EPL: Manchester United Must Beat Liverpool To Have a Chance at Trophy

illya mclellan@illya mclellan @illbehaviorNZSenior Analyst IMarch 17, 2010

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 25:  Liverpool fans protest against the Club's owners prior to the Barclays Premier League match between Liverpool and Manchester United at Anfield on October 25, 2009 in Liverpool, England.  (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)
Michael Regan/Getty Images

With the sideshow that is the UEFA Champions League now over for a few weeks, the focus of the top sides will return to the league.

Manchester United have fought their way back to the top after a stuttering beginning which began to hint that perhaps the giants who stood astride Great Britain and the continental game were finally starting to fade, as giants often do.

Like great empires of the past, dynastic clubs often find themselves overstretched and troubled by administrative excess and spiralling costs. United are presently staring down the barrel of an immense debt, able to starve and bleed great institutions dry.

The silver lining at present is the club's form, which suggests the team is mustering an in-depth knowledge of itself, deriving confidence and swagger.

In the league they have been relatively ruthless, apart from a loss to Everton, who David Moyes also has in fine tune.

United have been able to stay in touch and then pull in front of Chelsea, although the Londoners have a precious game up their sleeves.

This has been achieved through the stellar form of Wayne Rooney, with able assistance from teammates Antonio Valencia and Dimitar Berbatov. Chelsea's inconsistency has helped United's cause, as Ancelotti's side have now thrown away at least three obvious chances to go several points ahead of the chasing pack.

This could be because of the league's quality across the board, but also hints at a weakening of the top sides. It could be thought that perhaps they have paid inflated amounts for players who are not up to the level that the better sides of the past few years, have been able to reach while smiting those below them with consummate ease.

There are certainly more games that go to the wire and more teams that have had success against clubs, that they previously have not enjoyed the taste of victory against, for up to two decades or more.

Burnley's win over United is memorable in that it sent a shudder through Manchester United and caused the rest of the league to wonder, while Fulham trounced the champions in London before the weekend's reversal evend out the score.

Wigan Athletic can also not be forgotten, a win at Villa Park on opening day, victories over Chelsea and Liverpool, they have certainly played very good football at times this season. Harry Redknapp has also sorted Tottenham Hotspur out in that he has finally got them playing to their potential on a more regular basis, including a nine to one demolition, of the aforementioned Wigan side.

So this season, along with the teams that regularly perform for parts of the fixture list, there have been others that have thrown their weight on occasion to really upset the order of things.

This weekend's games, sees the advent of one of the most famous fixtures in world football.

Manchester United welcome Liverpool to their lair and old tensions rise, as songs from the past are sung and players feel the weight of history fall across their shoulders as they stride onto the hallowed turf of Old Trafford.

Who could forget the slaughter that was engaged in by a rampaging Liverpool last season? Liverpool had at the time been struggling for form and were thought to be about to have the death blow dealt to their title hopes by a Manchester United side that was riding high in Europe and the league.

Sounds strangely similar actually.

Could this be the fixture in which the reds of Anfield spark their revival with them again? While last season they certainly had not had such trouble as has befallen them this season to deal with, they are currently languishing in a position on the table they have never been accustomed too.

The home victory over Portsmouth will certainly provide a platform for them going into the match at Old Trafford, as will the thought of the last two occasions they have played United in the league.

Fernando Torres and Steven Gerrard are both playing and Alberto Aquilani has started to finally show the form that caught Benitez's eye in the first place. The defensive unit seems to be regaining composure. The worrying thing is Benitez's cautious approach. The Wigan game showed him to be overly concerned with the defensive aspect of his side at the cost of fluency going forward and chance creation.

Ferguson would be expected to attack, though it is really only Ferguson who ever knows what side he will go with in really big games. With his attackers becoming almost telepathically knowledgeable of each others runs recently there is every chance they could take their vengeance.

Liverpool though, are definitely a big game side, the core of the team have played huge games together and know the way such games can be won.

It is Manchester United verses Liverpool, Ferguson verses Benitez, a showcase of English football, featuring players from around the globe. Fixtures like this are the reason club football has usurped the international game as the most popular form of the game on earth.

This weekend the eyes of millions will be focused on the image of Old Trafford, to watch their heroes do battle, the players who for an hour and a half become demi-gods.

Able to inspire, create and destroy, such things as hope, glory and despair, the ball like the winds of fate whistling on its own course, and all involved hoping it will move toward their version of victory.