Louis van Gaal has described Manchester United’s two-legged Europa League last-16 tie against rivals Liverpool as ‘historic’.
The Europa League has thrown up a mouth-watering first continental clash between the north-west rivals, but the fact they are going toe-to-toe in this competition only underlines how far the most successful clubs in English football history have fallen recently.
United and Liverpool have won 20 and 18 league titles, respectively, along with a combined eight European Cups – a history of success that Van Gaal believes came during a bygone era.
“In football, it’s normal,” the Reds manager said of teams falling from the summit.
“It’s not normal that one team is dominating for 20 years in a row (as) the champion.”
The current state of affairs domestically means the Europa League may well offer both clubs their best chance of reaching the Champions League, with both sides currently priced at 10/1 with Titanbet to lift the trophy.
United sit sixth in the Premier League, three points off the top four, and Liverpool are a place and three points worse off, albeit with a match in hand.
However, Europa League glory would guarantee a place at European football’s top table regardless of league performance, adding extra motivation – if any was needed – for the tie.
“Liverpool – Manchester United is always a big game traditionally,” Van Gaal said ahead of Thursday’s first leg at Anfield.
“It’s historic and, especially because both teams fight for a Champions League position, it’s a big game for both sides.”