Manchester United Preview: Building it Up by Tearing it Down

The boys get ready for United

No one ever wants to lose this fixture; I don’t say this often, but I think I speak for both sets of supporters when I say that we don’t need Sky Sports, Mark Lawrensen or anyone else to convince us of our mutual dislike for one another. It’s not like anyone would let us forget, but we know what this means.

You can throw the form book, along with the rest of the football clichés out the window, when Liverpool visit Old Trafford tomorrow. Manchester United somehow beat high flying Southampton on Monday and the Reds dropped out of the Champions League at the hands of of FC Basel with a tame performance on Tuesday — in a normal match either of those two events might help tip the scales one way or another, but when it comes to the Northwest Derby, nothing that comes before makes a lick of difference.

Mario Balotelli could very well be fit to rejoin the squad after missing six matches out? It’s not going to matter. Robin van Persie’s six goals in his last nine meetings with Liverpool? That won’t help him on Sunday. The fact that the Italian striker will be returning to the ground where he scored a brace in Manchester City’s absolute spanking of their crosstown rivals? Hardly worth a mention. The Dutchman’s penchant for bringing out his best in the big ones? Nope, not news worthy. An ample opportunity to pull out the “Why Always Me” shirt?

Forget all that. It’s the result that matters.

I don’t even have to go on, do I? One of us could be in a League Two and this match could happen once every six years if the football gods willed it so and the rivalry would still be there. We’d be bickering about whatever we could, for whatever reason until we’ve talked ourselves round in circles and back to the beginning again.

You’ve got some important players out injured? Well, guess what? So do the we. You can play one-upman tit for tat all day, but when it all comes down to it, it’s always going to be one thing or another. We’ll see your Daley Blind with a Daniel Sturridge any day of the week. Angel di Maria is on the treatment table and so is Mamadou Sakho. Chris Smalling picking up a knock is moot with Jon Flanagan out until Janaury. Argue it either way from whatever angle you want, when the final whistle blows, it’s all about those points.

That both teams are struggling — despite United’s league position — doesn’t even register. And why should it? 28 points coming up against 21 points, third place against ninth — who cares? This is Liverpool against Manchester United. The Red Devils could only manage three shots on target when they beat the Saints and were outplayed to such an extent that even Louis van Gaal said they were lucky? Yesterday’s news. Steven Gerrard peeling back the years to score a superb free-kick in what could very well be his Champions League swan song on Tuesday night? It’s a fading memory.

This isn’t about any that. This is about what happens on the pitch on Sunday and I hope deep down that we smash them. Not to get our season back on track or to disrupt theirs; those would be mere side-plots in the grand scheme of things. I’ve mourned losses in cup finals less than I have reversals at the hands of United and that will be as true tomorrow as it is today. Even in my attempts to play down the manic Hollywood film traileresque attempts of the media to hype it, this fixture is inevitably built up because no matter what either fan of either team will tell you, this is the one that really matters.

We don’t need Sky Sports. We don’t need the BBC. We don’t need ITV or any number of talking heads to recount their memories of matches past or tell us, in the end, why this rivalry is what it is to get us in the mood for kick-off. These two teams could line up on the moon and there’d be supporters figuring out how to get there. Have you ever tried hanging a flag in zero gravity?

Ok, that’s enough pre-match nonsense…


Steven McMillan

Can’t find up from down or tell black from white, but doesn't care cause it’s all Red to him. When he's not pissing and moaning about all things Liverpool, he’s chatting nonsense with his multiple personalities — or his “entourage” as he likes to call them.

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