x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Shared history shrinks gulf between Manchester United and Liverpool

Although the balance of power has shifted between the two clubs the rivalry remains as strong as ever.

Liverpool fans hope to beat Manchester United.
Liverpool fans hope to beat Manchester United.

Liverpool v Manchester United is the biggest rivalry in English football, and one that usually throws form and league standing out of the window.

With 72 victories to Liverpool's 62, Manchester United boast a superior head-to-head record. United have been particularly dominant in the Premier League era, with 21 wins to Liverpool's 11 (and eight draws). United's 12 titles to Liverpool's zero during this period is the most glaring statistic.

Chelsea, Arsenal, Leeds United, Blackburn Rovers and Manchester City may have all won the title since Liverpool's last triumph 22 years ago yet there are no signs of the rivalry losing any of its spark.

Recent games at Anfield in particular, have seen Liverpool dominate, winning four and drawing one of the last five meetings. United's last victory came courtesy of a lone Carlos Tevez goal in December 2007.

Why is the rivalry so intense? Their proximity - the two cities are just 35 miles apart - is part of the reason as is the fact that both clubs are extremely well supported, in England and overseas.

United didn't win the league between 1967 and 1993 and yet still considered Liverpool their main rivals. Liverpool won everything and yet equally viewed United as their main foes.

There have been times when Manchester City and Everton have been the most successful clubs in each city, yet United v Liverpool has always been the game that mattered.

Despite their recent decline - only one top-three finish since 2008 - Liverpool are the only English club who can come close to matching United's global appeal.

"I've travelled and lived around the world and always find that there are more Liverpool fans wherever I go," said Gary Whelan, drummer in the legendary Manchester pop band The Happy Mondays and a lifelong United fan.

The figures are disputed and vary according to each country, but United and Liverpool are far more popular than the rest.

In Scandinavia, for example, where English football has a vast, fanatical following, United are the most popular with 44,444 paid up members in their official supporters' club. Liverpool are second with 37,598 and, despite their poor form, added more new members than any other club last season.

Arsenal, the third most popular club, trail well behind the big two with 5,972. Manchester City, last year's champions, boast just 1,567.

Judged by revenues and recent success, United are now in a different league from Liverpool, with their annual revenue nearly twice that of Liverpool's.

On paper, United should be favourites too. They are fifth in the table whereas Liverpool are third bottom and have yet to win. But tell that to the United fans who will be more uneasy about travelling to Anfield today than any other ground.

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