Written by John White
Carryduff Manchester United Supporters’ Club
The True Home of Irish Reds
On 11 September 1946, Manchester United recorded their biggest ever victory over Liverpool.
The two fierce rivals met at Maine Road in a First Division game as Old Trafford was still under reconstruction after being damaged during a Luftwaffe bombing raid over Manchester on the night of 11 March 1941. United went into the game having won their opening three League fixtures, 2-1 Grimsby Town (h), Chelsea 3-0 (a) and Charlton Athletic 3-1 (a). United won the game 5-0 with a hat-trick from Stan Pearson and goals from Charlie Mitten and Jack Rowley.
But it was Liverpool who were crowned English First Division Champions at the end of the season, a single point ahead of United who finished in second place. The 1-0 League defeat to Liverpool at Anfield on 3 May 1947, effectively sealed the title race. Liverpool’s legendary striker, Albert Stubbins, scored the only goal of the game. Stubbins later famously appeared on the front cover of The Beatles’ album “Sgt, Pepper’s Lonely-Hearts Club Band,” the only footballer to be depicted.
United went into the game three points ahead of Liverpool (51-48) although they had played one game more than their closest title rivals. It was only the fifth game of United’s 42 League games in which they failed to find the net despite United scoring 95 times during the campaign in comparison to Liverpool’s 84 goals but it cost United the title as a draw would have crowned United Champions by a point based on the results of each side’s remaining fixtures (United drew 1 and won 2 whilst Liverpool drew 1 and won 3).
When United fans are asked
“Who do you regard to be our fiercest rivals?,”
the majority of responses will name Liverpool or Manchester City. But for me, our fiercest rivals is unquestionably Liverpool and not our derby rivals.
Rivalries are the lifeblood of sport such as boxing’s gladiators Ali-Frazier, tennis pin-ups Borg-McEnroe, speed kings Prost-Senna, middle distance running masters Coe-Ovett, golf legends Palmer-Nicklaus and darts’ big hitters Taylor-van Barneveld. They transcend sport and become theatre, auditoriums for gladiatorial battles.
Separated by 29 miles across the East Lancs Road the greatest rivalry in English football is unquestionably Manchester United versus Liverpool. Ask any fan from either camp who they think have been their club’s biggest rivals and nearly every one of them will say United or Liverpool. Sure, there is the Manchester and Merseyside Derby games but these are for bragging rights in the respective cities over a season whereas the United v Liverpool rivalry is of much greater historical significance.
It is a rivalry like no other and is usually a bitter encounter. Every game between these two towering giants of the English game is a date with history. Up until the end of the 1960s Manchester United ruled English football but under Bill Shankly and Bob Paisley Liverpool took a stranglehold of both domestic and European football in the 1970s and 1980s. They were like a machine as they ground out results at home and abroad to add trophy after trophy, season after season to the ever-expanding trophy room at Anfield.
Prior to the appointment of Alex Ferguson as Manchester United manager on 6 November 1986, United were living in the shadow of their rivals as Liverpool had racked-up 16 First Division Championships (they won it again in 1987-88 & 1989-90) compared to United’s paltry return of seven, the last in 1966-67, and four European Cup triumphs compared to United’s solitary success in the competition in 1968.
Shankly had started a dynasty and the men who followed him, Bob Paisley, Joe Fagan and Kenny Dalglish continued to ensure that the cleaning lady in the Anfield trophy room was among the busiest people at the club.
At the height of Liverpool’s success United nearly always managed to get the better of them when they met on the pitch but whereas United won the battle, Liverpool invariably won the war in the shape of the English First Division Championship. In 1977, United prevented Liverpool from becoming the first English side to win the Treble of League Championship, FA Cup and European Cup by beating their most-bitter of rivals 2-1 in the Silver Jubilee FA Cup final. And this was 22 years before United achieved this unprecedented feat in our glorious Treble winning season of 1998-99.
We got the odd scraps from English football’s top dinner table, FA Cup wins in 1977, 1983 and 1985, but during the same period Liverpool sat at the head of the table accumulating 6 Championships, 4 League Cups, 4 European Cups and 1 European Super Cup.
Then things changed in United’s favour when they appointed Alex Ferguson to replace the sacked Ron Atkinson as manager on 6 November 1986. It was the beginning of a new dawn at Old Trafford which would lead to a golden age for the club, a golden age which we once again long for to return. Within four years of arriving in Manchester, Fergie had broken the mould upon which Liverpool had built the cornerstone of their success and turned United from football bridesmaids into eternal brides.
