Footballing rivalries can do funny things. There are plenty of Evertonians that point-blank refuse to wear anything red, for example. Come Christmas time, they’ll genuinely buy blue Santa outfits rather than have to wear traditional ones. That Father Christmas has nothing to do with Liverpool Football Club is an irrelevance, for whatever reason they fear that if they wear the traditional red outfit then they’ll soon have to stop booing every time they go to Goodison or they won’t get irrationally excited over a corner. The idea of being seen to have anything to do with LFC terrifies them, so they avoid it at all cost. It’s fun to laugh at them, but Liverpool supporters aren’t immune from their own ridiculousness. I’ve seen grown men refer to Manchester United’s ground as ‘Old Toilet’, for example. Rivalries make you blinkered to certain things, willingly ignoring things at your own club whilst simultaneously criticising a team you don’t like for something similar.
Imagine slating Liverpool for finishing one point behind this incredible Manchester City side when everybody else is 20+ points behind. We’re the only reason it’s not becoming a one-team league.
— Matt (@FalseFMatt) May 18, 2019
This season has been the perfect example in many ways. Very real accusations about their financial dealings have been levelled at Manchester City to the point that most people simple accept that they’re true. Yet as Liverpool took them to the final day of the season in the race for the title, the majority of non-Reds in the country seemed to want Pep Guardiola’s side to win because our supporters enjoy celebrating the team doing well an would therefore be ‘unbearable’ if we won. Forget the unbearable nature of the Premier League turning into the sort of thing we see in France and Germany, with one dominant team buying all of the best players and everyone else playing for second-place, the blinkered nature of rivalry meant that people were happy to see a side with realistic accusations against it win their second title in a year. Yet as we all talk about how City are obsessed with us, aren’t we at risk of being accused of the same thing?
They Desperately Want A Rivalry
Manchester City will always see Manchester United as their main rivals, just as most Liverpool supporters will look at Everton in the same way. When a club is based in the same geographical location as you it’s impossible not to view them as the side you most want to beat and least want to see do well. Yet it says plenty about how fan Manchester United have fallen as a football club that City view them in the same way as we view the blues: an annoyance but not a threat. Right now, the club that Pep Guardiola calls his own is desperate to be seen as legitimate on the big stage. They don’t have the history of success that the likes of us and the Red Devils can boast, so the fans feel inferior and don’t know what to do with themselves. At the same time as the Spaniard asks why nobody is talking about his side’s historic achievement, everyone associated with Manchester is busy talking about us. They need a rivalry to make them feel legitimate, to give their success added meaning because buying success feels meaningless otherwise.
A Manchester City fan has just burst into the press seating area here at Wembley, and was being escorted away by security.
— Joe Prince-Wright (@JPW_NBCSports) May 18, 2019
They see Liverpool as their most likely challengers right now on the pitch, but more important than that is the fact that we have the unspoken thing that they don’t. Watch the trophy celebrations from the other night and compare that to when we won the Champions League in 2005. Even more than that, see how City’s fans acted when they won the Premier League again and see how Anfield responded to not winning it. We were more passionate in sending the players off to Madrid than the crowd at the Etihad was to have seen their side become the first team since their neighbours to win back-to-back titles. They don’t know how to act like a big club right now and they’re trying to engineer a rivalry with the team that look most likely to threaten their dominance, which is us. They had to perform at an incredible rate during the second-half of the season, losing just one of their final nineteen games, to make sure that they pipped us to the title, so it’s little wonder that they’re concerned by us right now.
We’re Just As Guilty Of Displaying Signs Of Obsession
Just as we can point to Man City constantly talking about us and referencing us in everything that they do, up to and including their players singing about us in the aftermath of winning the title, so too can their supporters point out that we seem to be talking about them all of the time. I’m just as guilty of it as anyone else. The problem is that when you watch your club miss out on its first title for nearly thirty years, it’s difficult not to feel bitter about why. When you start to look at the financial dealings of the Manchester club and the accusations that surround them, it’s difficult not to wonder whether things might have been different had the Football Association and Premier League been quicker to clamp down on what they’ve been up to.
They won the treble yesterday, already have one of the biggest squads in the country, have spent £1.3bn in a decade, and you’re actually hearing stories that they’ll look to bring in up to 4 “upgrades” this summer. If you can’t see a problem here, you’re blind (or a City fan).
— Mike Rotchburns (@seeingredonline) May 19, 2019
So whilst our supporters do talk about them almost as much as they talk about us, it is at least slightly more justifiable. As I saw Michael Lennon say on Twitter, it’s more impressive when you climb to the top of a mountain than when you’re flown up there, so it’s little wonder Liverpool fans are struggling to give City’s achievements much respect. My fear is that soon the lines become blurred and we’re just talking about them all the time in the same way that Evertonians talk about us. We run the risk of becoming obsessed about them in a manner not dissimilar to how we’re talking of their fans right now. If we win the Champions League, won’t some people take to social media to tweet City supporters about our success? It’s easy to imagine. Loyalty’s admirable, but if we want to live in our glass house we should be careful about throwing stones.