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More than just a game, bigger than just a rivalry

Gary Neville has never been one to mince his words. Since retiring he has gone on to be one of the most respected pundits around, no-nonsense and calls it how he sees it especially when talking about his beloved Manchester United. Management wasn’t quite for him, so to herald his return to punditry what better game than tonight’s encounter with bitter rivals Liverpool? As a local lad, this meant so much to Neville’s and you saw that when he was playing, never more so than in 2006 when a last-minute winner had Neville racing down the touchline to celebrate in front of the Liverpool fans, it was an act of passion that encapsulated how we all feel as fans, and he has had his say on that day and the rivalry itself.

It sounds a bit cheesy when you say it, at the end of the day it’s 90 minutes, the same length as any other game and played at the same place 18 more games will be played that season. But it feels like an eternity when the sides take to the field. The build up the day before is massive, two or three days are devoted to talking about past glories and sharing pictures of the moments that have stood out to you personally in years gone by. The hour before and you’re a bag of nerves, every eventuality playing out in your head – you know you want a thumping but deep down the potential ecstasy of a last-minute winner is a temptation too much.

Neville is on the money when he says losing is the worst feeling of the season. Lose to City and it plays on your mind for all of a week, yes they are from the same city but having spent so much time as a small club challenging only for lower divisions titles means the rivalry isn’t quite the same. We all know that should be the one, but it doesn’t match the feelings towards Liverpool, and this is why it’s so much more than 90 minutes. Tonight is no different if anything it feels bigger. Jurgen Klopp has seemingly got his side playing good football, they’re scoring goals and looking a decent outfit, October it may be but you feel the result tonight can have massive implications on the fortunes of the two sides come May.

However, you build up for tonight will be nervous. A full day’s work in between kick off helps nothing as emotions must be subdued between the hours of nine and five. But come quitting time its open season.Rewatching Anthony Martial last season will be my choice for at least an hour, then maybe a dash of John O’Shea. Four or five nil would be like a dream (not least in the fact it’s exceptionally unlikely) but I’m quietly hoping for a Mourinho smash-and-grab, a last-gasp winner after 90 minutes of weathering a storm. Tonight is more than just a game, it’s a rivalry which words fail to describe.

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