English football’s two most successful clubs meet again in the Premier League this weekend when Manchester United face north-west rivals Liverpool at Old Trafford tomorrow.
And for United great Paul Scholes, no other fixture quite comes close even though it’s now 23 years since Liverpool were last crowned champions of England.
In that time United have surpassed what was Liverpool’s national record of 18 championship titles, although the Merseysiders still have the edge when it comes to the Champions League, having lifted the European Cup five times compared to the Old Trafford club’s three final victories.
However, there is no denying the current domestic gap between the two clubs with Premier League leaders United a huge 21 points in front of eighth-placed Liverpool heading into tomorrow’s match. United’s closest pursuers are cross-town rivals Manchester City, the reigning English champions. City, too, are in action tomorrow but could be 10 points behind by the time they kick-off against Arsenal if United beat Liverpool.
Now, as was the case in the late 1960s, the Manchester derby has become a pivotal fixture in the destiny of the title, with Chelsea key players as well, but for 38-year-old midfielder Scholes, who came out of retirement last season, the rivalry created by the Liverpool match still matters. “Liverpool historically are our biggest rivals, they’re always the biggest games and the best atmospheres,” Scholes told Inside United magazine.
Tomorrow’s match will be the first time United have met Liverpool at Old Trafford since Luis Suarez refused to shake Patrice Evra’s hand in last season’s corresponding fixture. However, the pair did manage to get through the return clash at Anfield in September without incident. “Last year it was unfortunate with the Suarez behaviour,” said United manager Alex Ferguson. “I think hopefully it is behind both clubs now and we can just look forward to the game.”
Liverpoool great Steven Gerrard would love nothing more than to bolster a seasonal tally of four goals in 21 EPL appearances thus far by scoring at Old Trafford and the midfielder believes he’s nearing top form. “I think my performances are getting closer to where I want them to be so if I can add goals to those performances then maybe people will start saying the old Steven Gerrard is back,” he said.