When Manchester United were drawn out of the hat alongside Liverpool in the Europa League, it got the football world salivating.
United vs Liverpool is one of the most famous fixtures in world football, even though both sides are coming to realise their glory days are firmly in the past – although they’ll be quick to remind you of their acheivements.
The Europa League Round of 16 is hardly a familiar scene for the latest installment, but the tie is still as much of a pull as it ever was, if not more.
Here are five reasons why:
It’s Got So Much History
Few fixtures attract the type of hype that this one does.
The two most successful clubs in English football, Man United vs Liverpool has been the standout fixture for the best part of the last 40 years, and this time it’s no different.
The bragging rights between the neighbouring cities have been fought over since Liverpool dominated the 1970’s and 80’s, before United controlled the Premier League era.
United have recently overtaken Liverpool in the league title count, but haven’t won a title since 2013, leaving the power shift right in the balance of late.
As strange as it sounds, this fixture could go a long way to deciding who reclaims North-West bragging rights for the next few years.
It’ll Be A Great Indicator
With both teams going through a spell of mediocrity lately, the Europa League could be the perfect stage for us to see where the teams are in comparison with each other.
Jurgen Klopp seems to have improved Liverpool since succeeding Brendan Rodgers, while Louis van Gaal has been putting out fires all season, as he fights to keep United in the hunt for a European place.
Klopp has introduced a new style of play at Anfield, but results have lacked the consistency needed for a Champions League push, which was definitely within reach when the German took over.
Van Gaal on the other hand has struggled to implement his much talked about philosophy since taking over, and Man United seem worlds away from the kind of form needed to go far in any competition, despite being on the verge of the top four.
Perhaps we’ll find out when the teams meet at Anfield.
It Puts The Europa League On The Map
We all know it, the Europa League is a second rate competition that distracts more than it attracts.
But when it throws up a fixture like this, it suddenly becomes interesting.
The clash should pull record numbers in terms of TV audiences and Anfield will likely be full, unlike many of the grounds around Europe during the group stages.
Local hatred can do wonders for ailing tournaments.
The Fans Fucking Hate Each Other
If you weren’t aware, yeah.
It says something that both clubs come from cities with other teams and still regard each other as their most bitter rivals.
Everton and Manchester City are secondary in terms of hatred at Anfield and Old Trafford, with both sets of fans reserving a special place in their hatred filled heart for each other.
The bragging rights remain hotly disputed in recent years, as both teams fight to get back to the level they were once at, but a couple of Thursday nights in March could sort that out.
Louis van Gaal’s Record Is On The Line
Since taking over at Man United, van Gaal’s record against Liverpool has been arguably his greatest achievement – other than pulling off that incredible fall against Arsenal, of course.
In the four games he’s played against the Reds, van Gaal has won all four, scoring nine goals along the way.
Juan Mata has three of those and will have a point to prove, after receiving the first red card of his career against West Brom on Sunday.
Man United have also only conceded two against Liverpool under van Gaal, but that record could come under threat as they cope with their injury crisis.