Trophy after trophy followed under the Boss and to the sheer ecstasy of United fans all over the world, we surpassed Liverpool’s title haul of 18 Championships in season 2010-11 when we claimed our 13th Premier League crown and our 19th title overall. No wonder then that when the Boss was once asked what his greatest achievement had been in football he defiantly said “Knocking Liverpool right off their perch.” Well, he actually said it with a little bit more authority and we love him for it.
Loyalty, passion, strength and an insatiable desire to succeed are the internal strands of the Boss’s DNA and he ensured that every player who pulled on a United shirt over the 26½ years he managed our great club gave 100% in everything they did. Every player was reminded about the history of the club and that the crest on their shirts was more a badge of honour than a football crest.
This was never more evidenced than in the Boss’s farewell speech to the fans following our last home game of the 2012-13 season when he said:
“I wish the players every success in future. You know how good you are, you know the jersey you’re wearing. You know what it means to everyone here. And don’t ever let yourself down, the expectation is always there.”
To him second place was no place at all because only winners are remembered. Winners are enshrined in the history books and under Sir Alex he made sure that Manchester United not only created history but dominated its’ pages with 13 Premier League titles, 5 FA Cups, 4 League Cups, 10 Charity/Community Shields, 1 European Cup Winners’ Cup, 1 European Super Cup, 2 Champions League titles, 1 Inter-Continental Cup and 1 FIFA Club World Cup.
And, of course, this rivalry has produced some truly memorable moments for United fans and made some United cult heroes. Pride and passion, guts and glory, the essential ingredients of a United v Liverpool tussle. Apart from our 1977 FA Cup final win we also beat Liverpool in two FA Cup semi-finals: 1-0 in a replay at Goodison Park with a Jimmy Greenhoff goal after a 2-2 draw at Goodison Park (scorers: Brian Greenhoff and Joe Jordan) and 2-1 in a replay at Maine Road in 1985 with goals from Bryan Robson and Mark Hughes, after a 2-2 draw at Goodison Park (scorers: Robbo and Frank Stapleton).
In April 1988, a First Division match-up saw United come from two goals down at Anfield to draw 3-3 although the game is best remembered for Norman Whiteside coming on as a substitute and clattering Steve McMahon. Stormin’ Norman loved nothing more than a good old midfield fracas and every Liverpool player who faced him feared him. Or January 1994, when United met Liverpool at Anfield in the Premier League and drew the game 3-3. A banner in the Kop teased the United team and fans as it read:
“Au Revoir Cantona and Man United. Come back when you’ve won 18.”
In season 2011-12, United’s fans took a banner to Anfield which read:
“You told us to come back when we’ve won 18 – we are back.”
Or Eric wrapping himself around a pole after scoring a penalty against Liverpool at Old Trafford on 1 October 1995 in his comeback game after his 8 months ban for his kung-fu style kick on a fan who was abusing him.
In the 1996 FA Cup final a goal from Eric gave us our second Double. And do you remember the white suits the Liverpool players wore that day? Very spicy! When Paul Ince joined Liverpool in the summer of 1997, he was never going to be given the respect he enjoyed when he played for us from 1989-95. Ince left Old Trafford at the end of the 1995 season and joined Inter Milan before making a return to the Premiership.
During his short stay with Liverpool the Boss referred to Ince as a “Big Time Charlie.” United played Liverpool five times when Ince was at Anfield and never lost a single game, winning two and drawing two in the Premier League and a 2-1 FA Cup Round 4 win en-route to claiming the Treble in 1998-99 which led United fans to taunt our former No.8 with chants of “Charlie, Charlie what’s the score?” Who will ever forget our dramatic 2-1 win over the scousers in the FA Cup 4th Round in season 1998-99 when they were coasting to victory and dreaming of bringing to an end our dreams of the Treble? Liverpool scored after just three minutes from a Michael Owen header and it took until the 86th minute before we drew level thanks to Dwight Yorke. Two minutes into injury time the Scousers were crying when Ole Gunnar Solskjaer sent David James in the Liverpool goal the wrong way. A truly MasterCard moment and excellent use of Fergie time!
And our 3-1 victory at Anfield on 19 April 1997, which all but sealed the Premiership title that season as a United fan unveiled a banner which read
“We won the Championship on Merseyside.”
