10 February 2012
Today money speaks in a voice louder than reason. It has brought with it arrogance and confidence. It has created rivalries and broken loyalties. It is becoming an undeniable force in the face of modern soccer. What it cannot, and hopefully will never accomplish, is transcend the sport itself and become the reason for the annual 40-week battle that we call the soccer season.
This is where this weekend's round of fixtures becomes hugely significant. Manchester United's match against Liverpool will mark the 184th time these two teams have ever met. With Liverpool coming on top on 61 of those occasions, the teams drawing 51 games, and United having won 71 contests, history has these two teams fairly evenly matched - and they have been for over a century. This is a rivalry that was never borne out of money and instant success. No, this was a battle fought long and hard for many decades, and so it has remained. Great minds such as Paisley, Busby, Shankly, Dalglish, and Ferguson have pitted their wits against each other for the shade of red they've called their own. Past warriors like Rush, Neville, Fowler, and Keane have all worn the hearts of Manchester United and Liverpool on their sleeves.
Now, the present day incarnation of these two great clubs come together once again to do battle in what is the greatest derby on the isle of Britain. The likes of Giggs, Gerrard, Carragher, and Scholes will join together with younger flagbearers such as Rooney and Reina to fight for the honor of their respective clubs. And if the fervor of United-Liverpool games past has seemingly dissipated over recent times, it has been back with a vengeance this season as the much publicized personal battle between Luis Suarez and Patrice Evra has found its way to the hearts of all Liverpool and United fans. (For the record, I am fully behind Evra and sincerely believe that what Suarez has done is ugly and should never occur in any setting, let alone in a game of soccer.)
Now the stage is set for another edition of the British derby.
Suarez is set to play against Evra. Cleverley is in line for a return. De Gea will be up against Carroll. The subplots beneath the already storied past of these two great clubs are enough for the price of admission. The fans at Old Trafford, as well as the millions of others watching on around the world, will be at hand to witness what could perhaps be the most fiery derby in recent memory.
For United, it's another step towards that 20th league title. For Liverpool it's a chance to one-up United after we took number 19 last season. For both teams, it's a matter of pride.
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