Manchester United could be as many as ten points clear at the top of the English Premier League after matches at the weekend. However, they are relying on a huge favour from their bitterest rivals if they are to establish that advantage.
After Manchester City could only draw with Queens Park Rangers on Tuesday evening United are four points ahead of that side before of Wednesday’s home match against Southampton. Alex Ferguson’s team visit Fulham in Saturday and that side are on a poor run of form.
Even if United play averagely they should be able to pick up maximum points from those matches. That means Manchester City must beat Liverpool at home to keep the difference between the two sides at seven points.
United and Liverpool are the two most successful clubs in the history of English football. The rivalry is intensified by the fact that the cities of Manchester and Liverpool are just 35 miles apart in the North West of England.
When the Manchester Ship Canal was built at the end of the 19th century it took trade away from Liverpool so there is also a historical and geographical element to the rivalry.
Liverpool dominated English football in the 1970s and 1980s. They won eleven of their 18 league championships in that era. They also won the European Cup four times, and their success in Europe was only halted by the consequences of the Heysel football stadium disaster when fans of Juventus died after crushing at the match.
Ferguson’s stated aim when he was appointed the Manchester United manager in 1986 was to knock Liverpool off their perch. That was finally achieved in 2011, when United won their 19th league title to go one ahead of Liverpool in the history of the competition.
United lost the league to local rivals City on goal difference last season. Ferguson vowed this would never happen again under his tenure so he bought Robin Van Persie (pictured playing for Holland) from Arsenal to boost his attack. Van Persie is currently the highest scorer in the league, and looks like he’s one the way being named the Footballer of the Year.
Another title will be almost certainly be secured if Liverpool beat Manchester City. Liverpool are desperate for the points after losing to Oldham Athletic in the FA Cup last weekend, but the fans know that by beating City they will have virtually handed the title to United.