Man United, Liverpool to renew rivalry

Paris, March 9

Eternal rivals Manchester United travel to Liverpool in the Europa League last 16, first leg on Thursday in a battle of English football’s two most successful sides.

United have won the English title a record 20 times, twice more than Liverpool, but the Reds have the edge abroad, having been crowned European champions on five occasions to United’s three. The Anfield encounter will mark the first time the teams have faced off in European competition, with the two Premier League giants combining to lift 17 continental trophies. “This is why I signed for such a big club, to look forward to nights like this,” Liverpool defender Nathaniel Clyne told the club’s website. “Everyone’s excited. Everyone loves to play European football so it’s going to be exciting up against our rivals United.”

Winning the Europa League appears the best chance for either side to compete in next season’s Champions League, with both United and Liverpool languishing outside the top four in England. The Red Devils won both Premier League meetings this season, following up a 3-1 win at the Old Trafford in September with a 1-0 victory on Merseyside in the reverse fixture.

However, United’s 1-0 defeat at West Brom on Sunday snapped a four-game winning run in all competitions for Louis van Gaal’s side, and Michael Carrick said they can’t afford to let that derail them ahead of the Liverpool showdown. “It is a setback but there are some massive games around the corner. Things were looking good (last) week; we were on the up, everyone was so positive. This is a blow for us but we need to get back, ready for Thursday,” he said.

In contrast, Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool have bounced back impressively from the heartache of their League Cup final defeat to Manchester City on penalties by thrashing the same opponents 3-0 three days later in the league before rallying to claim a 2-1 win at Crystal Palace on Sunday despite playing the last half-hour a man down. Liverpool won the last of their three titles in this competition in its previous guise as the UEFA Cup in 2001, but United have never been beyond the quarter-finals of this tournament.