Sunday lunchtime sees the resumption of English football’s greatest rivalry as Manchester United travel to Liverpool. Eight European cups and 38 league trophies come crashing against each other once again at Anfield, yet there is no pot of silverware at the end of this clash. Instead this is, in effect, a straight shoot-out for fourth place – the artificial top four trophy that has helped give the Premier League some meaning in a year devoid of competition at the very top of the table.
It is a strange scenario that this rivalry is entering: with fewer than 10 games left in the season neither side is vying for domestic glory for the first time in at least a generation. Is this a glimpse into the future of a rivalry that has dominated the landscape of the English game?
Whatever the trajectory of the two clubs over the next few seasons, there is little doubt that they operate in a different ballpark to the two behemoths of English football right now – Chelsea and Manchester City.
The traditional definition of a rivalry in football begins with geography and sociology, and Liverpool and Manchester United’s has had these undercurrents driving it for the past century. But the success each side has enjoyed has elevated it to an even greater status.