In 2002, Diego Forlan left Argentina’s Independiente for Old Trafford in a £6.9m transfer and scored just 17 goals in 98 appearances for United but two of these goals cemented his place as a United cult hero because as the songs says he “made the Scousers cry.” United went to Anfield on 1 December 2002 lying in fifth place but came away with all three points thanks to two goals from Forlan which instantly prompted the United fans to sing:
“He came from Uruguay and made the Scousers cry. Diego. Oooh, Diego Oooh. He came From Uruguay. He made the Scousers cry.”
The day after United clinched the Premier League for the 12th time in season 2010-11, and thereby surpass Liverpool’s haul of 18 League Championship titles, some United fans unveiled a banner at the Anfield Road End of Liverpool’s ground during their Premier League game against Tottenham Hotspur which simply read:
Then during season 2011-12 when we travelled to Merseyside for our Premiership encounter with Liverpool a United fan held aloft a sign in the away fans end at the ground which simply read:
“Over 18’s only.”
Who said Liverpool fans were the wittiest in football? Any wonder then the United fans sing;
“Sign on, sign on, for you’ll never get a job, you’ll never get a job”
and last but certainly not least, red raw Gary Neville’s celebration in front of the Liverpool fans at Old Trafford in 2006:
“Gary Neville is a red, is a red, is a red, Gary Neville is a red, he hates Scousers.”
But make no mistake about it, Liverpool have awoken from their 30-year slumber and are once again, a force to be reckoned with. They have been transformed by Jürgen Klopp and are a team to be feared, a team which deserve our respect. I know the latter will not sit comfortably with my fellow Reds but Liverpool are United’s greatest rivals and last season they extended their total trophy wins haul over us when they won a sixth European Cup/Champions League and a fourth European Super Cup/UEFA Super Cup.
Liverpool 46 major trophies:
• 18 League Titles,
• 7 FA Cups,
• 8 League Cups,
• 6 European Cups/Champions League,
• 4 European Super Cup/UEFA Super Cups,
• 3 UEFA Cups.
Manchester United 43 major trophies:
• 20 League Titles,
• 12 FA Cups,
• 5 League Cups,
• 3 European Cups/Champions League,
• 1 Europa League,
• 1 Intercontinental Cup,
• 1 FIFA Club World Championship.
But on a lighter note:
THE LAST TIME LIVERPOOL WON THE LEAGUE
Liverpool last won the League, the old English First Division Championship in season 1989-90. But what else happened during this season?
• Rory McIlroy was born.
• A former Hollywood actor, Ronald Reagan, was the President of the United States.
• The Soviet Union were still in Afghanistan.
• Iran breaks off relations with Britain over Salman Rushdie’s book “The Satanic Verses.”
• Rain Man won the Oscar for Best Picture at the Academy Awards.
• Margaret Thatcher introduced the Poll Tax into Scotland.
• Students in Beijing, China stage a protest in Tiananmen Square with one man standing in front of a tank.
• Oliver North was convicted on charges related to the Iran-Contra affair.
• Solidarity, the Polish Trade Union, was victorious in the Polish Elections.
• Jive Bunny and the Mastermixers were No.1 in the UK Singles Charts with “Swing The Mood.”
• Jordan Henderson was born.
• Nelson Mandela was released from prison on Robben Island after spending 27 years behind bars. He spent two year less in jail than it has taken Liverpool to win the League since their last triumph in 1989-90.
• The first McDonald’s opens in China, Colonel Saunders’ KFC beat them to it by three years!
• Mr Bean appeared on TV for the first time.
• Mikhail Gorbachev was elected as the first executive president of the Soviet Union.
• Margaret Thatcher resigned after serving 11 years as Prime Minister.
• The first known web page is written.
• The Channel Tunnel is completed.
• Driving Miss Daisy won the Oscar for Best Picture at the Academy Awards.
• East Germany and West Germany announce they will unite.
• Rita Ora was born
• Mary Robinson becomes the first female President of Ireland.
• Partners In Kryme were No.1 in the UK Singles Charts with “Turtle Power” and Bombalurina topped the charts with “Itsy Bitsy Teeny Weeny Yellow Polker Dot Bikini.”
Did You Know That?
In season 1989-90, Jürgen Klopp played for Rot-Weiss Frankfurt in the German Third Division. The club’s nickname is “Die-Roten,” meaning “The Red.” And if you know any Liverpool fans let them know that their last League Championship can now be watched in High Definition, provided they have a Betamax Video Recorder that is!
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