These are teams we know all too well. We know these teams like you know your jerk neighbor. We know their jerk kids. Their fancy jerk car. Their jerk bragging behavior. The way that, like jerks, they have to one-up us all the time, and tarnish our best accomplishments. The jerky way they can't be trusted to accomplish the simplest of tasks, like taking points off of Manchester City at the end of...Sorry, I seem to be getting my analogies mixed up.
The point is, we know these teams all too well, even if we wish we didn't. However, no preseason series on Premier League teams would be complete without our two biggest rivals, and maybe we can actually learn a thing or two about the blue half of Merseyside, and the red half of Manchester.
In many ways, Everton are the Joker to our Batman. We complete each other, and despite our vast historical differences, we couldn't bring ourselves to kill the other (although the prevalence of red cards—more than any other Premier League fixture—may suggest otherwise).
Indeed, the rivalry has taken on the mantel of "The Friendly Derby," and it is one of the few local derbies not to enact total fan separation. The Blue-Red divide runs through many families, so while the competition is fierce on the field, violence between fans is exceptionally rare. And it is also noteworthy for being the longest continually-running top flight Derby in England, taking place at least twice a year since 1962-63.
The histories of the two clubs are forever intertwined. Everton Football Club was formed in 1878 and played at Anfield from 1884 to 1892, when a disagreement among the management led to a move to Goodison Park and the formation of our beloved Reds. Thanks for the stadium, by the way, she's a real gem. Goodison, of course, is a fine stadium, and a historically significant one at that—it was the first purpose-built football stadium in the world.
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Everton's crest underwent a brief redesign two seasons back, no doubt the work of some brilliant Nike marketing ploy, but has since returned to look like their more traditional design. The crest marks the year of their founding, the not intentionally ironic Latin motto, "Nil Satis Nisi Optimum" ("Nothing but the best is good enough"), and a likeness of Prince Rupert's Tower. The Tower, long associated with the Everton district, was constructed in 1787, and originally used to incarcerate drunks and minor criminals. I'll let the reader draw their own conclusions.
Their most used nickname, the Toffees, came about after the club moved to Goodison, but its origin is far from definitive. The most popular explanation is that the name came from Mother Norbitt's toffee shop, which was located across from Prince Rupert's Tower.
Although recent history would suggest otherwise, Everton has a history that, on paper, rivals Liverpool's. Everton have been a mainstay in the top tier for nearly their entire history, playing all but four seasons (1930-31, 1951-54) among England's finest. Indeed, their record of continuous first division football since 1954 is extremely impressive. Their nine English top flight titles are the fourth most, behind Manchester United, Liverpool, and Arsenal. Though, it must be noted that their current dry spell, beginning with their last triumph in 1986-87, is even longer than ours. The Toffees FA Cup record also runs parallel to Liverpool's, with 13 finals to our 14, but with two fewer triumphs, 5 to 7 respectively.
Things haven't gone so well for The Blues lately. They've only managed to crack the Top 4 once since the start of the Premier League era, in 2004-2005, and their Champions League dreams were dashed during the summer qualifying round against Villarreal.
Liverpool and Everton renew the Merseyside Derby on October 3rd at Goodison, and then again at Anfield February 27th.
I understand if most of you just involuntarily spit on the floor. Just typing those words are enough to turn my stomach, but let's get through this together.
Like Everton, Manchester United were founded in 1878, but under the title of Newton Heath LYR Football Club. Their nickname, the Red Devils, came much later and would not have fit well with this early iteration of the club. Their distinctive red, white, and black kits were nowhere to be seen in the early years, instead donning yellow and gold strips. The team endured financial troubles at the start of the 20th century, only to be saved by five local business owners in 1902, and adopting their current, infamous club name and kit colors.
Manchester United's crest has evolved over the years, originally deriving from the Manchester City Council Coat of Arms. The sailboat remains from this original crest, and the iconic devil which has haunted us all these years first made its appearance in 1970.
The early days did not bode well for the team who would become the only club to rival (or better) Liverpool's European and domestic successes. Despite two early top flight titles (1907-08, 1910-11), United spent a great deal of time in the second division (1894-1906, 1922-25, 1931-36, 1937-38). However, since 1938 they've only spent one season, 1973-74, outside England's top division.
Aside from being rivals for football honors, the cities of Liverpool and Manchester fought over economic supremacy in Northwest England for centuries, coming to a head with the completion of the Manchester Ship Canal in 1894. Once completed, the canal allowed merchants to by-pass Liverpool, which subsequently caused local economic hardship and job loss. Today, the inter-city football rivalry is the biggest in England on and off the pitch. The dislike is so strong that not a single transfer has occurred between the two clubs since Phil Chisnall moved from United to Liverpool in 1964. But sure, United, put in a bid for Raheem Sterling and see how it works out.
WARNING: Sensitive readers may wish to skip the next two paragraphs.
Since those early turbulent days, the Red Devils have been a perpetual force to be reckoned with in English football, especially in recent decades. Their 20 top flight titles are the most, two more than our 18, and their 11 FA Cup victories are the second most, behind Arsenal's 12. Of their 20 titles, 13 were won since the inaugural Premier League season in 1992.
Although Liverpool can rightly claim European supremacy, we would do well to begrudgingly acknowledge Manchester United's history of representing England on the continent's top club competition. United were the first English team to compete, doing so for the first time in 1956-57, and the first English team to win a European title in 1967-68. They lifted the Big Ears twice more in 1998-99, and 2007-08.
IT IS NOW SAFE TO READ AGAIN.
I must now take a moment to address you in all seriousness, this paragraph is no laughing matter, nor a place for snarky wit or sarcasm. In 1958, Manchester United suffered a horrible tragedy, the deaths of 8 players, 3 coaches, and 8 journalists when their plane crashed in Munich, Germany. Two more players survived, but never played again because of the injuries sustained. As Liverpool supporters know too well, there are times when even the fiercest rivalries completely lose significance in light of real tragedy.
Our rivalry, steeped in regional pride, and claims at English supremacy kicks off again at Old Trafford on September 12th. Liverpool, in turn, host United on January 16th.
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