Rivalries in football are what make the game special. They add that extra bit of spice to a game, a tournament, even a season. It gives fans bragging rights over and above temporary league position and status. Derbies are famous for upsetting the odds, so conversely are ideal games to use free bets, where teams struggling at the bottom of the league are able to get one over their biggest rivals sat pretty at the top. Those rivalries come in different shapes and forms. Some go back decades, even centuries, often geographically based. Others have sprung up in more recent times, mainly as a result of two teams battling it out on a head-to-head basis for top-flight dominance. Others still, come from an individual incident, often one that has since been largely forgotten apart from the animosity that came from it.
As you would expect the most successful league club in the country has several rivalries, but the intensity of them does depend on whose perspective you are looking at it from. The two obvious ones are Manchester City and Liverpool.
The City United one was born from the two clubs sharing a city and the perceived differences in the fanbase of both. For much of their history, it was United who were the more glamourous, successful side, with its fans coming from far and wide, from all areas of the globe. City on the other hand drew much of their support from within the city boundaries and endured a history that involved dropping down as low as the fourth tier of English football as recently as 1999. Things have changed now of course, and the newest generation of City fans will probably never know first-hand what it is like to live under the shadow of their neighbours.
Liverpool are United’s other main rival. Stemming from the Merseyside Lancashire rivalry that covers everything from sport to music and fashion, it has been fuelled by the desire to win more league titles than the other, these being the two most successful teams in history by a distance. Liverpool came within touching distance of United’s 20 when they won their 19th in 2020, and are desperate to take away the one thing United fans have over them.
Ask any Leeds fan who the club they want to beat more than any other, and without exception, they will say Manchester United. The feeling of dislike is mutual, and as well as the historical rivalry that always exists between Yorkshire and Lancashire this particular one stems predominately from the 1960’s. At that time United were in a decline, largely as a result of the Munich Air Disaster. Leeds on the other hand were entering their most successful era. The last decisive blow Leeds landed on United was when they pipped them to the title in the 1991/92 season, and largely since then, the two clubs have been operating at different levels, resulting in a fairly one-sided rivalry, at least at present.
An example of how rivalries can not only be born but also fade away is the one between Manchester United and Arsenal. For almost a decade at the end of the last century and the beginning of this one, those two sides were far and away the best two in the land. The games between them very often decided who would win the league, and everyone was played with an intensity that very often boiled over. Adding fuel to the fire were the two respective managers, Sir Alex Ferguson and Arsene Wenger who genuinely disliked each other. Throw the likes of Roy Keane and Patrick Vieira into the mix and there is no wonder that there were so many fireworks.
When Arsenal became less of a force, they were replaced by fellow London side Chelsea. Between 2004 and 2011 the title was won by either Manchester United or Chelsea. The two sides went head-to-head in the 2008 Champions League final, with Chelsea edging it in a dramatic penalty shoot-out. The rivalry between the two clubs perhaps never reached the intensity of that between United and Arsenal, but it was nevertheless, very much a thing when these two teams reigned supreme in English football.