The clock may have said 11pm, the end of a long and tiring day of travel, but the mood in the passport queue at Liverpool John Lennon Airport was one of delight, happiness and celebration.
This was May 4, 2022, and a group of Liverpool supporters, returning bleary-eyed to Merseyside having attended their side’s Champions League semi-final win over Villarreal, had landed to the best news imaginable.
Improbably and implausibly, Manchester City had managed to throw away an unassailable lead to lose to Real Madrid in the other semi. They would not be joining the Reds in the final. Pep Guardiola’s side had blown their big chance. Again.
“Straight to town, surely?” came the shout as news of City’s collapse in the Bernabeu spread through the queue. Outside, as Ubers and Delta taxis waited to collect, a chant began.
“We’ll be running round Paris with the cup…”
The point of this story is not to remind City fans of their misery, or to poke fun at those Liverpool supporters for their premature celebrations – Real, after all, would go on to beat Jurgen Klopp’s side in the final.
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Rather, it is to reflect upon the nature of this most modern of rivalries, and the manner in which the two clubs’ fortunes have been so intrinsically intertwined over the past few years...