Man Utd v Liverpool - North West Derby History
Manchester United v Liverpool: The Story Behind One of the Premier League's Fiercest Rivalries
Manchester United and Liverpool share one of the fiercest clashes in world football and every match between them is a major event. There is an intense mutual rivalry between the teams, the backroom staff and the fans. They are two of the biggest clubs in England and there is always a great deal at stake when they lock horns at Old Trafford and Anfield, resulting in many classic games over the years.
Manchester United v Liverpool: The History of the North West Derby
Manchester and Liverpool are the two biggest cities in North West England and they have spent hundreds of years vying for regional supremacy. Manchester was historically the largest and most important city in northern England, but Liverpool rose to prominence in the 18th century due to its status as a major port. It eventually toppled Manchester and became known as the British Empire's second city, having emerged as the key metropolitan centre in the north.
Liverpool pressed home its advantage by imposing heavy duties on products from Manchester that passed through its docks. This sparked frustration among Mancunians, and it inspired the creation of the Manchester Ship Canal, a 36-mile long inland waterway linking Manchester to the Irish Sea. That allowed it to bypass Liverpool and boost its own import and export industry, sparking fury among Liverpudlians. Many dock workers lost their jobs as a result, while Manchester once again became a bigger regional city than Liverpool, and it led to ferocious enmity between the two cities.
That poured into games taking place between the cities¿ local clubs, Liverpool FC and Newton Heath - which would later become Man Utd. The Red Devils still have a ship on their crest to commemorate the construction of the canal, and they are met with venomous fury whenever they head into Liverpool territory.
Liverpool won their first Football League Championship trophy in 1901, nine years after the club was founded. They secured their second title in 1906, the year Newton Heath were promoted to the top flight and renamed Man Utd. The balance of power then shifted and Man Utd were crowned champions of England for the first time in 1908, while Liverpool fell down to mid-table. The First World War disrupted domestic football, but Liverpool secured two more titles after it ended, while Man Utd were relegated to the second tier of English football.
They then began a couple of decades in the wilderness, before Liverpool were crowned champions again in 1947. The Reds were then relegated, and Man Utd enjoyed a period of dominance under the management of former Liverpool captain Matt Busby. They won two league titles in a row before disaster struck, as eight players of the Busby Babes team died when their plane crashed in Munich.
Bill Shankly took over at Anfield and led the club into the First Division in 1962, and Liverpool and Man Utd then became serious footballing rivals for the first time. They shared four titles between 1963 and 1967, before a rejuvenated Man Utd won the European Cup with a new generation of Babes in 1968. George Best, Dennis Law and Bobby Charlton were often unplayable during the 1960s, and they propelled Man Utd to a great deal of success. However, the Red Devils' league title in 1967 was to be their last for 26 years, as Liverpool became the dominant force in English football.
They won 11 league titles, 19 cups and seven European trophies between 1972 and 1992, boasting great players like Kenny Dalglish, Graeme Souness, John Barnes, Ian Rush, Ian Callaghan, Alan Hansen, Kevin Keegan, Mark Lawrenson, Ray Clemence, Roger Hunt and many more legends. Man Utd did manage to beat Liverpool in a couple of cup finals during that period, keeping the rivalry going, but the Reds were firmly in charge.
The Modern Day Rivalry Between Liverpool and Man Utd
The first thing Alex Ferguson wanted to do when he took over as Man Utd boss in 1986 was 'knock Liverpool right off their perch'. He was powerless to prevent them from winning the league in 1988 and 1990, but he finally led Man Utd to their first title in 26 years when they seized glory in 1993, the first season of the newly formed Premier League. They went on to stamp their authority on the English game during a trophy-laden 20-year period, and it was Liverpool's turn to endure a title drought.
Man Utd's success was built on their famous Class of '92, featuring Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes, David Beckham, Nicky Butt and the Neville brothers. "As a young United fan growing up at the time that I did, it was just a fact that you didn't like Liverpool Football Club" recalls Gary Neville, who went on to captain the club. "A Manchester United-Liverpool game can be fiery, ugly, passionate, hostile, but it can never be boring and the players on the pitch always have a responsibility to ensure that the games don't pass without contention or incident. The very first thing that any Manchester United player should have explained to them when they join the club is that it's unacceptable to lose to Liverpool, but also that there's no feeling to rival beating them."
