Is Man City v Liverpool rivalry too nice? Pep Guardiola and Jurgen Klopp love-in ‘can’t compare to Manchester United vs Arsenal’, while Virgil van Dijk and Kevin De Bruyne are friends April 15, 2022 – Posted in: Soccer
It doesn’t matter what team you support, every football fan is enjoying the ongoing rivalry between Liverpool and Manchester City.
The two sides are undoubtedly among the top teams in world football after dominating the sport for several years with Premier League titles, Champions Leagues, FA Cups, Club World Cups, League Cups and more making their way to the north west over recent seasons.
Already in April, the two sides are still battling for three trophies with no sign of letting up, and that’s why we really are witnessing the pinnacle of sporting greatness – but for some, that’s not enough.
And next up they will battle in the FA Cup semi-finals on Saturday – live on talkSPORT.
Historically, rivalries have been robust affairs with tough tackles, punchy post-match comments and even an occasional tussle in the tunnel.
Local rivalries such as Tottenham vs Arsenal, Liverpool vs Everton, Manchester United vs Liverpool and Newcastle vs Sunderland often possess underlying resentment, while historic battles at the top of the Premier League have also attracted a similar feeling.
Man United’s battle with Arsenal in the late nineties and early noughties was particularly tough.
When Arsene Wenger took charge of the Gunners he quickly closed the gap in Fergie’s Red Devils and ruffled some feathers in the process.
Wenger and Ferguson were regularly dueling in the press, while club captains Patrick Vieira and Roy Keane physically and verbally showed their hatred for each other on more than one occasion.
Discussing the difference between that rivalry and Liverpool vs Man City, Simon Jordan said: “The real rivalry was Arsenal against Manchester United. That was a proper rivalry.
“This [Liverpool vs Man City] is a homogenized, sanitised love-in.
“The fans don’t seem to have that much engagement, particularly the City fans as far as I can see. The Liverpool fans are built from a certain type of stuff and the managers sit there, admiring each other from afar.
“The other one, which was Wenger vs Ferguson, there was no love-in, there was no like between the players and they fundamentally disliked one another.
“Keown says that there was distaste and dislike between the players, there was also disdain and distaste between the managers and then there was the feeling between the fans.”
As referenced by Jordan, Gunners legend Martin Keown is one man who knows exactly what it takes to be a part of a fiercely contested rivalry.
The former Arsenal defender was at the heart of the drama in the famous clash with United at Old Trafford when Ruud van Nistelrooy missed his penalty to be greeted by a hostile reaction from the north London side, who relished seeing their rival scupper such a big opportunity in a big match.
But while Keown is appreciative of what Liverpool vs Man City has to offer, he insists that it’s not the same as during his playing days, saying: “In those days we didn’t really like the Manchester United players and they didn’t really like us.
“I think in this situation there is a nice, healthy respect and I think it comes from the managers. I know Arsene Wenger and Sir Alex Ferguson found that respect eventually.
“It seems to be there now with these two great managers.
“You want that challenge, you need that rivalry to be confirmed as great. You need somebody else who’s great alongside you, battling against you and these two teams are outstanding.”
He added: “I don’t think there’s the edge.
“We haven’t seen the disappointments. We have an FA Cup semi final coming up, we potentially have a Champions League final, that’s how good they are and they’re going to another level.
“We matched the success of Manchester United in the Champions League, but we were in our infancy and too young as a team to really make it count, but domestically we could run with Manchester United and sometimes beat them.
“This is an incredibly rivalry that we’re starting to see now, but I don’t see any hurt there yet.”
Despite what Jordan and Keown say, football is completely different in the present day.
In decades gone by, international squads were filled with players who would stick with their club teammates and refuse to mix with those who represented their rivals, but these days things are different.
Players have grown up together in the youth ranks of their national teams, meaning that the likes of Trent Alexander-Arnold, Phil Foden, Jordan Henderson, Kyle Walker, John Stones and James Milner [a former City player, of course] have spent plenty of time playing alongside each other within the England fold.
Footballers also live a truly isolated existence due to the scrutiny that comes with playing at an elite level.
As a result, players often live in similar neighbourhoods and actually have more in common with rival player from other clubs than they would with 99% of the population.
Kevin De Bruyne and Virgil van Dijk are an example of this, with the Belgian midfielder revealing the reason behind his post-match chat with the Liverpool star last week, saying: “I know Virgil, me and Virgil see each other a lot.
“Our children go to the same school and they like to play together, so it was just a friendly chat”.
That friendly relationship between the players was summed up by The Times’ chief football writer Henry Winter, who believes the rivalry of today is no longer built on genuine dislike.
He said: “This is a rivalry of respect.
“It’s a very pure rivalry. It’s a fantastic technical, tactical battle, one of the best rivalries that I’ve seen, but it lacks the drama and the edge of when Ray [Parlour – Arsenal legend] played.
“The Arsenal against Manchester United, the flying challenges, the Keane vs Vieira in the tunnel.
“It’s a purer, more respectful rivalry. You can compare generations but in terms of edge I do think that Ray’s era had more of an edge in terms of rivalry.”
Of course, the respect between the two clubs comes from the very top, with Guardiola and Klopp being huge admirers of each other’s work.
It takes bravery and unbelievable dedication to play with the sort of bold, aggressive and ultra-attacking approach that both Manchester City and Liverpool do, something that both managers appreciate.
For every side that operates with a low block to try and frustrate their attacking efforts, it’s clear to see that both managers enjoy the tactical game of chess that comes when two sides enter a game with similar approaches.
Speaking after last week’s 2-2 draw at the Etihad Stadium, Guardiola said: “I don’t know if Jurgen respect me but I respect him a lot.
“He makes me a better manager… his teams are positive, aggressive and they want to attack. I try to imitate him.
“We aren’t friends, we don’t have dinner together, we will have dinner one day in the hall of fame, I have his telephone number but I don’t call him.
“I have a lot of respect for him and he knows next Saturday, we’ll try to beat him.”
While Klopp and Guardiola possess different approaches when watching on in the technical area, Keown believes that fans must cherish the battle between two footballing greats as it won’t last forever.
He explained: “I think what he [Klopp] does, he tries to own the touchline and I respect that.
“If you see someone like Pep, he’s seen it all before. He doesn’t engage, he puts his energy into his team and winning the match.
“What you can say is that they prepare the teams, both physically and mentally, is really first class.
“They’re not going to be here forever. We know that Pep’s maybe got another year to go on his contract, so enjoy it while it lasts. These are fascinating spectacles and may the best team win.”
But while the rivalry isn’t intense there will be a winner and a loser on Saturday afternoon – and the defeated side won’t be happy at all.
You can hear live commentary of Man City v Liverpool in the FA Cup semi-finals at 3:30pm on talkSPORT
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