NO team has a God-given right to success. It is a particularly relevant maxim to mull over as two of English football's heavyweights meet at Old Trafford this evening.

For foes who have grown to detest each other, very rarely in the modern era have they been direct rivals. Instead, the Manchester-Liverpool rivalry was born out of the industrial revolution when both cities vied for economic supremacy; the period of time when the respective football clubs matched each other stride for stride can be narrowed down to a corridor in the 1960s when they took it in turns to win league titles between 1964 and 1967.

But, as the two teams that have shared 73 domestic trophies between them and are by a distance England's most successful clubs in Europe, it makes sense that they should see themselves as natural rivals and equally deserving of success. That it is Liverpool and Manchester City – United's other foe – who sit atop English football currently only serves to heighten disaffection at Old Trafford.

Much of United's woes pertain to the succession crisis created by Sir Alex Ferguson's departure from the United hotseat in 2013. It is now nine years and counting since United last won the league – and the rivalry with Liverpool has now been usurped by the one that has grown between Jurgen Klopp's side and what Fergie himself referred to as 'noisy neighbours' City.

Frustrating club legends and fans alike, is the lack of a concerted plan or what appears to be any joined-up thinking in United's transfer strategy.

There are two weeks left in the transfer window and there has been another flurry of names linked with a move to Old Trafford in recent days. Jose Casemiro, the Real Madrid enforcer, arrived last week for the eye-watering sum of £60m and £350,000 in weekly wages. At 30, there is no doubt the defensive midfielder remains one of the best in the world at his position – but for how much longer? By the time his contract expires he will be 34 (or 35 given United's fifth-year option). It is another deal in a long line of recent transfers that smacks of short-termism yet simultaneously speaks to where United find themselves: scrambling to make transfers after a summer of knock backs and overpaying for players that were not their first choice. Gary Neville, the former United captain, once said that you can see the well-run clubs by the manner in which they do their summer business – and those which are floundering tend to do theirs in the final weeks of the window. Back then he had United firmly bracketed among the clubs that were managed soundly but not now. Casemiro alone will not solve United's problems but he should, in theory, stiffen a porous midfield. Meanwhile, as the story of Brazilian international's imminent arrival was breaking, so too was news of a £68m bid for the Ajax winger, Antony. It is another deal that would raise eyebrows should it go through. The 22-year-old scored eight goals and assisted four times in the notoriously hard to gauge Eredivisie. He is also a player in a position in which United seem to be relatively well stocked.

But United are desperate and desperation often leads to clouded judgment. Erik ten Hag admitted in the aftermath of defeat at Brentford that he had a “hell of a job” on his hands. Tonight there is the dread-filled visit of their hated rivals from across the M62 to negotiate; there can be few more daunting sides to encounter than a Liverpool in need of a victory themselves after a slow start to the season.

For all the talk about a crisis at United, Ten Hag's side are still just two points behind tonight's opponents. Based on points dropped thus far and those which are normally needed to win a Premier League in the modern era United are almost certainly out of the title race already. But it would take a braver man to suggest that Liverpool are in a similar predicament, after all they made up 13 points on Man City last season before just failing to keep the momentum going to the finish line.

That belief in a God-given right to win is one held equally by Liverpool supporters and their manager. Back in May when they threw away the league with a draw against Tottenham, Jurgen Klopp blamed Spurs for not playing in a way that would have exposed them to a potential mauling; in 2021 he pointed the finger at Real Madrid's training ground for a 3-1 defeat by Los Blancos in the Champions League quarter-finals. The German blamed the pitch at Fulham for his side's opening day shortcomings then a “witch in the dressing room” for the number of injuries suffered by his players in the build-up to last Monday's 1-1 draw with Crystal Palace.

The key takeaway here is that Liverpool's travails pertain to short term difficulties. Where United might struggle to qualify for Europe this season, the Merseysiders were in contention for a quadruple up until the final weeks of last season and no one is seriously suggesting that a difficult opening few weeks will manifest into anything that hampers their title challenge.

You do not have to go too far back into recent history, however, to know that Liverpool have had their woes with American owners, too. Despite helping to end the club's 30-year wait for a league title, the current incumbents Fenway Sports Group are not what could be described as universally popular owners but they have considerably more stock than that of Tom Hicks and George Gillett, the US businessmen who almost took the club into administration in 2010. They have come a long way since then and for all of the bellyaching, Liverpool remain the team most likely to put up the most resistance to City this season.

The future for United is less clear. News broke last week that private equity firm Apollo Global Management were in talks over purchasing a minority share in United. Meanwhile, Jim Radcliffe, the owner of chemical company Ineos and himself a lifelong United supporter has said he is exploring the possibility of doing similar.

United fans are planning protests at the ownership of Joel and Avram Glazer this evening and there can be little surprise that the brothers opened the company cheque book this week as talk of a takeover started circulating. Not for the first time, of course, but until they sort out the recruitment side of the business United will continue to struggle.

And, besides, no team has a God-given right to success.