THE biggest game of the season is upon us.
That is an opinion, not a fact. Some, particularly those who have had what some would call the displeasure of growing up around Evertonians, will disagree — or agree that it may be classed as bigger but that doesn’t necessarily make it mean more to individuals.
For me, having grown up around Manchester United fans, throughout school, at work and at home, tomorrow’s clash between The Reds (the actual, real life ones kitted out in all red) and The Red Devils (white shorts, black socks) is the biggest in the football calendar.
Having been born in the summer of 1995, I have only ever known Premier League football. While I can admire with hindsight the achievements of Liverpool sides before my time, I have only several big Liverpudlian achievements to look back on in my lifetime.
Throughout that time, Manchester United have 11 league titles. They’ve won four FA Cups. Four League Cups. The bastards have even managed two Champions League wins in that time. I have grown up in the midst of Manc dominance.
I’ve seen their teams decorated with superstars. I’ve seen some superstars in the red of Liverpool too, but not nearly as frequently have those lads had silverware to hoist above their heads in May. No less the big one.
And in all that I’ve had to deal with crowing Manc upon crowing Manc. School. Work. Home. I’ve been surrounded by them and their medals and their success.
I know a lot of Liverpool supporters who grew up when Everton were a force. Who witnessed on many occasions, the rivals of this city going toe to toe for major honours, taking part in huge games. I can count on one hand the amount of Liverpool-Everton games I have witnessed which have had so much riding on them. Everton, in my lifetime at least, have always been in the shadow of The Reds. A shadow even blue tarpaulin couldn’t block out.
Everton have had few superstars to call on. Tim Cahill and Mikel Arteta two that immediately spring to mind. Wayne Rooney was and then he defected. Took the short trip down the East Lancs. Romelu Lukaku has now done the same — once a Blue etc…
I haven’t seen Everton win a single trophy. They haven’t. Not since May 1995. Not in my lifetime. The Blues have only ever finished ahead of The Reds three times during that spell. One of those preceding the greatest night of my, and so many others, Liverpool-supporting life. One of the others our worst Premier League finish. They managed to not be quite as shit in the league those years. But they have been uniformly shitter almost every other time, sometimes by quite a distance.
It’s only recently that I have begun to get so much of a sense of what makes the Merseyside derby what it is. Living and working in the city does that. You see what drives the passion in these games and makes the rivalry between the two sets of supporters so strong. I understand for some they can’t see past that, even when The Red Devils are in town.
It’s obviously OK to hate them both. I do. But years of watching Manchester United win trophy after trophy, years of taking stick from crowing Mancs — and they love to crow — that’s enough to make the hatred stronger than any other.
Often history was the only thing to call on. Eighteen league titles, how many have you got? Most decorated team in England, how about you? But even then that got taken away. It became 20 times — 20 pissing times — Manchester United. They became the most decorated team in England. The crowing intensified.
I had my moments. Peter Crouch in the FA Cup one to go back at them with. Ryan Babel, and the Old Trafford 4-1 of 2008-9. David N’Gog and Pepe Reina running the length of the pitch. Dirk Kuyt’s hat trick of tap ins — the best kind of hat trick, a collective number of who gives a fuck yards. Kuyt’s winner in the FA Cup. Ste Gerrard’s penalties and Luis Suarez rounding it off. The Europa League win. David Moyes and Louis van Gaal doing the best they could to tear it all down. Those memories stay.
But I don’t need reminding that they’ve had many more. As fellow Anfield Wrap contributor Ben Johnson said in his Monday column, they’ve subconsciously been pushed to the depths of my mind. Filed under “them pricks being pricks”.
If form does go out the window in these games, I’ve not seen it often enough. I want more than anything to see form go out the window this time. Ninety minutes of form, negativity, shit defending, chances being spurned and Jose Mourinho successfully silencing Anfield all opening the window and taking the leap out.
Manchester United think they’re the real deal at the moment, as they have been for too many of my 22 years. Let’s get right behind our Reds. Let Liverpool show us, and everybody else, that they are capable of competing.
Nothing is bigger than Manchester United at Anfield for me. This is THE game.
The form’s out the window. Let’s get into these, Reds.
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