Soccer

Why Liverpool FC-Manchester United rivalry's glory days seem far away

Why Liverpool FC-Manchester United rivalry's glory days seem far away

The rivalry between Liverpool FC and Manchester United is the English Premier League equivalent of the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox. 

The northern rivals have combined to win nearly one-third of England's top-flight titles, and nobody in England has won more times than either club. 

"Manchester United against Liverpool was, in the late '90s and early 2000s, the chef's kiss of Premier League games," "Men in Blazers" co-host Roger Bennett told NBC Sports Bay Area. "The battle to see who would be the 'King of the North.' Thirty-eight titles between them, Manchester United played as if it was always their title by divine right."

The context surrounding Sunday's match at Manchester's Old Trafford is just a bit different than the rivalry's heyday. As it stands between the two right now, it's as if the Red Sox -- or, to be accurate, Fenway Sports Group -- own the Yankees and the Red Sox have become the New York Knicks. 

Liverpool, fresh off an English-record sixth Champions League title, can be eight points clear of second place with a win over its rivals at Anfield. Manchester United, meanwhile, is closer to the top of the spending table than the one on the field, as the Red Devils enter Sunday in 14th place with only nine points from eight games. 

Dating back to last season, the Reds have won 17 consecutive Premier League matches. In parts of four seasons, manager Jurgen Klopp has charted Liverpool's rise back into title contention, putting the club in perhaps its best position to win a title during the Premier League era.

That's no small feat considering what Liverpool once was and that the Reds have not won a first-division title -- Premier League or otherwise -- since the 1989-90 season. 

"Liverpool used to win almost every year when I was a kid," Bennett recalled of his time growing up in the city. "They have dreamt of it for 30 years -- a barren spell like no other in their history. This season, they are top of the table, undefeated. They've won every game. Their fans are starting to dream of a championship parade."

On paper, Manchester United has the star power to compete with, if not rival, Liverpool's. Goalkeeper David de Gea and midfielder Paul Pogba are among the best in the world at their respective positions, while Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford are prolific young forwards. All but De Gea have missed time through injury -- as has splash summer signing Aaron Wan-Bissaka, a promising young right back -- and the Red Devils haven't won a Premier League match in over a month. 

Manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, a key component of United's dynastic run at the turn of the century, has led his longtime club to just four wins in their last 16 league matches. The Red Devils already are eight points back of fourth and face an uphill climb just to qualify for the Europa League. 

"Manchester United are limping into this game," Bennett said. "Possibly the only joy their fans will see is if they destroy the dreams of Liverpool this weekend."

[RELATED: How Kerr has embraced newfound Liverpool FC fandom]

Still, United have not lost to Liverpool at home this decade. Last season's draw at Old Trafford likely is a result the Reds look back on with regret after finishing four points back of title-winning Manchester City last season. 

In a rivalry as big as this one, playing spoiler is no small consideration. But considering where both clubs stand in the sport's history, those aren't the same stakes either side is used to.

Earthquakes' Thompson wants focus on coronavirus, not sports right now

Earthquakes' Thompson wants focus on coronavirus, not sports right now

Earthquakes right back Tommy Thompson had an early read on the coronavirus pandemic. But even seeing the entire 11-million population of Wuhan, China on complete lockdown, he didn’t know how or if it would translate to North America or beyond.

“We were all just confused by it,” Thompson told NBC Sports California of discussions with his teammates. “There wasn’t any real indication from the league or management that this would have the potential to cause our league to come to a standstill.”

The Quakes had completed a full training camp, and already played their first two matches when MLS suspended the season in mid-March.

“It’s been bizarre,” Thompson said. “My heart goes out to everyone affected by coronavirus, and at this point, everyone has been affected some way or another.”

Recently as two weeks ago, the MLS had targeted a return for May 10, which might already seem outdated, and distant from life priorities. Thompson says the best approach might be to avoid the highs and lows of over-speculating.

“It’s important for us to focus on the virus and fattening the curve,” Thompson said. “After that, sports will come. Life will return back to normal. It’s important to look forward to that time, but you can’t get too caught up in getting excited or disappointed.”             

In the mean time, the Sacramento native has been keeping busy with two new-found activities: Cooking, and launching his YouTube channel.

He recently uploaded more than 50 soccer trick and instructional videos, specifically aimed at keeping a young audience entertained and developing their skills.

[RELATED: Premier League extends coronavirus stoppage]

“I wanted to challenge kids of the United States to do different skills that I used to work on in the garage of my home,” Thompson said. “I thought now would be the perfect time to communicate that it’s still possible to practice.”

Thompson has seen rewarding growth, from literally zero, to tens of thousands of views in a week.

“It shows that kids need this right now,” Thompson said. “And it makes me excited to see that they’re staying productive by watching, and doing these drills at home.”

Premier League extends coronavirus pause, proposes 30 percent wage cut

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AP

Premier League extends coronavirus pause, proposes 30 percent wage cut

The Premier League is pushing back its restart date indefinitely amid the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, it announced in a statement Friday.

After bringing together the league’s top officials on a video conference, it was decided that the original hopes to begin playing again at the beginning of May were premature.

“It was acknowledged that the Premier League will not resume at the beginning of May,” the statement read. “And that the 2019/20 season will only return when it is safe and appropriate to do so. The restart date is under constant review with all stakeholders, as the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic develops and we work together through this very challenging time.

“The Premier League is working closely with the whole of professional football in this country, as well as with the Government, public agencies and other relevant stakeholders to ensure the game achieves a collaborative solution.”

[RELATED: Best PL storylines we would've watched if season continued]

Players also are facing a wage reduction of up to 30 percent as the league deals with the fallout from the coronavirus outbreak.

Until health officials declare that social distancing regulations can be lifted, don’t expect to see much in the way of live sports.