the top dog in Manchester. While City got promoted and relegated, United scripted fairytale after fairytale. The reds of Manchester, like their counterparts in Liverpool, have dominated the Blue neighbours through the years. With repeated league wins and a couple of Champions League victories, United has become one of the most famous clubs in the world.
Manchester City are what one would call the nouveau riche of football. They came into money and while one year seriously challenged their neighbours for the title, the next year they had it snatched from their grasps in truly United-esque fashion. While City’s win on goal difference is the stuff which legends are made of, it is their incapability to defend their title this season that shows their true weakness.
These clubs (United and City) have always shared a hateful relationship. Keane, of course, is still the most hated United man in the blue half of Manchester; no one can forget the way he took retribution on Alf-Inge Haaland. United though has clearly had the upper hand over the years. With 69 wins and 45 losses, it’s pretty sure that City would take years to come close to them. With City buoyed by new money and United reigning with old, it is going to be a very interesting time for the city of Manchester in particular and football in general.
The Derby of England though always has been United and Liverpool going at each other. The Red Devils have ruled the roost against the Reds in recent years. While 67 have gone to United and 58 to Liverpool, it can safely be said that Sir Alex succeeded in knocking Liverpool off their f****ng perch.
What we observe from these two cities is that while the older and more established clubs have been dominant, it is indeed the time of the underdogs. With Everton finishing twice above Liverpool in the last two years, the talk of power shifts at Merseyside seem more fact than fiction. While City snatched away United’s title, they now lag behind. But that does not mean they always will, they can still come back next season and give United and indeed all of England a run for their money. These changing trends can only be a good thing for English football in England and in Europe.