Premier League Ponderings: Power shifting in the northwest war

Don't tell a supporter of Chelsea, Arsenal or Manchester City that I said this — and it's completely an opinion — but in my mind there are only two teams in England that really matter: Liverpool and Manchester United. These are the two most historically successful teams in the country, the only two with multiple European Cups to their names and a regular season match between the two attracts a global view audience of 500 million. Needless to say, these two northwest clubs absolutely hate each other.

Much of the rivalry actually stems from a historical animosity around the building of the Manchester Ship Canal in 1894, which led to a mini recession in Liverpool as it rendered the city's crucial port much less important to England's economy as a whole. This rivalry extended to football, reaching its peak as Liverpool FC became the dominant force in the country, and one of the strongest clubs in Europe, which may as well have been the world as far as the sport was concerned back then. The club chalked up 18 league titles, four European cups and a cabinet full of other major honours in this time, as Manchester United suffered through decades of midtable mediocrity, and even relegations.

That all changed with the arrival of Alex Ferguson in 1986, as Liverpool would win their 19th and final title in 1990, allowing for a period of Manchester United dominance that would see them storm to title after title, securing their 20th last year in Ferguson's final season. In this time they also won two European Cups and numerous domestic trophies, often by large, convincing margins, and were indisputably the power in English football until the rise of the big money clubs in the last decade saw them drop four titles to historically less successful clubs.

The retirement of Ferguson, and subsequent appointment of David Moyes has seen Mancester United struggle far beyond their rivals' wildest dreams, at the time of writing the club sits in seventh place, 12 points behind the all-important Champion's League places. Yet the fans seem to have reacted the most angrily at the result of the last home match, a 3-0 defeat to their greatest rivals in their own backyard.

There is a lot to be said about not only the fact that Liverpool were able to beat Man U so completely at Old Trafford, a stadium that until recently was considered one of the most foreboding stadiums for an away team to play in, but it was the nature of the team's performance that has the fans so worried. A lot has been made of the lack of cohesion between strikers Wayne Rooney, Robin Van Persie and the aging nature of the squad's core, but it was the complete and utter lack of any sort of drive and ambition shown not only in this game, but all season under the new manager.

Flying directly in the faces of this is the success of Liverpool this season, the young team boasts the top two scorers and assist makers in the league and have scored 76 goals, leaving them sitting in second place and with a realistic shot at their first title in years. Manager Brendan Rodgers has developed an exciting team playing exciting football, impressing all with the rapid improvement from the team that finished in seventh last season and tellingly sweeping aside their close rivals by massive scorelines. With Chelsea and Manchester City still to come to Anfield, the Reds have a realistic shot at the title, and it would take a miraculous slip up for them to fail in their quest to return to the Champion's League where they feel they belong.

It will take a similar miracle for Manchester United to qualify, and it remains to be seen if the board will stick with Moyes, who was Ferguson's hand-picked successor, but it has gotten to the point where the fans have had enough. Liverpool supporters, on the other hand, are daring to dream, and are basking in the downfall of their most bitter rivals.