What has happened to the north-west derby?

TJ Fitzegerald laments the demise of the Premier League's fiercest rivalry

The media circus was as strong as ever. Two titans of English football, Liverpool and Manchester United, were set to clash in the weekend’s biggest fixture. It was a match-up
between two clubs steeped in history, and one of the biggest rivalries in the world game.

However, the last four encounters have been draws, two of them goalless. Since 2016, there have been six games and only seven goals.

Like most great rivalries, there is more to this than just the success of the two clubs. The proximity of the two major cities they represent, together with their historic economic and industrial rivalry stretching back to the nineteenth century, adds another dimension to this match, on top of their success and support. Both of them can claim historical supremacy over the other, with United achieving more league titles, but Liverpool more often the champions of Europe.

However, the clash has not been much of a spectacle for a while – especially since Mourinho took over at United. His team came to Anfield, sat deep, and took the point. The visitors defended well as a team, and when Liverpool did threaten, David de Gea made some great saves. Liverpool came across as the more dominant side, and did well to take Romelu Lukaku out of the game, who completed fewer passes than even Liverpool’s goalkeeper Simon Mignolet.

Admittedly, neither side was at full strength, with several key players missing. But while Liverpool dominated for the most part and probably performed better, the game went Mourinho’s way. Fans want to see an electric, end-to-end game between these two clubs, but this is never going to happen when games keep going this way. But this reflects the harsh realities of the Premier League. In a division where clubs must scrap for every point, is Mourinho not right to set up as he always has in big games? What is for certain is that unless the ex-Chelsea boss departs anytime soon, it will be some time before the fixture’s magic is rekindled.