What makes a good football rivalry? Well, great players. Iconic moments in a said rivalry that live long in the mind. Competition over a sustained period of time. Memorable goals. A compelling backstory for why the rivalry exists.
And that is exactly what the Arsenal-Manchester United rivalry of the late 1990s and early 2000s had in abundance. The Premier League hasn’t seen a rivalry as fierce or competitive as that since, and it likely won’t ever again. But with the recent dominance of Manchester City and Liverpool in the English game, is this fixture now better than the Arsenal-Man Utd one of years gone by? With recent discourse in the press and on social media suggesting exactly that, here is why that is wrong…
First of all, this is in no way a dig at either Liverpool or City. They are both fantastic sides with equally fantastic players, and they have both been a credit to themselves and as representatives of the Premier League. They have produced squads that are in the conversation for arguably the greatest Premier League sides of all time.
City and Liverpool have battled it out over the last few years and given us great matches, but their matchups are missing the things that make it a fierce rivalry. Their matches lack intensity and animosity on the pitch. It is a one-sided rivalry, with City hoovering up most of the trophies won by the two clubs.
The backstory for why the rivalry exists is missing – Arsene Wenger surprisingly knocked Sir Alex Ferguson and Manchester United off their perch as undisputed champions of England when he arrived at Arsenal from Japanese club Nagoya Grampus, and both clubs’ subsequent challenging for the Premier League over the coming years is what really started their rivalry.
Rangers and Celtic’s rivalry is steeped in religious divides, the footballing philosophy of blooding youngsters versus buying ready-made stars of Barcelona and Real Madrid, for example. What is the story of Liverpool vs City?