Football

Derby spirit fast fading between Manchester United and Liverpool

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Despite being billed as a clash between the teams with the fiercest rivalry in English football, Saturday's game between Manchester United and Liverpool felt more like an exhibition match.

Aside from the vociferous chanting of both sets of supporters, one would be forgiven for wondering if this really was a derby match at all. The challenges were so tame that the referee was given little reason to speak to a player, let alone reach for a card, until Nathaniel Clyne's tackle in the 47th minute.

This used to be a fixture that was littered with yellow cards and regularly saw dismisals. 

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While nobody wants to see a return to the Wimbledon-style 'tackling', they do want to see players giving their all.

One wonders what Roy Keane or Stephen Gerrard thought if they were watching, or Sir Alex Ferguson for that matter. The fiery Scot relished this clash above all others.

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This was a game that was governed by tactics over raw passion. Liverpool came with a game-plan, which was to sit back and attempt to catch United on the break, while Van Gaal stuck to his principals of controlling the match with possession.

It is worth noting that the Dutchman was happier with his team's performance in the first half, which ended 0-0, as opposed to a second-half that yielded three goals for his side. He claimed that his players 'played better in the first-half' because 'they had far more control'. 

The 176th encounter between England's most decorated clubs was devoid of any of the thrills usually associated when the pair lock horns. United fans will be no doubt pleased with the bragging rights, but their Liverpool counterparts will be furious that they had to wait almost 80 minutes for their team to show some fight.

If the football on offer Saturday was anything to go by, some of these players could do with a quick history lesson. To both sets of supporters, this is a contest that still matters a lot. They expect that the highly-paid stars of their team to show that it means something to them, too.

Manchester United and Liverpool are no longer the powerhouses of the English game. One has to go back to 2009 to find a game between these two when they were both challenging for the title.

Of course, history dictates that this tie will retain its mythic status for the foreseeable future, but in terms of real significance it is not what it used to be.

Gone too, it seems, are players of the ilk of a Gary Neville or a Jamie Carragher - willing to run themselves ragged and put their bodies on the line for the cause.

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Topics:
Football
Liverpool
Premier League
Manchester United

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