Throughout the 134-year history of English football, rivalries have been passed down throughout the generations. Those rivalries have only intensified since the Premier League was born in 1992. Thanks to the influx of money and media attention on the country’s national game, some derbies are now watched by locals and billions of fans worldwide.
And while some of these matchups have been around for an eternity, such as the one between Manchester United and Liverpool and between Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur, others burn bright and fade out quickly. Let's take a look at some of the biggest rivalries in the history of the Premier League.
Manchester United vs. Arsenal - 1996-2005
The appointment of an unknown Frenchman named Arsene Wenger in October 1996 was the catalyst for a changing of the guard in the English game and the dawn of one of the fiercest rivalries the planet had ever seen. Wenger brought with him a continental viewpoint. Out from Highbury went beer drinking culture, and in came a strict diet, fitness regime, and sports science that was well ahead of its time.
His methods may have appeared radical at first glance, but their results spoke for themselves. In Wenger’s first entire season in charge, his side romped to a league and cup double, much to the detest of Sir Alex Ferguson. The legendary Scottish manager would go one better the following season, leading the Red Devils to a historic treble - winning the Premier League, the FA Cup, and the UEFA Champions League. No English club has achieved the feat in the 23 years since.
United would win three consecutive English top-flight titles, but the Gunners would get their revenge in 2002. That year, they won the title at Old Trafford of all places, after Sylvain Wiltords was a late winner. United would once again wrestle the title back from the North London club the following season before Arsenal asserted their dominance. They went unbeaten in the 2003/04 Premier League season, becoming the first invincibles since 1889.
With the emergence of Chelsea - financed by new owner Roman Abramovich - in 2004, the rivalry pestered off somewhat; however, the pair did contest the FA Cup final in 2005. Arsenal would have the last laugh, defeating a Manchester United containing young starlets Wayne Rooney and Cristiano Ronaldo, on penalties in Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium.
Liverpool vs. Manchester City - 2017-Present
Some rivalries arrive out of nowhere. Throughout history, Manchester United has typically been the biggest rival of both these teams, with Everton also being a rival of Liverpool. But with United’s fall from grace since the departure of Sir Alex Ferguson, Manchester City and Liverpool have taken over as the two top dogs at the head of the English footballing table. They perhaps are the two best teams in Premier League history.
One might say this rivalry began when Jurgen Klopp took over at Anfield in October 2015, and the German had a rebuilding job on his hands to get the Reds back to the top of the mountain. But no, the touch paper was lit in the 2017/18 campaign, when the rampant Mohamed Salah put City to the sword, knocking The Blues out of the Champions League at the quarter-final stage and ending their hopes of becoming the first team in almost 20 years to complete a historic treble.
In the years since that European tussle, the pair have gone on to dominate the English game, and when you consider the huge amount of matches played in the modern game, it's a stat that’s even more impressive.
Ahead of last season's 2-2 draw at the Etihad, Klopp’s Reds and Guardiola’s Blues averaged 2.26 and 2.41 points per game, respectively, sweeping all before them. In terms of trophies, City has won four of the last five Premier League titles, twice pipping Liverpool to the crown on the final day of the season. Liverpool won the one left over and have also reached three Champions League finals to City’s one, but Klopp’s side has only managed to win one of them. And the best bit about this rivalry? It’s set to continue this season.
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