Man United fans hope to avoid nightmare of Liverpool winning Champions League
Liverpool have one foot in the Champions League final after thrashing Roma 5-2 on Tuesday night. Roma managed to get a couple of goals back after being dominated for pretty much the entirety of the match, losing their heads and failing to defend.
Manchester United fans are clinging on to the hope that Roma can have a better showing during the second leg of the semifinal, seeing as how they overturned a 4-1 deficit against a much better Barcelona team in the previous round. But evidence from Anfield suggests that the game against the Spanish side was Roma's final gasp and that they are now spent.
United supporters are left with the horrible prospect of having rivals Liverpool possibly winning the European Cup for a sixth time -- a number that would double the total they have claimed.
Just a few weeks earlier, many United fans were cheering the Scousers on against Manchester City -- believing that Pep Guardiola's side had a much better chance of going on to win the competition than Liverpool did. If Jurgen Klopp could knock out City, it seemed almost certain they would lose against one of the European giants in the next round. But then Roma beat Barcelona and set the wheels of this torturous scenario in motion.
While City's wealthy owners have certainly sharpened the rivalry between the Mancunian clubs, a few years of competition do not come close to matching the decades of rivalry between United and Liverpool.
United supporters obviously aren't particularly fond of City, but the intensity of those feelings is nothing like the hatred felt for Liverpool. Younger supporters, however, may wonder what the fuss is all about, given you'd have to be in your late 30s to have any real memories of the last time Liverpool were the best team in England.
It's been 28 years since they last won the league. Yet in that time, they've been crowned champions of Europe once with a potential third final appearance on the way.
By contrast, United have won the English title 13 times since Liverpool last did, yet have only won the Champions League twice and haven't been near the final since they last played in it in 2011.
Sir Alex Ferguson famously knocked Liverpool off their perch with the club's 20th title win in 2013 but he has repeatedly bemoaned the club's failure to dominate in Europe as they did in England.
When United first built a team capable of success in the competition, they were initially hampered by the three foreign player rule. The two best teams Ferguson developed after have each won the Champions League just once. Both squads managed to reach numerous finals and semifinals, but other than in 1999 and 2008, fell short.
It could be soul destroying for some United fans to see Klopp's team lift the Champions League trophy next month and match United's recent European Cup haul -- especially given Manchester United's superiority over Liverpool during the last three decades.
If that is to happen, would that be as bad as it could get for United fans?
They were spoiled with success during Ferguson's reign, but even under Jose Mourinho, United fans have celebrated two trophy wins, the Europa League and League Cup last season, and have the FA Cup final to look forward to in a few weeks. Three trophies in two years would not be bad going, particularly in comparison to Liverpool, who have won three in the last 13 years.
Yet United have had some significant lows during this period too. The David Moyes season was about as bad as it got but the finale of the 2011-12 season was pretty horrific too.
With Manchester United throwing away the title in the last few weeks of the season, City just needed to beat QPR at home to be crowned champions. Yet, somehow they found themselves down 2-1 against the 10 men of the relegation fighters. When United beat Sunderland, the City game was still ongoing. Had the score stood, Ferguson's team would have somehow still won the league. However, two late goals, including the injury-time winner from Sergio Aguero, snatched the title from United at the death.
So, while Liverpool winning the Champions League for a sixth time would be sickening, it would not match the savagery of 2012. To lose out on the league in the final seconds of the season is already gut-wrenching, but to lose out against one your biggest rivals only rubs salt in the wounds.
Having been knocked out of the competition against Sevilla in the round of 16, United supporters will likely have to rely on their former hero, Cristiano Ronaldo, to deny Liverpool any European glory. Real Madrid are the favourites to meet Klopp's team in the final after coming back from a one-goal deficit to beat Bayern Munich 2-1 away on Wednesday night.
The thought of the Scousers holding up six digits to represent their sixth title during the away end of Old Trafford next season is enough to give any United fan nightmares. They will have to daydream about Ronaldo wheeling away in front of the Liverpool fans in Kiev, cupping his ear, after sticking the ball in the back of Loris Karius' net.
Scott is one of ESPN FC's Manchester United bloggers. Follow him on Twitter: @R_o_M.