In what will be the 194th meeting between these two sides, it’s highly unlikely that the animosity between Liverpool and Manchester United will have abated one bit by the time kick-off rolls around.
Stories about ship canals, terrace fashion, music scenes and usurped economies may only be an interesting aside for the lot of us that grew up outside of the Northwest of England, but this is always the first match that is marked on the calendar when the fixture list is released in July. Call it phantom rivalry, call it misplaced anger, but I know I don’t like them, and no, I don’t care what you think about that.
While Red Devils boss Louis van Gaal is starting to talk like the Northwest Derby is nothing but old hat, it could very well be the Dutchman’s last one in charge with results up the M6 in steady decline since their early season surge and the veteran manager looking all the more likely to get the axe than see out the rest of the campaign.
With that being said, victory against their most bitter rivals could help him stave off execution for quite some time and van Gaal’s excellent record against Liverpool will be a boon to his cause. Although he’ll be without midfield duo Bastian Schweinsteiger and Michael Carrick as well as defender Phil Jones, the wily 64-year old rolls in to Merseyside with United having won six of their last eight meetings with the Reds and Wayne Rooney — who hasn’t scored at Anfield in his last nine trips there — finally starting to find the net again.
“Wayne has to break that record.Then I am very pleased” said van Gaal of the former Evertonian’s miserable record against the Reds. “When he scores, it makes it easy for me,” he continued, before backing his captain to put things right on Sunday. “I have put all my money on Wayne.”
Maybe putting all his money on the 30-year old is a bit short sighted, but Jurgen Klopp’s men haven’t exactly been making things too difficult for teams to find the net against them. It was a side packed with youngsters and reserve ‘keeper Adam Bogdan that gave up a pair to League Two side Exeter City in the FA Cup not that long ago, but he had almost all senior players at his disposal when they fought back to claim a last gasp 3-3 draw with Arsenal on Wednesday night which each of the visitors strikes coming on the back of defensive errors from their hosts.
The rash of injuries swirling around L4 won’t have eased off in time for United’s visit so you can pretty much guarantee that Klopp will run with the same line-up that drew with the Gunners midweek with Roberto Firmino, who scored a magnificent brace, leading the line, Jordan Henderson in the middle of the park and Mamadou Sakho holding things down at the back — which would be pretty decent if they actually had a bit of rest between matches. That being said, Emre Can has stressed they won’t have any problems finding the motivation they need for this one.
“I know about the rivalry. I know it. I know the score,” he told the Times in the build up to the showdown at Anfield. “When I’m out and about in the city, fans come up to me, and they tell me about the rivalry. They say that in Manchester it’s not good to talk about Liverpool and in Liverpool it’s not good to talk about Manchester United,” explained the German midfielder before relating it to one of the biggest derbies in his homeland. “Everyone in the world knows about this big game, Liverpool against Manchester United, and the rivalry that is there. In Germany, it’s like Schalke against Borussia Dortmund.”
While that right there might not mean much to you and I, it’s something that Klopp, who will be experiencing this fixture for the first time, will know all about. He may have been full of praise for United, van Gaal and former boss Sir Alex Ferguson in his pre-match presser, but he knows which side his bread is buttered on revealing that he turned down the chance to take over at Old Trafford in the summer of 2013 was the perfect dig at just the right time. He too may not have the deep lying, traditional roots that come along with this rivalry, but he’s about to get a crash course.