Sunderland boss David Moyes on renewing Merseyside rivalry with Newcastle's Rafa Benitez
For six years, Rafa Benitez and David Moyes fought and scrapped for the bragging rights on the respective sides of Stanley Park.
After Moyes took the honours in the first Merseyside derby meeting between the pair, it was Benitez who overall edged the sparring contests between the pair, with Liverpool triumphing in eight local tussles, compared to Everton’s tally of three.
But that was not to be unexpected.
Liverpool boasted a far bigger budget than Everton, and Benitez had genuine world-class players at his disposal in the likes of England midfielder Steven Gerrard, Spain striker Fernando Torres and the outstanding Xabi Alonso.
Everton were constantly snapping at Liverpool’s heels though in the race for European qualification and in Moyes’ final two seasons at Goodison Park, he achieved just that.
Benitez had departed by that point, as he embarked upon a nomadic existence which was to see Newcastle United eventually become his fifth appointment in the space of six years.
Now (to a degree) Benitez and Moyes’s rivalry will be revived in the North East.
Of course, it’s only a rivalry on paper and in bar-room conversations at present. The Magpies’ relegation means it will be at least a year before another of those titanic tussles between Sunderland and Newcastle.
Moyes was actually linked with the post at St James’s Park while Benitez mulled over whether to continue at the club during the summer, but the new Sunderland boss smiled this week when asked about the quirk of fate which sees the pair again take charge of rival clubs.
“We’ve been against each other quite a lot,” said Moyes.
“Rafa had a great team at Liverpool of Mascherano, Alonso, Torres, Gerrard, Carragher, Reina etc – it was some team – but we were always competing and trying to challenge them.
“We always tried to do the best we could to try to make it.
“In my last two years at Everton, we finished above Liverpool twice in a row, and that was really important in the city.
“By this time Rafa wasn’t in charge, but we finished above them even though we didn’t have the level of finance that they had.
“I think Rafa is a really good football man who has deservedly managed big clubs.
“We’ve had our ups and downs, but I respect him because of what he has done in football.”