Why Liverpool FC-Manchester United rivalry's glory days seem far away

Marcus White

The rivalry between Liverpool FC and Manchester United is the English Premier League equivalent of the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox

The northern rivals have combined to win nearly one-third of England's top-flight titles, and nobody in England has won more times than either club. 

"Manchester United against Liverpool was, in the late '90s and early 2000s, the chef's kiss of Premier League games," "Men in Blazers" co-host Roger Bennett told NBC Sports Bay Area. "The battle to see who would be the 'King of the North.' Thirty-eight titles between them, Manchester United played as if it was always their title by divine right."

The context surrounding Sunday's match at Manchester's Old Trafford is just a bit different than the rivalry's heyday. As it stands between the two right now, it's as if the Red Sox -- or, to be accurate, Fenway Sports Group -- own the Yankees and the Red Sox have become the New York Knicks

Liverpool, fresh off an English-record sixth Champions League title, can be eight points clear of second place with a win over its rivals at Anfield. Manchester United, meanwhile, is closer to the top of the spending table than the one on the field, as the Red Devils enter Sunday in 14th place with only nine points from eight games. 

Dating back to last season, the Reds have won 17 consecutive Premier League matches. In parts of four seasons, manager Jurgen Klopp has charted Liverpool's rise back into title contention, putting the club in perhaps its best position to win a title during the Premier League era.

That's no small feat considering what Liverpool once was and that the Reds have not won a first-division title -- Premier League or otherwise -- since the 1989-90 season. 

"Liverpool used to win almost every year when I was a kid," Bennett recalled of his time growing up in the city. "They have dreamt of it for 30 years -- a barren spell like no other in their history. This season, they are top of the table, undefeated. They've won every game. Their fans are starting to dream of a championship parade."

On paper, Manchester United has the star power to compete with, if not rival, Liverpool's. Goalkeeper David de Gea and midfielder Paul Pogba are among the best in the world at their respective positions, while Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford are prolific young forwards. All but De Gea have missed time through injury -- as has splash summer signing Aaron Wan-Bissaka, a promising young right back -- and the Red Devils haven't won a Premier League match in over a month. 

Manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, a key component of United's dynastic run at the turn of the century, has led his longtime club to just four wins in their last 16 league matches. The Red Devils already are eight points back of fourth and face an uphill climb just to qualify for the Europa League. 

"Manchester United are limping into this game," Bennett said. "Possibly the only joy their fans will see is if they destroy the dreams of Liverpool this weekend."

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Still, United have not lost to Liverpool at home this decade. Last season's draw at Old Trafford likely is a result the Reds look back on with regret after finishing four points back of title-winning Manchester City last season. 

In a rivalry as big as this one, playing spoiler is no small consideration. But considering where both clubs stand in the sport's history, those aren't the same stakes either side is used to.

Why Liverpool FC-Manchester United rivalry's glory days seem far away originally appeared on NBC Sports Bay Area