You’ve just finished that third and final pint in your local boozer before heading off into the afternoon sunshine to watch your side take on your biggest rival. In England, it doesn’t come much bigger than Manchester United v.s Liverpool for sheer passion, hatred and high tempo football match. So it did come as a surprise that the Manchester United v.s Liverpool derby was only considered the 28th greatest derby in the world by World Soccer magzine, behind the mighty Kaizer Chiefs v.s Orlando Pirates.
Seriously though, how can the United Liverpool match be ranked at 28th in the world? I’ve never seen such a hostile environment which is driven by the desire to be considered the best team in the land. Of course hatred doesn’t just make a derby exciting to watch; you need to have the whole package – which does include history. Historical statistics provide an insightful view into the understanding of what it means to win a match against Liverpool. The two clubs have contested 175 football matches to date, the first being a 2-0 defeat in 1894 – when United were known as Newton Heath. Since that game, United have won 68 of those 175 games whilst Liverpool have won 57 – a statistics that summarises the record Manchester United had over Liverpool in the 1980’s when Liverpool were at their most powerful. So its clear to see how much this game means to the fans in terms of tradition and historical value, then there is the bragging rights.
There is no doubt which set of fans can claim to be the best football team in Europe at the moment, although when this is brought up the Scouse cry’s of “18-5″ ring out. To be honest, this isn’t a post about comparing triumphs (or past triumphs in Liverpool’s case), it is merely looking at the history of achievements to add weight to the fact that this derby should be much higher than 28th. Manchester United, three times European Cup winners and the first English side to lift trophy against Liverpool the five times European Cup winners. Add the domestic success and you can see clearly how successful both sides are. The article comments on Ferguson’s loathing for Liverpool but also his respect for them in terms of European achievements.
So looking up the list, a task that Liverpool fans should find quite familiar, you see a wide range of games spanning from all over the world. Now, this is not a narrow minded view to not accept the quality, history and tradition behind other big derbies. Of course they mean a lot to their fans and of course there is wide spread interest in the football world when these matches are played – but my argument is that United against Liverpool should be much higher than 28th. Barcelona v.s Real Madrid is ranked the greatest derby in the world, followed by River against Boca and then predictably Celtic v.s Rangers. To be honest, I wouldn’t disagree with either of those choices. Barcelona v.s Real Madrid is a massive, massive game that is watched by millions throughout the world. Two top footballing clubs that offer some of the greatest players in the world, is only one aspect that makes this game fascinating. No other game in Europe mixes both politics and football to such an extent as these two. Barcelona – the oppressed Catalonians against the centralism ruling of Franco’s Real Madrid. I won’t dwell too much on this as there really is just too much to cover – but the documentaries i’ve seen on the history of these two clubs is quite extraordinary. The conspiracy theories of refs favouring Madrid, the transfer saga of Di Stefano and the rivalry that even involved the Spanish civil war that started in 1936. The second in the list, Di Stefano’s old club River Plate and Maradona’s Boca, is again a fascinating football spectacle that battles the working class Boca Juniors and slightly stuffy River Plate. The first official game played was in 1908 – across the dockyard apparently. Boca have always had the aura of ‘working class boy done good’ with outstanding players over the years such as our very own Carlos Tevez, Diego Maradona , Claudio Caniggia, Gabriel Batistuta (having played for both River and Boca) and Juan Román Riquelme. River Plate, who have always been referred to as the better footballing side, constantly mock Boca in terms of achievements (River lead by 33 to 22) and Boca immigrant roots. Lastly, the Celtic v.s Rangers match that whether the Old firm like it or not remains inexorably linked to Northern Ireland politics. Whenever religion is involved there is always going to be fireworks and there are similarities with the Barca Madrid matches with one side showing loyalty to the nation and another’s struggle with oppression. I would not argue with WS about the top three.
Below is the list above Manchester United v.s Liverpool and I have highlighted the games in which I believe should not be higher:
1. Real Madrid vs Barcelona (Spain)
2. Boca Juniors vs River Plate (Argentina)
3. Celtic vs Rangers (Scotland)
4. Galatasaray vs Fenerbahce (Turkey)
5. Ajax vs Feyenoord (Netherlands)
6. Lazio vs Roma (Italy)
7. Shalke vs Borussia Dortmund (Germany)
8. Al Ahly vs Zamalek (Egypt)
9. Betis vs Sevilla (Spain)
10. Partizan Belgrade vs Red Star Belgrade (Serbia)
11. Marseille vs Paris St. Germain (France)
12. Juventus vs Fiorentina (Italy)
13. Flamengo vs Vasco da Gama (Brazil)
14. Olympiacos vs Panathanaikos (Greece)
15. Milan vs Internazionale (Italy)
16. Athletic Bilbao vs Real Sociedad (Spain)
17. Benfica vs Porto (Portugal)
18. Coirinthians vs Sao Paulo (Brazil)
19. Racing Club vs Independiente (Argentina)
20. America vs Guadalajara (Mexico)
21. Nacional vs Penarol (Uruguay)
22. Pirouzi vs Esteghlal (Iran)
23. Spartak Moscow vs CSKA Moscow (Russia)
24. Steaua Bucharest vs Dinamo Bucharest (Romania)
25. Kaizer Chiefs vs Orlando Pirates (South Africa)
26. Slave Prague vs Sparta Prague (Czech Republic)
27. Corinthians vs Santos (Brazil)
28. Liverpool vs Manchester United (England)
I do believe that more weight should be placed on games that are played in Europe and South America. Some people may find that quite arrogant but when assessing the history and tradition of football you see how important Europe and South America are to the development of the game. As mentioned before historical achievements in quality tournaments is also a bench mark – so therefore the Champions League and Libertadores Cup are head and shoulders above any Asia or North American competition. For these reasons, I find it hard to see why the game is not ranked higher. A lot of discussion on the forums and blogs have suggested that the game should not even be included due to the fact that the game doesn’t constitute to a derby because both clubs are not from the same city. A derby is a game in which two teams from a specific area play rather than a specific city. Liverpool and Manchester are 33 miles apart – from Sir Matt Busby Way to Anfield Road – and rivalry is fierce between the two cities. So this factor doesn’t really come into it.
So to conclude, the game should be ranked higher than it currently is. 28th position slightly belittles the match and placing the Cairo derby in 9th is hard to believe. We all think our club is the best in the world and we’re all proud to belong to the club, but this isn’t a argument to promote how great Manchester United is. It’s a argument to state that the Manchester United v.s Liverpool rivalry should be considered one of the most fierce and passionate games in the world. It may not have the political mashup of Barca and Madrid or the battle of the classes like Boca and River but in terms of history, tradition, achievements and standard of football – the game should be ranked much higher.
So what do you think? Make sure to leave a comment if you disagree or agree with the argument. Am I naively writing off these games? Should I experience these games live before commenting on the derbies?
Boca and River, Manchester United and Liverpool? Bollocks to that we’re off to Cairo.