Pep’s paranoia, tasteless songs and ‘breaking 90’ – The modern history of Liverpool vs. Man City

It is only fitting that another campaign kicks off with Liverpool taking on Man City, with English football’s marquee big rivalry opening another chapter in 2022/23.

It’s a funny old rivalry this one.

Liverpool and Man City have indisputably set the standard across English football in the last five years, and kept a pace unheard of until Guardiola and Klopp came to the northwest.

When Man City smashed the points record to become the Premier League’s first centurions in 2018 you’d have been forgiven for assuming that season was to be the outlier.

What happened instead was that the bar elevated to a level which, so far, only themselves and Liverpool have been able to live with.

Subsequent tallies have included 98, 97, 99, 93 and 92 points.

Breaking 90 has become the norm for these squads and these managers, and has transformed the prism through which title races are viewed.

So where does this period of dominance leave the City-Liverpool enmity? Where is the beef?

LONDON, ENGLAND - Saturday, April 16, 2022: Liverpool's Trent Alexander-Arnold and Ibrahima Konaté clash with Manchester City's captain Fernando Luiz Roza 'Fernandinho' during the FA Cup Semi-Final game between Manchester City FC and Liverpool FC at Wembley Stadium. Liverpool won 3-2. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Jamie Carragher received a bit of backlash for comments he made in April, where he argued that Liverpool and City’s rivalry was “English football’s greatest.”

From a purely footballing standpoint, it’s a reasonable argument, however many were quick to point out the animosity between Keane and Vieira, between Ferguson and Wenger, throughout the 2000s.

Arsenal and United fans weren’t willing to take that one lying down, practically joining hands in a bid to dispel the notion.

Amidst half a decade of going toe-to-toe for the major honours, there is certainly a degree of mutual respect, particularly between the two managers.

Pep and Klopp first locked horns in Germany, and are widely accepted as two of the greatest managers this generation has seen.

All of that being said, there is an inescapable sense that, despite all the success, members of City’s squad, fanbase and hierarchy have got a bit of a bee in their bonnet when it comes to Liverpool.

LONDON, ENGLAND - Saturday, April 16, 2022: Manchester City's manager Josep 'Pep' Guardiola (R) and Liverpool's manager Jürgen Klopp during the FA Cup Semi-Final game between Manchester City FC and Liverpool FC at Wembley Stadium. Liverpool won 3-2. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

In 2019 there was a bizarre instance when a vocal portion of the playing squad and staff were filmed signing City’s rendition of ‘Allez Allez Allez’ on a flight back from their title win away at Brighton.

It was a distasteful song with discernible connotations towards Hillsborough and Sean Cox.

Guardiola later apologised for the song and said that it was not intended to cause any offence, however the very fact Liverpool were on the players’ minds in a moment of such jubilation offers an intriguing insight into the psyche of those involved.

Where does it come from? The term ‘rent-free’ is overly bandied around, particularly on social media, in an often needlessly derogatory way to describe clubs or individuals who are overly concerned with the business of others.

The manner in which Guardiola and some of his peers have conducted themselves in recent years does, however, suggest that something about Liverpool gets under their skin.

Two weeks after that video was released Liverpool won their sixth European Cup in Madrid, quashing certain elements of those lyrics.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Sunday, June 2, 2019: Liverpool supporters with a cardboard cut-out of manager Jürgen Klopp during an open-top bus parade through the city after winning the UEFA Champions League Final. Liverpool beat Tottenham Hotspur. 2-0 in Madrid. To claim their sixth European Cup. (Pic by Paul Greenwood/Propaganda)

There were many connected with City who were noticeably aggrieved at the relative lack of coverage around their centurion, title-winning side against Liverpool’s run in Europe, and it seems that four years on some are unable to shake that.

Guardiola’s suggestion in May that “everyone in this country supports Liverpool, the media and everyone,” was equally fascinating.

It is a theory that can easily be debunked. Liverpool receive more positive press than City because, rightly or wrongly, it’s a bigger story.

Liverpool’s wide-reaching global fanbase means that more people read stories about Liverpool than Man City.

The idea that all journalists support Liverpool is baseless. Football media is a business like any other industry, and there are few clubs that generate more interest (and clicks) than the Reds. Ultimately, that’s what pays.

Is it reciprocated? If you were to ask supporters it’s likely the vast majority will tell you Everton and Man United are still the first teams they look out for when the fixtures are released.

Not because Liverpool supporters aren’t conscious of City’s brilliance and the fact that they are clearly the biggest threat to future success, but largely because that’s how it has always been.

History matters in conversations like this.

At the same time, it would be negligent to not be somewhat preoccupied with City. They are a winning machine with an incredible manager and group of players.

It goes without saying that without Guardiola’s side this Liverpool era could have yielded a trophy haul to surpass any in the club’s history.

These two teams have needed each other in order to reach the heights that they have, heights that haven’t been seen before in the Premier League era.

And it’s far from over.

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp (left) and Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola embrace at full-time after the Premier League match at the Etihad Stadium, Manchester. Picture date: Sunday April 10, 2022.

These two clubs are set to go head-to-head once again, both domestically and in Europe, looking to get the better of one another.

Guardiola is said to have agreed, in principle at least, to remain in charge until summer 2025, and Klopp recently committed to an extension running until summer 2026.

The football rivalry Carragher referred to shows no sign of letting up.