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.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Alfred Molina, left, and John Lithgow in a scene from 'Love Is Strange'
film
News
A model of a Neanderthal man on display at the National Museum of Prehistory in Dordogne, France
science
News
Dawkins: 'There’s a very interesting reason why a prince could not turn into a frog – it's statistically too improbable'
newsThat's Richard Dawkins on babies with Down Syndrome
Sport
Malky Mackay salutes the Cardiff fans after the 3-1 defeat at Liverpool on Sunday
footballFormer Cardiff boss accused of sending homophobic, racist and messages
Arts and Entertainment
Martin Amis: Taken to task over rash decisions and ill-judged statements
booksThe Zone of Interest just doesn't work, says James Runcie
Life and Style
life – it's not, says Rachel McKinnon
Arts and Entertainment
Eye of the beholder? 'Concrete lasagne' Preston bus station
architectureWhich monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

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

Day In a Page

Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape
eBay's enduring appeal: Online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce retailer

eBay's enduring appeal

The online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce site
Culture Minister Ed Vaizey: ‘lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird’

'Lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird'

Culture Minister Ed Vaizey calls for immediate action to address the problem
Artist Olafur Eliasson's latest large-scale works are inspired by the paintings of JMW Turner

Magic circles: Artist Olafur Eliasson

Eliasson's works will go alongside a new exhibition of JMW Turner at Tate Britain. He tells Jay Merrick why the paintings of his hero are ripe for reinvention
Josephine Dickinson: 'A cochlear implant helped me to discover a new world of sound'

Josephine Dickinson: 'How I discovered a new world of sound'

After going deaf as a child, musician and poet Josephine Dickinson made do with a hearing aid for five decades. Then she had a cochlear implant - and everything changed
Greggs Google fail: Was the bakery's response to its logo mishap a stroke of marketing genius?

Greggs gives lesson in crisis management

After a mishap with their logo, high street staple Greggs went viral this week. But, as Simon Usborne discovers, their social media response was anything but half baked
Matthew McConaughey has been singing the praises of bumbags (shame he doesn't know how to wear one)

Matthew McConaughey sings the praises of bumbags

Shame he doesn't know how to wear one. Harriet Walker explains the dos and don'ts of fanny packs
7 best quadcopters and drones

Flying fun: 7 best quadcopters and drones

From state of the art devices with stabilised cameras to mini gadgets that can soar around the home, we take some flying objects for a spin
Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

The midfielder returned to the Premier League after two years last weekend. The controversial character had much to discuss after his first game back
Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

British No 1 knows his consistency as well as his fitness needs working on as he prepares for the US Open after a ‘very, very up and down’ year
Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

A descent into madness in America's heartlands

David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home