Ferguson had Roy Keane as his lieutenant on the pitch and he formed a magnificent midfield quartet along with Scholes, Beckham and Giggs. They spent heavily on English talent during the glory years, bringing in the likes of Gary Pallister, Steve Bruce, Andy Cole, Rio Ferdinand and Wayne Rooney. Overseas arrivals also dazzled with their brilliance, from Eric Cantona to Cristiano Ronaldo. Ferguson had won 13 Premier League titles, five FA Cups and two Champions League titles by the time he retired in 2013.
During that period, Liverpool's successes were modest: they won the Champions League in 2005, along with four FA Cups and four league cups during Ferguson¿s reign, but it paled in comparison to Man Utd's trophy haul. Yet Liverpool were always competitive, led by captain fantastic Steven Gerrard and boasting great Scouse players like Robbie Fowler, Jamie Carragher and Steve McManaman.
Meetings between the two clubs were always full of incident. Gary Neville landed in hot water for kissing his badge and goading Liverpool's fans after Ferdinand headed in a late winner against them in 2006. Yet other players have done far worse. Liverpool defender Neil Ruddock once broke both of Cole's legs during a reserve game and then said: "I didn't mean to break both legs, I only meant to break one. I absolutely destroyed him. I know it's not big and it's not clever, but it was great." Reds striker Luis Suarez reignited the enmity in 2011 when he was banned for eight games for racially abusing United defender Patrice Evra, with Alex Ferguson rightly branding him 'a disgrace'.
Liverpool supporters have also frequently lamented a perceived media bias towards Man Utd, and they wonder why Ferguson and Busby were knighted, but Shankly and Bob Paisley were not. No player has been transferred between the clubs since the 1960s, and Man Utd refused to let Gabriel Heinze move to Anfield in 2007.
Despite their title drought, Liverpool were always referred to as England's most decorated club, and it became a badge of honour for fans during the 1990s and 2000s. However, in 2008/09 a Man Utd side spearheaded by Ronaldo, Rooney and Carlos Tevez led them to their 18th league title. That saw them move level with Liverpool in the all-time stakes. Two years later they won the title again, moving out in front, and Ferguson won the Premier League once more during his final season in charge, leaving Man Utd on 20 and Liverpool on 18.
Fergie's departure sent Man Utd into a tailspin and they are yet to recover. Meanwhile, Liverpool have gone from strength to strength under Jurgen Klopp and they were crowned champions of Europe for a sixth time - three more than United. That was their 47th major trophy, moving them dead level with Man Utd. Manchester United are by far and away the most successful clubs in the history of English football, but the power seems to have shifted back to Liverpool over the past couple of years.
The Reds earned an astonishing 98 points in the 2018/19 campaign, the third highest tally any team has ever managed. It was not enough to wrestle the title from Man City, who pipped them with 99, but it was more than Man Utd have ever earned. They also had the PFA Player of the Year in Virgil Van Dijk, while Sadio Mané and Mohamed Salah shared the Golden Boot and Liverpool won the Champions League.
Famous Clashes Between Man Utd and Liverpool
There have been plenty of monumental clashes between these two fierce rivals over the years, and these are the top eight:
Man Utd 3-4 Liverpool, 19 February 1910
Man Utd moved from Bank Street to Old Trafford in February 1910 and Liverpool were the opponents in their first ever game at their new home. The hosts made the perfect start as they raced into a 3-0 lead, and 45,000 expectant fans sensed a famous triumph over their bitter rivals. Yet Arthur Goddard and Jimmy Stewart each scored twice to hand Liverpool a famous comeback victory. Man Utd would not lose another home game for almost a year, but Liverpool certainly spoiled the party on their moving in day.
