Everything that Manchester United does this season tends to elicit the same word: history.
The Old Trafford club moved one step closer to completing what would be a near-perfect season on Saturday when it clinched yet another English Premier League title with a 0-0 draw at home to Arsenal. The EPL trophy will mean as much to the club and its fans as any of the 11 it has lifted in the past 17 years because United has now won England's top division 18 times to tie itself with hated rival Liverpool for the most ever.
Such defining moments spark inevitable debate about which club has the greater legacy, yet the answer in this case seems pretty clear cut.
United is the king of English soccer and it doesn't plan to relinquish its tag any time soon.
Liverpool supporters will disagree, but the truth is unavoidable. Although the Reds have won more European Cups &dnash; five to United's three &dnash; the Manchester club's length of dominance means it has every right to call itself England's best ever.
United is fast approaching two decades as clearly the leading light in English soccer, a feat even the great Liverpool sides of the 1970s and 1980s were unable to match. The spectacular run coincided in 1992 with the start of the EPL (which replaced England's old First Division), and in the period since, United has established itself as the biggest and most successful club in the world.
"I don't think there can be any argument about United as the greatest club we've ever seen," former United captain and current Wigan Athletic manager Steve Bruce said. "To reach such a high level of performance and to sustain it for this length of time is unprecedented, and United continues to grow from being a truly great club to something that is just off the charts."
In recent seasons, Liverpool fans have taken great delight in pointing out their club's superior trophy haul, both in domestic league action and in European Cup competitions. After Saturday, they can no longer use the league titles statistic to look down on United, and their days of European bragging rights may be coming to an end as well.
United is a favorite to move to within one European title of Liverpool by beating Barcelona in the UEFA Champions League final on May 27 and take its season tally of official trophies to four (not counting the season-opening Community Shield). For now, though, it can have the luxury of enjoying one of its most important league title wins and relish its status as England's top dog.
Ryan Giggs, the only player in history to win 11 English league winners medals, insisted United's hegemony was destined to continue.
"The difference at United is that success breeds success," Giggs said. "You still enjoy it just as much as the first time, but it makes you incredibly determined to keep striving for more and to see just how dominant the club can be."
Liverpool will end the season with the highest point tally of any team not to win the EPL and will attempt next campaign to end two barren decades to move back ahead of United with league title No. 19. Unless that happens, though, United can be confident in the belief that it is not only England's greatest, but its greatest ever.
- Manchester United
- English Premier League