Manchester-Born XI vs. Liverpool-Born XI: Who Wins?
Manchester and Liverpool are proud footballing cities. Both boast two clubs to have won the English top flight, though only the former can claim to host winners in the Premier League era.
Both clubs in the two cities also have a proud tradition of fielding homegrown talent. So what would happen if teams from the two longstanding rival areas faced off? Who would be selected for an all-time Liverpool-born and all-time Manchester-born XI?
Over the next few slides, we'll take a trip through some of the cities' most beloved sons. There hasn't been too much bending of the rules, though Greater Manchester is all included—how could you not give Phil and Gary Neville a game here?
Manchester line up in a 4-3-3 designed to get the best out of their powerhouse midfield, while Liverpool use a 4-4-2 to take advantage of their wing and centre-forward talent.
Let's pick the teams and decide who wins.
A tough start for the Liverpool team. As Neil Jones asked in the Liverpool Echo in 2010, where are all the Scouse goalkeepers? Their lack of depth in this area is revealed by the selection of Tony Warner, a perennial second-choice for his hometown club.
Warner eventually left Liverpool, played 200 times for Millwall before embarking on a global adventure which took in New Zealand and Malta.
This position is surely up for grabs among future generations. At one point, we seriously considered faking Pepe Reina's place of birth to get him into the team instead.
Manchester's position is a little more solid.
Joe Corrigan was a three-time player of the year for Manchester City, having kept goal for the club from 1967-1983, becoming a permanent first-team fixture from 1969 onwards.
He was capped nine times for England and is an automatic pick here, giving Manchester an immediate advantage.
The city of Liverpool probably has a little more strength in depth here, but Manchester is represented by two sons of Bury, proud yeoman of their borough.
Gary Neville is immortalised in an Old Trafford chant as someone who "hates Scousers." His brother, Phil, on the other hand, became an integral part of the blue half of Liverpool, spending the second half of his career at Everton.
With Gary on the right and Phil on the left, Manchester's decision is a simple one, and one which the former in particular provides both defensive cover and excellent delivery of the ball.
For Liverpool, there is sterner competition for places. And Gary Ablett's place at left-back is partly in the interests of red-blue relations in the city. He began his career at Anfield before leaving for Everton, playing over 100 times for both clubs.
He moved from left-back to centre-back as his career developed and earned a couple of league titles with the Reds.
Chris Lawler was a stalwart for Liverpool during the 1960s and '70s. Playing more than 400 times (and scoring more than 40 goals), he won three league titles and two FA Cups for the Anfield club. He is an easy choice at right-back.
In Jamie Carragher and Phil Thompson, Liverpool have two fearsome competitors. Carragher may get on with Neville now, but they were fierce rivals on the pitch.
Thompson may be spouting questionable opinions on foreign managerial appointments in the Premier League on Sky Sports now, per Football 365, but he once stood at the heart of an imperious back line.
Thompson won seven league titles with the Reds and made more than 300 appearances for the club. He was born in Kirkby in the borough of Knowsley, which is close enough to count.
Manchester's first selection here is a player who has made Liverpool his home—as an Everton stalwart. Phil Jagielka was born in Manchester and has gone on to be a vital player for the Toffees and an important one for England.
Wes Brown was a Manchester United academy product blessed with prodigious talent. If injuries had not played their part, Sir Alex Ferguson may have retained his services even longer, but the Blackburn Rovers player-coach was around long enough to play a vital role in United's Champions League win in 2008.
The Heart of Liverpool's Midfield
Liverpool is playing four across the middle here, but we will start with the central partnership.
First off, Steven Gerrrard is an automatic pick, plying his trade for his hometown club for most of his career, acting as captain and talisman for much of that time.
The man who plays alongside him is open to debate, but it is another from Liverpool's glory days who makes the cut here. Steve McMahon played for both Liverpool and Everton, making the trip across Stanley Park in the opposite direction to Ablett, via the diversion of a couple of seasons at Aston Villa.
After his time at Liverpool, he moved to Manchester City—something he shares with several players in this Liverpool XI.
He was an all-action midfielder and fond of a goal from distance. He was capped 17 times for England and won three league titles and three FA Cups with the then-dominant Liverpool he was a part of in the second half of the 1980s, including the double in 1985/86.
He would be a fine foil for Gerrard here, although they may need to agree upon which one stays and which one goes.
