Are Manchester City Ready To Take Over From Manchester United As Liverpool's Main Rivals?

Andy Dillon by Andy Dillon / 02 January 2019, 10:22

LIVERPOOL fans driving to Manchester City’s Etihad Stadium tomorrow night will pass Old Trafford some way off to the right.

It might stretch a point and the eyesight to be able to see English football’s biggest stadium standing empty but the symbolism should not be disregarded.

The match between third-placed City and unbeaten Premier League leaders Liverpool has been billed as the biggest of the season so far.

A win for Liverpool clears a major obstacle between them and a first Premier League title. Even a draw is handy enough.

There's all the ingredients modern football demands for a ‘blockbuster’ clash: two teams chock full of international stars, two managers at the top of their games possessing colourful characters, vital points up for grabs. And of course an array of TV cameras.

Despite all this there is a bigger question to ask whether City could ever replace Manchester United as Liverpool’s fiercest and most ferocious rivals?

A quick look through history suggests the fractious relationship between Liverpool and Man Utd goes wider than football. It is down to industrial competition because the two cities are just 35 miles apart.

The construction of the Manchester Ship Canal in the 19th century was supposedly opposed by Liverpudlian politicians as it would give their neighbours an economic advantage and so bred resentment.

And as always feisty dock workers are blamed for the traditional animosity  - just like the seething relationship between West Ham and Millwall. Liverpool’s emergence as a major sea port was apparently another weapon of war between the two northern powerhouses.

All of which, and more, suggests there should be just as much dislike and disrespect aimed in the direction of Manchester City as there is towards United.

But with the stumbling giants at Old Trafford currently an irrelevance in terms of league titles, can the match between Liverpool and Manchester City represent a seismic shift in the north west England Cold War?

There's nowt wrong with spiky rivalries as long as they are kept within the limits of reasonable behaviour. Football is nothing without them despite the best efforts of global business to turn our national game into a tourist attraction and 21st century consumer experience.

The only problem for Manchester City is that nobody really dislikes them. Yes. it’s great to see them brought down a peg or two for the sake of fair competition.

But do they really incite the kind of widespread hostility that was once universally trained on Manchester United from all points outside Salford?

Another quick check tells you that no player has been directly transferred between Liverpool and Manchester United since the 1964 transfer of Phil Chisnall.

Three and a bit years ago Raheem Sterling quit Liverpool to join City in a highly publicised and protracted £49 million deal - underlining the feeling that economics beats local passion between these two clubs.

But if Manchester United are unable to arise from their slumber any time soon, and that is a distinct possibility despite the recent temporary upturn in results, where do Liverpool go to feed on the antipathy that fuels so many fantastic football matches and long term dynasties?

Liverpool’s rivalry against Manchester United had been built on both teams enjoying respective periods of dominance in the game, edging each other out narrowly in the hunt for trophies, with big-character managers symbolising each club.

Liverpool’s continued working class bedrock of support demands success in the old-fashioned way, with local pride still showing a band of modern-day foreign footballers the way.

The Rivalry with United stretches back into the depths of time and it cannot be easily replaced by a City team which has recently become Manchester’s banner wavers.

But it might have to.

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