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Manchester United and the Anfield effect

Far too often in the recent past, the real Manchester United has failed to show up at Anfield. Home to Liverpool FC, the fixture is a much awaited clash with more than 3 points at stake especially to the fans. To understand why we must first try to look at the rivalry between these 2 great clubs of English football.

Not hailing from either of the cities, I can never fully understand and indeed, experience the intensity of such a rivalry. But I do know 1 thing, Liverpool F.C. dropping points at any level brings me joy. I can’t explain it but I sure as hell do feel it. The clubs are the two most successful teams in England, between them they have won 119 honours: 60 for Manchester United and 59 for Liverpool. The rivalry of course has it’s non-footballing agenda as well. Both Liverpool and Manchester have vied to be the industrial top dogs in the North West with Manchester famous for their manufacturing prowess and Liverpool for the importance of their port. However, with the building of the Manchester Ship Canal, ships now had direct access to Manchester. This has lead to continuous ribbing from the Manchester United fans with jokes and ‘banter’ on the topic more of a norm than a habit even to this day.

Such a rivalry would inevitably spill over to the football pitch. Both clubs have a rich heritage and have almost taken turns to be the best football club of the country. Ever since the eras of legends Bill Shankly and Sir Matt Busby, success in England has more often than not been synonymous with the 2 clubs. The 70s and 80s without doubt belonged to the Merseyside club. Dominating the domestic league and experiencing great success in Europe, it seemed there was no stopping the juggernaut that was Liverpool F.C. In stark contrast, Manchester United moved from manager to manager never really managing to once again enjoy the glory days of Sir Matt Busby’s Manchester United. Thankfully for fans of the Red Devils, another Scot was waiting to change the course of their beloved clubs history. Enter Sir Alex Ferguson.

While he took his time to get going, his record since has been nothing short of astonishing. The first season of the remodelled Premier League signalled United’s first domestic title since 1967 and indeed set the tone for the ushering in of Manchester United’s domination of the Premier League. Much to the delight of the United faithful, Liverpool are still in search of their first Premier League title as a result of which United now are the proud winners of 19 league titles as opposed to the 18 won by their North-West rivals.

The already heated rivalry’s flames have been well and truly stroked in recent times especially by the now infamous Evra-Suarez racism case. I can guarantee that plenty of fans would be willing to swear on all their worldly possessions that Evra/Suarez (delete as appropriate) have been blameless in the entire incident and that Suarez/Evra are nothing but abject wastes of space and thieves of oxygen. With each side convinced they are right, and the incident been given more than enough coverage I’m refraining from offering my own opinion. I only mention this as it adds an additional edge to the Sunday’s fixture and I assure you I have no inclination to debate on the above topic.

Thus it is a topic of much pain to United fans that their recent record at Anfield leaves a lot to be desired. 1 draw and 3 losses in their last 4 visits is hardly anything to be proud of. For a fixture that means so much to the fans, uninspiring performances by United never fail to leave a bad taste in the mouth.

The reasons behind this are of a wide range. The first of which is that Liverpool tend to up their game whenever United are in town. Watching Liverpool playing below par the week before and then bring their A game against United has infuriated me time and again. The effect of the Anfield crowd also must not be underestimated. The noise emanating from the famous 1-tiered Kop and indeed the other ends do form the cliched 12th fan so often referenced to by football fans.

Another interesting theory is that Liverpool always press high up the pitch. Something that United do not enjoy as exposed over Marcelo Bielsa’s Bilbao over 2 legs in last season’s Europa League. I, for one, am extremely pleased to see the back of Dirk Kuyt. The Dutchman often leading the line and full of energy, had an annoying habit of popping up with important goals against United.

Whatever the reasons, with Liverpool still finding their feet under Brendan Rodgers Sunday is as good a time as any for United to deliver a much awaited performance at Anfield. However any illusions of a stroll in the park are naive, and contrary to the table, Liverpool have not played badly this season. The pessimist in me would think that Sunday is going to be the day that it could all come together for Liverpool. However, being a United fan I firmly believe at the start of every match that United will win convincingly.

As a footnote I would like to add that though I was pleased about the recent events regarding Hillsborough, I find it very strange that the media have thought it a good time to bring up vile chants from United fan. For what it’s worth I’m disgusted that anyone would think it appropriate to use any disaster for point scoring be it Hillsborough, Munich or Heysel.

How I feel personally about Hillsborough has absolutely nothing to do with which team the 96 or indeed, I support. No football fan deserves to not come back home after a football match. And the fact their families were lied and their memories besmirched is disgusting. But this has nothing to do with Manchester United. Be respectful and show solidarity with the 96 but that’s all. Suggestions of a “You’ll Never Walk Alone” banner and wreaths of flowers laid by Evra and Suarez are farcical. Show your respect before the match, let balloons go and whatever else. And then kick each other on the pitch for 90 minutes. Just like it should be.

Liverpool away. Two words that terrify and excite me in equal measures.

Bring. It. On.

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Arnab Ray

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