Andy Gray Column: United’s bitter rivalry with Liverpool is down to Fergie’s obsession to topple their supremacy

By Mancunian Matters staff ambassador Andy Gray was talking exclusively to Mancunian Matters…

It’s a big shame Manchester United versus Liverpool might not mean as much for a neutral fan as it used to but it’s still one of the, if not the most, stand-out fixtures in any Premier League season.

With United’s rise and Liverpool’s decline it is perhaps not as big as it once was, but it was refreshing to see Paul Scholes say this week he still considers it to be the biggest game of the season.

To me that shows the passion that surrounds this fixture, the very same passion which makes it such an appealing fixture. It’s always a heated occasion and it always makes for compelling viewing.

Certainly Sir Alex Ferguson still loves beating Liverpool – it’s a bit like Jose Mourinho with Barcelona – they are the team whose dominance he wanted to end and I think he still gets quite a kick out of it.

Personally I can’t see past United for the victory. They’ve been on quite a roll and they build themselves up for the big occasion like that, and if players like Robin van Persie have a good game it’s difficult to look past them.

RVP has been a revelation at Old Trafford and if they do take the title this season he will have been a massive part in that. The Dutchman has replicated his Arsenal form in United colours under a lot of pressure and he has to be applauded for that.

United’s primary concern this January has to be defence-minded. If they fix things at the back they will be favourites for the title. The only way Liverpool can get something from the match on Sunday is if United make things easy for them by making mistakes or get sloppy.

As for Liverpool, I was impressed with the Daniel Sturridge signing but it’s now up to him to prove he can get a run of form together and that last season wasn’t a flash in the pan.

It’s a make-or-break time for him because at this point in his career he should be established at a top club but he’s struggled to get playing time at both Manchester City and Chelsea, and whenever that happens questions are always bound to be raised.

A partnership with Luis Suarez could be very profitable but Liverpool shouldn’t expect it just to click straight away. He needs to prove it wasn’t just potential and how he performs against United will be down to scrutiny because of that.

Brendan Rodgers can’t rest on his laurels in the transfer market though – Liverpool are still a team in need of improvement and I think Sunday will expose that in a big way.

As for the other Sunday game, it’s a bit harder to predict. It’s good to have two big Sunday games because there were a few before Christmas which were a little bit flat and it was a bit of an anti-climax.

Arsenal and City is a heated one for different reasons – you’ve got the amount of former Gunners who have jumped ship to the Etihad, and the fact that City have taken their spot as the prominent challengers to United every season.

Home advantage is huge for Arsene Wenger’s side but I can still see the reigning champions coming out with the win for the simple fact they have the superior quality.

Last season, Wenger was forced to panic buy after a big loss to the other Manchester club and I think he’s learned from that and perhaps become a bit conservative in the transfer market. They need to make changes to their side, and fast – I don’t know whether David Villa is a legitimate target but if he is they should do all they can to bring him to the club.

Until they start making those big signings, games like the one this weekend will be a constant reminder of just how far the Frenchman has let them slip behind their biggest title rivals.

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