Liverpool vs. Manchester United: Football's Biggest Rivalry?

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Liverpool vs. Manchester United: Football's Biggest Rivalry?
Shaun Botterill/Getty Images
Kopping An Attitude

There's no denying the Manchester United/Liverpool fixture continues to evoke bad blood between two of England's famed cities and sets of supporters.

Heated rivalry notwithstanding, when the two clubs line up on either side of the arc Sunday at Anfield, will there be any real sense the quality level is on par?

More to the point of this discussion, with Liverpool rarely in the title hunt throughout the last decade—Liverpool finished second in 2001-2002 and 2008-2009 but only in the latter campaign did they have a shout late-on—does this rivalry really stack up to the likes of a Real Madrid/Barcelona or perhaps even a United/Chelsea at the present moment?

The enmity between the two cities/sides dates back to the construction of the Manchester Ship Canal in 1894, which usurped Liverpool's import/export business, the port city's industrial livelihood. Surely, football rivalries have started over much smaller incidents.

Yes, the history and tradition underpinning these league matches are unparalleled, but the only real "trophy" on the line of late has been bragging rights (granted, never to underestimated in the realm of sports).

Things are all square over the last five meetings (2-1-2), but the Red Devils own a decided advantage in the 117-year old tilt (72-51-62).

Last year's Patrice Evra/Luis Suarez row added a new ugliness to the ongoing grudge match. This year, political overtures by league and club officials suggest a measure of civility in the build-up.

All bets are likely off once the opening whistle blows.

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Liverpool have all but gotten their laces stuck in the starting blocks this season with just four points in four matches under Brendan Rodgers. Fox's Being Liverpool might resemble the melodrama of Keeping Up With The Kardashians if things continue in this manner for The Reds.

Outside of a respectable 2-2 draw against Man City, LFC have looked a miserable side thus far (three goals in four matches is poor even by youth league standards).

As usual, United are gunning for the top spot early, winning three and losing once, sitting just a point behind first-place Chelsea.

Liverpool's European hardware—five European Cup/Champions League titles and three UEFA Cups— trumps Man U's three Champions League winners' medals and one UEFA Cup. Domestically, United rule the roost with a record 19 League titles and 11 FA Cups; Liverpool's League Cup total of eight doubles United's four.

All of the factual framing aside, from a purely neutral perspective, we wonder how compelling the on-field battle will be. Yes, there are tremendous tempests swirling about, and Liverpool will be keen to move up the table after their dreadful first month.

Suarez is a rare talent, and young players like Fabio Borini, Joe Allen and Raheem Sterling seem to portend a bright future for The Reds. Many supporters believe the fundamentals are finally back in place in the post-Rafa era.

But on the 23rd of September 2012, the edge has to go to United.

There's a particularly cringe-worthy scene in the first episode of Being Liverpool (well-narrated by lifelong supporter, Clive Owen) in which embattled Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine exchanges jerseys with Brendan Rodgers in the Sox locker room. Yes, Liverpool finally got a trophy last year (the League Cup), but one can't help but think of two franchises—owned by Tom Werner and John Henry— in awkward spots.

This is a rivalry that will stay on the boil as long as professional football is played but until Liverpool start challenging for the title again, the fixture lacks the global appeal it once garnered.

Prediction: Manchester United 2, Liverpool 1

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