The biggest fixture in the history of the English game is almost upon us as Manchester United host Liverpool at Old Trafford.
There will be much hoo-hah and fanfare in an effort to hype up the game. You can almost hear the wild gesticulations from Messrs Gary Neville and Jamie Carragher, desperate for a clever pun to insult their sworn rival: “The Theatre of Dreams could soon become the Theatre of Nightmares for Brendan Rodgers should Liverpool lose again.”
“Is it Louis van Gaal or Louis van Gaal-less? An expensively assembled Manchester United fail to perform yet again.”
In fact, the first shots have been fired by Gary Neville who likened what is England's biggest fixture, to a pub match. Similarly, Mark Lawrenson has attacked the decision making of Rodgers this term.
With all the criticising, fans will be forgiven for thinking a relegation battle will be on air as opposed to two juggernauts who have won more trophies between them than Arsenal, Chelsea or Tottenham Hotspur, or more between them than 43 out 54 clubs that have won a title in the English game.
But perhaps the scaled reception the two clubs now receive is testament to the steep decline of both sides. Through all the coverage, there is however, a rather important fact that has lost itself among the commotion: Sunday's fixture will be the first in over 29 years either side does not have a Scottish manager in the dugout.
For fans wondering what the big deal is, equivocally put, the amount both clubs owe Scotland for producing the two figures responsible for moulding what either club is today, goes far beyond the billions they collectively owe banks – perhaps Alex Salmond had a point?
Sir Matt Busby and Bill Shankly are responsible for kickstarting their first dynasties and putting either club on the map.
Sir Alex Ferguson and Kenny Dalglish are both the modern day epitaph of what both clubs determine what success is and even guides their philosophies both on and off the pitch – or at at least they used to.
Recent years have seen Manchester United commit desperately to overspending without a clear ethos. The result has ironically set United further back from their rivals, all the while limiting the amount of playing time its youngster get – chronic injuries to first team members aside.
As for Liverpool, last year's performance is increasingly looking anomalous as the club stumble from one crisis to another. The end result has been a falling standard that has crippled the ambition and image of the club. This is most evidenced by the way Liverpool are perpetually in transition – a phrase they use to justify consistently failing to secure their top targets and consequentially spend several millions on youngsters for the never ending future.
With this in mind, it is time to take a trip back in time. The year is 1988. Kenny Dalglish was on the verge achieving league success with perhaps the greatest ever squad in British history. Sir Alex Ferguson did not let that bother him and his charges as they matched Liverpool all the way in a titanic match worthy of the number one and number two sides of the 1987/1988 season.
The match was thrilling. The atmosphere was toxic. The mindset of the managers contributed to that, especially Sir Alex Ferguson's, who would not let his team be defeated mentally before they set foot on the pitch.
The Guardian's David Lacey reveals an irate Alex Ferguson during a post-match interview:
Anfield intimidation leaves managers choking, say United
Alex Ferguson, the manager of Manchester United , yesterday claimed that the intimidating atmosphere at Liverpool left fellow managers 'choking on their own vomit, afraid to tell the truth'.
Ferguson may face disciplinary action from the Football Association was speaking after United recovered to draw 3 - 3 and delay Liverpool regaining the title in one of the best matches of the season.
He said: 'I can now understand why a lot of managers have to leave here choking on their own sick, afraid to tell the truth because they've been beaten. To win here you have to surmount a lot of pressure, a lot of obstacles and if you want to blame the referee you can't say so. The provocation and intimidation he is under are incredible. To win here is a miracle.
While Ferguson was giving interviews, his Liverpool counterpart, Kenny Dalglish walked past, heard what was being said, and returned holding his baby daughter, Lauren. He indicated that the media would get more sense from his little girl.
The FA will be conscious of the tensions between the fans of Liverpool and Manchester United .
During the build up to a game of such magnitude, you cannot get the opposing managers to shut up as they look to gain the edge psychologically, either by psyching out the opposing players and manager, or even by planting seeds of doubt into the match officials.
Such trash talk has been abundant from punditry but strangely missing from those directly involved. Louis van Gaal's charges might be feeling good enough about themselves not to be deterred by the stage, but they have been dour all season and they get that from the pragmatic approach van Gaal has installed on the team. In the past they would have looked to a fixture like this to kickstart their season and thoroughly demoralise their opponent; this season they seem content with what they have.
Meanwhile, Brendan Rodgers has been apologetic all season and Liverpool have mirrored that. Rhetoric from Anfield should be about claiming bragging rights against United and sending a message to their rivals in the process. Instead, following the early and unexpected Champions League exit, Rodgers has had to deflect talk of his and Steven Gerrard's futures, as well as Mario Balotelli's latest transgression over the past week. He has barely had time to talk about the biggest fixture in the English calendar, almost as if it were an untimely distraction.
If players really are microcosms of their managers then perhaps Gary Neville was spot on and Sunday's affair will be a pub match masquerading in the Premier League. You wonder what would have happened if United and Liverpool had their great Scottish legends in the dugout?
They understood what got their sides ticking and even under their darkest of days - the relegation threatened 1989/90 season for United and the eighth place finish for Liverpool in 2011/12, there was always hope - United won the FA Cup in 1990 and Liverpool won the Carling Cup and were FA Cup finalists in 2012. Currently, you feel neither here nor there with van Gaal, and you feel a complete disconnection with Rodgers.
Though perhaps I am giving Scotland too much credit, after all, it is also two scotsmen, David Moyes and Graham Souness, who fans apportion blame for the relative lack of success either side has had compared to the heady glory days – where are the Alex Salmond supporters now?