Manchester United and Liverpool take the field Saturday in what is expected to be yet another highly charged encounter. It is arguably one of the biggest rivalries in English club football, and ranks among the best in the world.
A couple of things have combined to make this a spicy treat. Liverpool legend Kenny Dalglish (a.k.a "King Kenny") retook the reins of the club he helped steer to a record 18 league titles before stepping down. In the following period that spanned close to 20 years, Manchester United rose to supremacy, culminating in a 19th league title that relegated Liverpool to "2nd best" status.
Secondly, United has yet to take maximum points - or a single point, for that matter - at Anfield since a 1-0 win back in 2007. Liverpool is currently riding a 3 game winning streak after taking the honors 3-1 in their last meeting. In that match, new signing Luis Suarez masterfully shredded United's defense, while Dirk Kuyt pounced on every opportunity to help himself to a hat-trick; a feat that only a handful of players from either team can claim in these derbies.
Dalglish is doing his best to downplay the importance of this encounter, stating that it's just another chance for the Reds, who are currently in 5th place, to move within 3 points of their rivals. If he was in charge of any other team, like Newcastle or Aston Villa, I might take him at his word; but as long as he is patrolling the sidelines at Anfield? Nice try, sir!
It's true that Liverpool vs. Manchester United is just a game; but only paper. You can bet when the FA releases the schedule prior to every season, fans and players alike circle their calendars and count down the days leading up to kickoff. Sir Alex Ferguson has never hidden his dislike for Liverpool, and the fans of either team have yet to be seeing swapping roses in the stands.
Even though Liverpool has already lost 2 games, they are in a far much better position now than at the same time last season. It may still be early in the season, but the momentum they could gain by taking all 3 points against their bitter rival would be immeasurable. A loss would put quite a dent on their title aspirations when you take into consideration the kind of form that both Manchester City and Chelsea are enjoying.
United have got off to a flying start this season, but other than a 5-0 win demolishing of Bolton, they still haven't looked that good in games away from Old Trafford, managing only 5 (!!) away wins last season. They struggled against West Brom before a late own goal sealed a 2-1 win, while they dropped their first points of the season in a 1-1 draw against Stoke City.
This will be United's biggest road test so far, and with "noisy neighbors" Manchester City hot on their heels, winning would be a big boost in the lead up to the Manchester Derby next week. While 3 points is the desired result, claiming them in dominant fashion will be United's way of making a statement as a force to reckon with away from home.
So no matter how much Dalglish is trying to pass this off as just "another game" and a chance at "three points", even he knows that his own players, let alone United's, are looking at it a tad differently.