As a United fan, this is why I want Manchester City to beat Liverpool
Back in 2014, when Liverpool and Manchester City were duking it out for the Premier League title, Gary Neville said that picking a winner was “like having a choice of two blokes to nick your wife.”
Four years on, ‘Red Nev’s’ quip seems just as fitting after today’s Champions League draw. As a United fan, the prospect of City and Liverpool’s players standing to that famous anthem, their supporters bristling with anticipation on a glorious spring evening while United fans watch on bitterly, has made a bad week even worse.
At least one of them has to lose, you might say. But which of these two hated rivals do we want to see fall? Which of these two clubs, to put it another way, is the lesser of two evils?
United fans will doubtless be split on this. Some will see a Liverpool victory as the more palatable option because it would deny the City the chance of a treble, emulating United’s most famous achievement. Liverpool are the weaker side, so would be more likely to come unstuck in the semi-finals, and their victory silence those fawning media pundits who have spent the last six months telling us Saint Pep has re-invented football and all those who came before him were knuckle-dragging philistines.
This fan, however, sees it differently. A City victory, no matter how impressive, is the better option. Why? Because a victory for Liverpool would actually mean something. It would be a genuine triumph, fairly won. A victory for City, any victory for City in fact, is like a lottery-winner buying a Ferrari. It looks nice on the surface, but you know it’s a total fluke.
City’s success, no matter what the pundits say, is built on unearned oil wealth. A billionaire benefactor, who didn’t even work for his money, has swooped down and plucked them from obscurity. Were it not for Sheikh Mansour, City would be scrabbling round football’s nether regions, their fans still booing players like Richard Edghill and Lee Bradbury. Their final match before the Abu Dhabi takeover, lest we forget, was an 8-1 defeat to Middlesbrough .
Even the most blinkered United fan will admit that Guardiola’s team play wonderful football. They’ve blitzed the Premier League like no club ever has. But when you look past the media hype, there’s no merit or romance to the story. They’ve used their limitless budget to buy the best players, build the best training ground and hire the best manager. Having seen Guardiola’s brilliant Barca, they’ve ripped the template out of Catalonia and dumped it into Collyhurst, with absolutely no expense spared.
Liverpool, however, are a different kettle of fish. They’re a genuinely big club, a team United fans are (secretly) proud to call an enemy. We knocked them off their perch a quarter of a century ago and we’re desperate for them not to climb back on it. The further they go in the Champions League, the closer they come to banishing the last 25 years of hurt and resuming their natural place at the top of European football.
What’s more, Liverpool don’t have a sugar daddy pumping the financial equivalent of steroids into their veins. Like United, they rely on their own income to buy players. If they do recapture their former glories, we can’t even console ourselves with the thought that it’s all a jammy lottery win.
Yes Liverpool’s fans are annoying, with their self-obsession, their delusions of grandeur and the weird poems they make up for their players (check out the Red and White Kop forum if you don’t know what I mean). They love the media attention and play up to it shamelessly, wallowing in nostalgia at any opportunity.
But, unlike City, they’re a proper club. A bona fide giant which deserves to be in the football elite. Let’s hope they never get back there.