Tim Howard: Liverpool vs. Everton 'Thousand Times Better' Than Manchester Derby

James Dudko@@JamesDudkoFeatured ColumnistDecember 4, 2019

Everton's US goalkeeper Tim Howard reacts during the English Premier League football match between Everton and Norwich City at Goodison Park in Liverpool, north west England on May 15, 2016. / AFP / PAUL ELLIS / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE. No use with unauthorized audio, video, data, fixture lists, club/league logos or 'live' services. Online in-match use limited to 75 images, no video emulation. No use in betting, games or single club/league/player publications.  /         (Photo credit should read PAUL ELLIS/AFP via Getty Images)
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Tim Howard believes Manchester United taking on Manchester City can't compare as a fixture to Liverpool meeting Everton. 

Former Toffees goalkeeper Howard told TalkSport's Sean O'Brien how the Merseyside derby far outstrips Manchester's neighbourhood rivalry: "It will always be the biggest game. The Merseyside derby is the greatest game I've ever played in. It's a thousand times better than the Manchester derby. Anyone who tells you differently is just pulling your leg."

Howard's made his claim ahead of UEFA Champions League holders Liverpool hosting Everton at Anfield on Wednesday. It's the first Merseyside derby of the 2019/20 Premier League campaign, with City and United set to renew hostilities at the Etihad Stadium on Saturday.

Howard is in an optimum position to make such a judgement since the 40-year-old played in both games. He spent four seasons with United, before helping Everton reach the 2009 FA Cup final during a nine-year spell on the blue half of Merseyside:

Liverpool FC @LFC

What. A. Finish. 🤩 A brilliant @DanielSturridge strike on derby day ⚽️ https://t.co/wDOUZYw4fz

The idea Liverpool's derby exceeds local animosities in Manchester will be a contentious one for many. For one thing, the Manchester derby has generally had more at stake in recent years.

City and United began contesting the title once the former were boosted by the lucrative investment of Sheikh Mansour. New money meant the Citizens challenged and eventually usurped United's dominance of England's top flight, with the two clubs trading the title during the 2011/12 and 2012/13 campaigns, with Roberto Mancini and Sir Alex Ferguson in charge of the respective clubs.

City became the team to beat from 2013 onwards, winning the title in 2014, 2018 and 2019. By contrast, United entered a period of decline, with David Moyes, Louis van Gaal, Jose Mourinho and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer struggling to replicate Ferguson's success.

Even so, City's position as the champions-elect under Manuel Pellegrini then Pep Guardiola made sure this derby retained its credibility. The latter's rivalry with Mourinho ensured it was still a box-office fixture, with United coming from 2-0 down to score a notable 3-2 win at the Etihad in 2018.

Manchester City @ManCity

The 179th Manchester Derby... It's in the fabric of who we are 💪 🔵 #ManCity #MCIMUN 🔴 https://t.co/buvDhpkM42

Yet while the Manchester derby has gained credibility in recent years, Howard believes its Merseyside counterpart has greater historical credence:

"When you talk about the Merseyside derby, it goes back forever and ever in the top-flight. Manchester City were a yo-yo club for a very long time. City fans won't like me saying that, but the facts are there.

There was a long time when the Manchester derby wasn't in the top-flight and that takes a little bit of lustre off. Of course, now that there's big money getting pumped in, it's created that buzz again. It's brought that alive again. It's still special. I'm going to watch it and people will enjoy it. But if you're talking about the best one, it's Merseyside."

The ante has been upped this season with Liverpool in a commanding position to win a top-flight league title for the first time since 1990. The Reds will enter Wednesday's game eight points clear of Manchester City at the top of the table and 22 ahead of bitter rivals United, who sit 10th.

Liverpool's title bid has put more emphasis on this derby, while the future of Toffees' boss Marco Silva adds another intriguing subplot. Silva is under pressure with Everton just two points above the bottom three, and the club is considering an approach for former Villarreal and Valencia boss Marcelino Garcia Toral, according to MailOnline's Matt Barlow.

Liverpool FC @LFC

A super Sadio special against @Everton 👌 #LIVEVE https://t.co/JlnyNRpixY

Saturday's meeting in Manchester won't prove anywhere near as significant, with Guardiola saying "the title is over," per Jamie Jackson of the Guardian. Meanwhile, United remain a long shot to finish in the top four and book a place in next season's Champions League.

There is more riding on this particular meeting of Merseyside rivals than there has been on most occasions in recent years. Liverpool's ascent to the top of the domestic and European games has put their local battles firmly back in the spotlight.