Telegraph – Oh, how the mighty have fallen. Just as Real Madrid prepare to travel to Barcelona for a top two clash in La Liga on Sunday, Liverpool and Manchester United will play out the 192nd instalment of English football’s biggest fixture for the honour of claiming fourth place in the Premier League.
Just seven years ago, Liverpool were a John-Arne Riise own goal away from meeting United in the Champions League final in Moscow, but now it is about finishing fourth.
Not first, second or third, but fourth.
It’s been on the horizon for weeks and it’s finally here. Just a few years ago this match was the most watched match in the world, pulling in more viewers worldwide then the Super Bowl. What used to be the biggest match in the world, and still is the biggest rivalry in English football is finally here. Manchester United travel to Anfield to take on their biggest rivals in a crucial match for fourth place. And I couldn’t be dreading it more…
That’s right, I’m going to admit to something here. I hate the Liverpool-Manchester United Anfield fixture. Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing better then beating your biggest rivals, especially on their home pitch. But this game has more then that, something much worse. The fear of being humiliated by your rivals, especially when there is so much at stake.
What exactly is at stake? Let’s look at the table…
Good god how the hell is Liverpool just two points behind us and closing in on 4th place? That team couldn’t win anything back in October, November, They were pretty much dead buried at the bottom of the table when the two teams met at Old Trafford in December, a 3-0 United win.
Well it turns out since that loss to United Liverpool have been on quite the tear, winning 10, drawing three, and losing zero league games. While United have just three losses in their last 24 games in all competitions, their form has been anything but consistent.
So what makes this match absolutely terrifying? It’s not just that this time Liverpool will be at full strength with the inclusion of Daniel Sturridge who missed the last game due to injury. It’s really more that United’s recent history at Anfield has been, well abysmal.
While United fans have some great Anfield memories from the early and mid 2000’s, United have won there just once since 2007 and there are far more bad memories in recent times then good ones. Whether it’s the horrific performance they put in last season under David Moyes, Nani heading the ball back towards his own goal to set up Dirk Kuyt, Dirk Kuyt’s hat trick, Nemanja Vidic being sent off seemingly every time the two sides met, the list doesn’t end.
Every time these two teams meet at Anfield I’m watching the whole match with my butt cheeks clenched as tight as possible. I’m terrified every time the ball even goes near United’s box. It’s like I’m constantly waiting for disaster to strike. Even when United win, after the final whistle I’m still sitting there not with the joy of knocking off Liverpool, but with more of a sense of relief that this time disaster didn’t strike.
While neither of these teams are in the title race, that doesn’t take away from the fact that this is the biggest United-Liverpool match in quite some time. While both team are only competing for fourth place, this is the first time since 2009 that both teams are competing against each other for the same thing (In 2009 United won the league, Liverpool finished as runners up, though they did take all six points from United that season). And let’s not forget, it’s not like these teams have really been competing for the league title all those seasons, Liverpool haven’t won the league since 1989…
This game will have a major impact, and could even decide who will finish in 4th. If Liverpool win, they overtake United and have been playing so well it’s hard to ever see them slipping up. If United win Liverpool fall 5 points behind them and it just may be enough for United to hold on.
For me, this match is absolutely terrifying and will easily be the worst two hours of my weekend. I’ll be up at 8:30 AM clenching my butt cheeks waiting for disaster, and praying it doesn’t come.
PS: Hey Telegraph writer. How dare you say these mighty teams have fallen. You ever hear of the International Champions Cup? No? It’s only the biggest most important tournament played in the summer of all the best teams Internationally. You’d never guess but that final was Manchester United vs. Liverpool. Care to guess who won?