Who Are Liverpool’s Rivals In The Modern Era?

As anyone who Liverpool’s rivals are and ninety-nine percent of people will mention either Everton or Manchester United. In a very real sense they would be right, but do either of those answers take into account the modern state of play in football? Obviously geography will always mean that there is something special about beating Everton, especially for those that live in and around the city. Having to go into work, school or even just to the local pub in the wake of a Merseyside derby is so much more fun if you’ve seen the Reds defeat our Blue brethren. Yet in a real sense, Everton haven’t really been any of Liverpool’s business for several decades. Even when they finished above us in the 2004-2005 campaign, we won the Champions League in the most incredible way possible, completely undermining their achievement. Since then, the only time they’ve managed to beat us at Anfield was when there were no fans there to see it happen, so did it really?

Geography is a huge part of any rivalry, but there’s a reason that Liverpool were always considered Manchester United’s main rivals prior to Manchester City being bought by Sheikh Mansour. Success is one of the key factors in any rivalry, which is at least part of the reason why Tranmere Rovers are never part of any conversation around the club’s rivalries. With that in mind, are the Red Devils still our main rivals from the city of Manchester? Since Alex Ferguson’s departure from Old Trafford, United have struggled to remain relevant. When they defeated Ajax to win the Europa League in 2017, the entire thing was overshadowed by the appalling football that they were playing under José Mourinho. A year later we’d made it back to the Champions League final and a year after that we’d won ol’ Big Ears for the sixth time, proving that we were operating on a different playing field to them. Many Reds don’t like to admit it, but aren’t City are main rivals now?

How Do You Define A Rival?

The biggest question that needs to be answered in order to have an understanding of the teams that we should be calling our rivals is how, exactly, you define that word. According to Merriam-Webster, the definition is ‘one of two or more striving to reach or obtain something that only one can possess’. Following that definition, it obviously makes sense to say that Everton are still our rivals because we both want dominance in the city. That being said, given they have effectively been an irrelevance since the 1980s in any truly competitive manner, is it really a competition? We are clearly the dominant force in Liverpool in any meaningful sense, so are they really our rivals? Yes, losing to them in the derby hurts and is not something that we want to experience all that often, but thankfully we haven’t and there is little to suggest that we’re going to in the future. As long as we’ve got Jürgen Klopp in charge, we’ll be well-placed to be in a different league to them.

Manchester United are much better placed to be actual rivals to us in terms of trophies, but they are the opposite of Everton right now insomuch as their manager is a joke. Ole Gunnar Solksjaer is not a serious manager in any way, shape or form, so it would be untrue to fear them as long as he’s in the dugout. They actually do have a relatively decent squad that could be genuine title-challengers if they had someone in the manager’s position that knew what they were doing. As long as that is not the case, however, I refuse to acknowledge them as actual rivals in a sporting sense. The geography still matters, as does the history, meaning that they’ll always be our rivals in some sense. Whilst they were winning the Premier League year after year under Ferguson, we remained the club they wanted to defeat the most, despite the likes of Arsenal and, latterly, Chelsea being the teams most likely to threaten their dominance. The same will be true for us now.

Man City Are Rivals, Whether Some Like It Or Not

There is an odd desperation from some Liverpool fans to say that Manchester City aren’t our rivals. You’ll see people tweet about it every now and then, saying that City are ‘desperately trying to drum up a rivalry that isn’t there’. The problem is, it is there. If a rivalry is about two or more entities looking for dominance then it’s impossible to argue against the idea of Man City being our rivals, given the manner in which the two sides have gone head-to-head in recent years. Just as our constant Champions League battles with Chelsea during the Rafa – Mourinho era meant that they were our rivals on the European stage, so too does the manner in which Pep Guardiola and Jürgen Klopp have some toe-to-toe recently mean that it would be folly to suggest that we’re not rivals. After all, we both want domestic dominance as well as success on the European stage.

City’s new-money nature means that Liverpool fans are reluctant to acknowledge them as rivals, as if that will somehow give them a sense of legitimacy. Unfortunately, five Premier League titles means that they are legitimate and us pretending to ignore them won’t disprove that fact. The reality is that they are now our rivals and that is a good thing. City’s money is unlikely to be going anywhere any time soon, so if we get to the point where they’re not a rival then it will almost certain mean that we’ve fallen away, not them. How you define a rival will always dictate the teams that you consider to be ones that we need to be wary of. There will be many people that haven’t even read this piece but will be really annoyed at me for suggesting that Everton and Manchester United’s position as our rivals has been diminished, for example. In truth, I will always think of both of them as teams that I hate and want to beat in all circumstances, but City are on that list now too.

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