Ever since the draw for the FA Cup third round was made, Manchester United versus Liverpool has been the stand-out fixture.
The departure of Roy Hodgson and appointment of Kenny Dalglish has just pushed it to another level.
I thought Liverpool either had to back Hodgson or sack him, and they have gone for the second option, even if it was officially described as 'mutual consent'.
Hodgson has been desperately unlucky at Liverpool. The fans resented his appointment and never gave him a chance, but of course there is no getting past how badly the team have played this season.
The days when a manager got three years minimum to sort the team out are gone - half a season of disastrous results was enough to see Hodgson removed.
From the club's point of view, it is probably good news, though. They needed clarity and they have got it. There would have been no point letting Hodgson stay on through the January transfer window if they had no intention of keeping him long term.
This is not just a crucial time in their season, but in their history as a football club.
poor as they have been - and the performance against Blackburn was as
bad as I have ever seen them - there is still time for them to turn this
around. That is how close things are in the league this season.
Liverpool can barely afford a season without being involved in Europe,
and the club's owners have made swift and decisive action.
Will King Kenny's appointment be enough? Only time will tell. He is an inspirational figure much loved by the fans, but he has to work with the same squad as Hodgson.
He can get off to the perfect start at Old Trafford on Sunday, but I'm not sure that there are enough players at
Liverpool who really understand the magnitude of this match, even the
English lads who arrived this summer.
Joe Cole and Paul Konchesky
have both played in some big matches and plenty of East and West London
derbies, but until this season they will have seen nothing like playing
United in a Liverpool shirt.
I never came close to appreciating
what a big derby was when I was at QPR and Fulham, but when I came up to
Manchester and we played City I thought to myself 'this is a big game'.
When we played Leeds, and it was just as immense, and then walking out
against Liverpool was just incredible.
Recently I was talking to my old England colleague Steve McMahon, who was in the last Liverpool side to win the league in 1990.
said that if you had told him then that in 20 years time United would
be on the verge of surpassing their haul of championships he would have
never believed you.
That just puts into context how far United have moved on, but more so how much Liverpool have regressed in the past two decades.
The most abiding memory for me which really says how big a fixture this is comes from a match we played at Anfield in 1994.
were 3-0 up early on, but Nigel Clough scored twice and Neil Ruddock
headed an equaliser in the latter stages of the second half. It was one
of those crazy nights in the Premier League.
Even though we had
were riding high in the table and Liverpool were not the dominant force
of old, we came into the dressing room relatively pleased to get a point
at Anfield in the grand scheme of things.
Alex Ferguson was not.
He gave us the biggest rollocking of our lives. It was bad enough that
we had lost a three-goal lead, but the fact it was against Liverpool is
what really got him mad. Luckily, we went on to win the title that year!
Kenny Dalglish knows what it means to represent Liverpool and to play in a fixture like this. His first job is to make sure his players also understand.