Arguably Manchester's strongest area of the pitch, this is dominated by United legends.
In holding midfield, Class of '92 alumnus Nicky Butt lines up alongside 1966 World Cup and 1968 European Cup winner Nobby Stiles. Stiles may not have a statue outside Old Trafford, but few would argue were he given one.
These two would make life difficult for Liverpool's talented midfield pairing, breaking up play with glee and abandon.
Another player who probably deserves a statue on the Old Trafford forecourt lines up ahead of them in attacking midfield.
Paul Scholes was one of the finest of his generation, a serial winner and prodigious talent. One of the best to play the game and the first name on Manchester's teamsheet.
He could feed the front three and take plenty of the chances which should fall to him.
The Liverpool Flanks
Another United legend features here, this time in the form of the wonderful right-winger Steve Coppell.
His then-manager, Tommy Docherty, described the Liverpool-born maestro as "one of the best players I ever had the privilege of working with," per United's official website.
I ranked him at No. 5 in United's top 10 wingers ever back in 2014.
On the opposite flank is another Champions League winner, who won his with Real Madrid. Steve McManaman completes Liverpool's all-Steve midfield, and the mercurial talents that earned him a place at the Santiago Bernabeu alongside some of the finest to play the game certainly earn him a place here.
Manchester's Front Three
Manchester's front-three is heavy on the sentimental choices.
First off, not so much for the achievements of his fledgling career so far, but rather to capture the spirit of young, dynamic and exciting Manchester-born footballers, we have Marcus Rashford.
The 19-year-old does not merit a place on lifetime achievement, but Rashford represents the best of homegrown Manchester football in 2017, and that deserves representation in this XI.
At the other end of the spectrum, and playing through the middle of the attack is a Greater Manchester icon—a Bolton one in particular. He is one of those footballers for whom the term often-overused word "legend" truly applies.
As BBC Sport noted following his death in 2011, Nat Lofthouse was more than just a player at Bolton Wanderers. "Lofthouse OBE, who worked for Bolton in a number of roles after he hung up his boots, also scored 30 goals in 33 matches for England. Those roles included chief coach, chief scout, caretaker and club president, with Lofthouse holding the last position until his death."
He would give Thompson and Carragher a hard time, and Warner would have to be on the look out for the kind of challenge Lofthouse infamously put in on United goalkeeper Harry Gregg in the 1958 FA Cup final. The Boltonian barged the Red Devils No. 1 into the net, but given it was 1958, the goal was allowed.
Finally, Manchester's last attacking spot is occupied by City legend Francis Lee. He joined City from Bolton in 1967, helping to propel them to the league title in 1967/68 and the FA Cup in 1969. He and Rashford could combine on either side of Lofthouse.
A surprising number of these selections are players who have thrived at clubs in the opposite city, and Wayne Rooney is one of those. Returning to his Merseyside roots, he could partner Robbie Fowler to spectacular effect.
While Rooney began his footballing life as an Evertonian, Fowler made his name for Liverpool.
It was unlikely that a player known by Anfield supporters as "God" would be left out here, and Rooney's status as United's joint-highest goalscorer made him an automatic selection, too.
Goalkeeper: Joe Corrigan
Right-back: Gary Neville
Centre-backs: Phil Jagielka, Wes Brown
Left-back: Phil Neville
Defensive midfield: Nobby Stiles, Nicky Butt
Attacking midfield: Paul Scholes
Front three: Marcus Rashford, Nat Lofthouse, Francis Lee
Goalkeeper: Tony Warner
Right-back: Chris Lawler
Left-back: Gary Ablett
Centre-backs: Jamie Carragher, Phil Thompson
Right-wing: Steve Coppell
Centre-midfield: Steven Gerrard, Steve McMahon
Left-wing: Steve McManaman
Centre-forwards: Wayne Rooney, Robbie Fowler
This is a tricky call.
Manchester looks like it has got its tactics right, with plenty of midfield cover available for the full-backs who will have their hands full with Liverpool's wingers. And their forwards could pose a threat to Liverpool's shaky goalkeeper.
In the end, though, the firepower of Liverpool's front two could win out. Manchester's centre-backs are not that strong, and Rooney and Fowler in their prime would be a devastating combination.
Much would depend on that midfield battle, but if the Merseysiders hold their own against Butt and Stiles, that might be enough to win it for Liverpool—just.