United away is daunting but Konchesky's having a ball

After playing in less intense London derbies, Reds new boy will relish the real deal today

Paul Konchesky played for four London clubs in all manner of derby games; now, as they used to say in Monty Python, for something completely different. Manchester United against Liverpool is not Fulham versus Charlton.

Any new foreign recruits at Anfield preparing for this fixture for the first time, such as Christian Poulsen or Milan Jovanovic, may need a sharp lesson from Jamie Carragher or Steven Gerrard about the importance of it. But like Joe Cole, another Londoner who had spent all his working life in the capital before this season, Konchesky is immersed deeply enough in English football culture to understand the importance of what happens at Old Trafford from 1.30pm today.

"When you watch Man United play Liverpool you can see how big it is and I'm looking forward to being part of it," he said. "I think the derbies up north are bigger than the ones in London." Konchesky was speaking after the comfortable 4-1 victory over Steaua Bucharest in the Europa League on Thursday night, having just made his home debut following a transfer from Fulham only completed on deadline day in the transfer window.

A first taste, then, of walking up the tunnel to strains of "You'll Never Walk Alone" and receiving the Kop's applause; yet the very fact that this was the Europa League on Channel Five (as United supporters will doubtless remind the visitors today) and a game being played in front of Anfield's lowest crowd for eight years, barely 25,000, emphasised the current gap between two of the great modern dynasties of the domestic game.

It is well known that when Sir Alex Ferguson arrived in Manchester from Aberdeen in 1986, his ambition was to knock Liverpool off their (expletive deleted) perch. Younger readers may need reminding of how far below that perch United were at the time and how much messy stuff from Merseyside was landing on their head. Liverpool had just won their eighth title in 11 seasons, and hoovered up four European Cups in the same period; United had not held up the First Division trophy for almost 20 years. In Ferguson's first match they lost 2-0 to Oxford and sank to 20th in the table, on the same day Liverpool assumed what was taken to be their rightful position at the head of it.

Removal from the perch took at least five years, the 1991-92 season being the first since 1968 in which United finished above the other Reds. Even then, Liverpool had the last word, denying United any chance of pipping Leeds to the championship by beating them at Anfield in the penultimate game. In the Premier League era, however, as our table (left) shows, the clubs' relative status could hardly be more clear-cut. Only once in all that time have Liverpool, seeking a first title since 1990, managed to finish higher (2001-02) and on average United's superiority has been in the region of 15 points.

Of course, there have been individual games in which Liverpudlian pride has been restored, notably in the season before last when a double success included a 4-1 victory at Old Trafford and the unlikely spectacle of Fernando Torres bullying Nemanja Vidic. The manager, a chap called Rafa Benitez, was immediately handed an improved five-year contract until 2014.

That proved an expensive piece of paper and, following the Spaniard's sacking, it is Roy Hodgson who will be in the opposite dug-out to Ferguson today. Fellow Londoners Cole and Konchesky were two of the signings he was keenest to make and they are expected to be among the few outfield players who will be retained from Thursday's much-changed side for this afternoon's encounter.

Konchesky has the advantage of having played against United already this season in a Fulham side that benefited from a late penalty save and an even later equaliser to hold them 2-2 at Craven Cottage. "They [Liverpool players] know what Man United are about," he said. "They have not really hit form yet and hopefully we won't let them hit form against us. If we start well at Old Trafford and get their fans on their back then hopefully we can go on to win the game."

Although claiming a record against United that is "not too bad, to be fair", he is aware of greater expectation at his new club. "No disrespect to Fulham but if you went to Old Trafford and came away with a draw then that's a massive bonus but going with Liverpool you expect to get a win. That's the expectation of the club and the fans. That's what comes with it."

What will not change is Konchesky's vigorously physical approach. "You know what derbies are like," he said. "I just have to go and play my game and whatever happens, happens. Hopefully the ref understands that. I play every game the same and I want to go out and win. It's a big derby and tackles will be flying about so we need a sensible ref." After Spain against Holland, Howard Webb should be well prepared.

Arts and Entertainment
Lou Reed distorted the truth about his upbringing, and since his death in 2013, biographers and memoirists have added to the myths
musicThe truth about Lou Reed's upbringing beyond the biographers' and memoirists' myths
Ed Miliband received a warm welcome in Chester
election 2015
Life and Style
Apple CEO Tim Cook announces the Apple Watch during an Apple special even
fashionIs the Apple Watch for you? Well, it depends if you want it for the fitness tech, or for the style
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

Let the propaganda wars begin - again

'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

Japan's incredible long-distance runners

Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

Tom Drury: The quiet American

His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

Beige to the future

Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own