This means more: the slogan used this year for Liverpool’s association with the New Balance brand. It could just as easily be the slogan used to describe this fixture. It is huge. It is worrying. It is exhilarating. It is heartbreaking. This means everything; this means more.
As a fan, Manchester United at home has always been a worrying fixture for me. Roy Keane has mentioned before that the pain of losing far outlasted the euphoria of winning during his career. I have always found this to be true in terms of United visiting Anfield. Watching Liverpool go to Old Trafford always had more of a sense of a free hit. Maybe Danny Murphy’s incredible streak of scoring winners at Old Trafford at the start of the century has had a misleading and lasting effect on my perspective, as well as the more recent 4-1 victory in 2009; not to mention the 3-0 win in 2014. From the age of 9 to 16, I didn’t see Liverpool beat United in the League at Anfield. Maybe that’s why the home game is always more of a worry; the fear of losing remains at the forefront of my mind.
In many ways, this fixture always seems to transcend the context of a Premier League game. Regardless of the form or league position, there is always a feeling that beating United would represent a huge positive in the season as a whole. My mind springs back to David Ngogs finish in the last minute of the 09/10 fixture. It was a poor season as a whole for that Liverpool team, who were still nursing the hangover of the 2008/2009 title tilt (if Federico Macheda is reading this, I still haven’t forgiven you). A lacklustre season aside, beating Manchester United always brings a different kind of elation. I remember watching that goal roll slowly into the back of the net at the Kop end as I screamed my parents house down. A pure release of rage and relief. They won’t win here this year.
A similar feeling came in September of the previous season, as Liverpool completed their first League win over United in 7 years. As I watched Ryan Babel’s strike bounce into the ground and somehow over Rio Ferdinand and Wes Brown. I realised that I was in new territory. Liverpool didn’t win League games at home to Manchester United, did they? They did that day and I loved it. Because this means more.
I’m fully aware that most of the people reading this are United fans. Don’t worry, here’s some enjoyable moments for you to reminisce over. I was 15 years old when John O Shea smashed a last minute winner into the net at Anfield. For a moment, as he wheeled away celebrating, my expression of incredulity standing in my living room, empty mug hanging loosely in my hand, seemed to be matched on his face perfectly. Liverpool lost the Champions League final 2 and a half months later. I remember the visceral, winding disappointment of that O Shea goal just as clearly as I remember Inzaghi’s brace and Kuyt’s (possibly offside) consolation. That is how important this fixture is. This means more.
This fixture sees United floundering by their standards, while Liverpool are setting the pace at the top of the League. This is unusual in the context of my life watching football, but doesn’t settle my nerves any less. I am typing this article in 35 degree heat in a hostel in Cairns, Australia. This is another unusual feature of this season for me as a fan. It still doesn’t change the feelings of anticipation, fear, excitement, nostalgia, melancholy, euphoria and sometimes drunkenness which come around every time our great teams meet. I will enjoy Sunday safe in the knowledge that we are watching something different. The League points on offer are matched in importance by the sheer desire to beat each other, which cannot be said about many other fixtures these days in my opinion. In the early hours of Monday morning, I’ll be thinking of Diego Forlan, Wayne Rooney and John O’ Shea, as well as Dirk Kuyt, Ryan Babel and Fernando Torres (I doubt they will be thinking of me!), and many more who have contributed to the history of this fixture.
This means more. This means most.