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Will Manchester City Give Liverpool A Guard of Honour?

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Or will COVID-19 social distancing protocols throw a wrench in the Reds Premier League title celebration?

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Manchester City v Liverpool - UEFA Champions League Quarter Final Second Leg Photo by Simon Stacpoole/Offside/Getty Images

Win on the pitch in front of the cameras or bask in a delicious guard of honour* from their rivals to compensate for winning in absentia? The debate over how exactly to finalize a maiden Premier League title win had occupied the Liverpool fanbase in days leading up to Thursday’s pivotal decider between Manchester City and Chelsea.

For this particular petty correspondent, the choice was to obvious: option A that would see the likes of Raheem Sterling and Kyle Walker choking back the bile welling up in their throats as they applauded the Reds onto the pitch. Even better, the absence of fans in the stadium and the rewind button on the DVR remote would also allow us to see which City players were not clapping loudly enough for our liking.

In the end, a shambolic defensive performance from the holders gifted a win to the Londoners and mathematically handed the title to a Reds squad nervously watching from their hotel.

Liverpool is now scheduled to continue their championship procession when they make a now-anticlimactic trip up to the Etihad next Thursday. This means the question naturally now is whether Pep Guardiola and his band of mercenaries plan to keep his word and provide their rivals with the guard of honour as tradition demands.

What is a guard of honour?

A guard of honour is when a person or group of people line up to congratulate other(s) on an achievement. It is considered a sign of respect in football, with the opposing team applauding the league champions onto the pitch the match after their title win is mathematically confirmed. However, there have been other occasions in which the practice has been observed, such as when players for both sides gave Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson a guard of honour in his final match at the club.

When did the practice start?

The first known guard of honour in football was in 1955 when Manchester United extended the courtesy to Chelsea. The tradition is practiced in other European leagues as well, including La Liga in Spain.

Is it mandatory?

A guard of honour is not required and relies on the team providing it to abide by over half a century of tradition in the sport. In fact, football association bodies are not even involved in the organization of a guard of honour, leaving it up to the two clubs to coordinate between themselves.

Will coronavirus protocols prevent a guard of honour next week?

Strict social distance protocols have helped keep transmission of COVID-19 within and between Premier League squads to a minimum following last week’s season restart. The question of whether the FA will permit a guard of honour that sees close contact between the two squads to go ahead is still up in the air, although Pep Guardiola is said to be on board with providing one to his rivals if allowed.

Should Liverpool supporters let the pettiness rise up within them if the guard of honour goes ahead as planned?

A guard of honour between rivals is a rare occurrence so et your freak flag fly, as far as we’re concerned. Ferguson’s United applauding Jose Mourinho’s upstart Chelsea onto the pitch in 2004-05 before the two clubs hilariously reversed places two years later, Barcelona congratulating hated rivals Real Madrid for their 2006-07 title win and a seething Arsenal clapping through clenched teeth as former star Robin Van Persie celebrated with Manchester United are scenes that become storied flashpoints between storied clubs.

Liverpool and Manchester City as arguably the two best sides in world football at the moment and seem to have developed a genuine enmity between the players. It will mean that next Thursday’s guard of honour celebrating the Reds’ first title win in 30 years will be that much sweeter.

Liverpool v Manchester City - Premier League - Anfield Photo by Peter Byrne/PA Images via Getty Images

* = Yes we went with the British spelling of “honour” for this post, don’t @ me. We’ll drop the extra “u” whenever American sports decide they want to start this practice.