Man Utd 2-1 Liverpool, 21 May, 1977
Liverpool were on course to win the treble for the first time in 1977. They had wrapped up the league title and they were looking forward to a European Cup final, but first they had an FA Cup final date with Man Utd. Paisley¿s men were the heavy favourites to clinch victory, but Stuart Pearson stunned Liverpool fans by firing in the opener. Jimmy Case equalised, but a deflected effort from Lou Macari handed United victory in a thrilling game.
Liverpool 3-3 Man Utd, 4 April, 1988
Dalglish's table-topping Liverpool side led United by 11 points in April and the Red Devils were desperate to close the gap. Captain Bryan Robson handed them the lead, but Liverpool hit back through Peter Beardsley, Gary Gillespie and Steve McMahon. Man Utd looked dead and buried, but they produced a stirring late rally. Robson pulled one back at the death and then Gordon Strachan grabbed a last gasp equaliser before puffing on an imaginary cigar in front of an enraged Anfield crowd.
Liverpool 2-0 Man Utd, 26 April, 1992
Man Utd were on the brink of their first title in a quarter of a century when they visited Anfield in 1992. Liverpool were still the dominant force in English football, but talk abounded of a power shift. The Reds were having none of it, and goals from Ian Rush and Mark Walters left United deflated. The result handed the title to Howard Wilkinson's Leeds side.
Liverpool 3-3 Man Utd, 4 January, 1994
The Kop wielded a banner that read 'Come Back When You've Won 18' to welcome Man Utd to Old Trafford in 1994. The Premier League champions shrugged off the jibe and opened up a 3-0 lead within 24 minutes thanks to goals from Bruce and Giggs and a superb free-kick from legendary left-back Dennis Irwin. However, Liverpool then launched a remarkable comeback. Nigel Clough stunned United by scoring a brace and Ruddock then equalised in the 79th minute.
Man Utd 1-0 Liverpool, 11 May, 1996
This cup final clash will always be remembered for Liverpool's Spice Boys and their horrendous white suits. The likes of Fowler, McManaman and Jamie Redknapp were full of confidence in their matching outfits, but they were duly dispatched when Cantona lashed in a late volley to hand his team silverware. The game was a pretty drab affair, but it will always be iconic due to those suits and that tremendous strike from the French maestro.
Man Utd 1-4 Liverpool, 14 March, 2009
Liverpool produced their best ever performance at Old Trafford in 2009. Ronaldo put the hosts 1-0 up from the penalty spot, but Fernando Torres capitalised on an uncharacteristic error from Nemanja Vidic to grab the equaliser. Vidic was later sent off, and goals from Gerrard, Fabio Aurelio and Andrea Dossena completed a rout. The final two goals were sumptuous lobs, rubbing salt into United¿s wounds. However, they had the last laugh, as they finished four points clear of Liverpool to win the title.
Man Utd 3-2 Liverpool, 19 September, 2010
Dimitar Berbatov justified his £30 million price tag with one performance alone in a Man Utd shirt. The languid Bulgarian forward hit a sensational hat-trick to put Liverpool to the sword in the 2010/11 season. He headed the Red Devils into the lead from a corner and then doubled their advantage with an audacious overhead kick. A Gerrard brace hauled Liverpool back into the match, but Berbatov headed home John O'Shea's cross six minutes from time to send Old Trafford into delirium.
Man Utd v Liverpool: Head-to-Head Records
Ahead of the upcoming North West derby on 20th October 2019, Liverpool and Man Utd have faced one another 202 times and the Red Devils have the upper hand in the head-to-heads. They have secured 80 victories, compared to 66 for Liverpool, while there have been 56 draws. Man Utd have managed 68 wins in the league, while Liverpool have won 56 and 48 have ended all-square. Liverpool have the slight advantage in the league cup over the years, but Man Utd have nine wins compared to four for Liverpool in the FA Cup.
Liverpool went eight games without a Premier League victory over Man Utd before finally beating them 3-1 in December 2018. The Reds fancied their chances of securing another three points when they headed to Old Trafford in February 2019, but they were held to a 0-0 draw a result that would prove costly as Liverpool finished just one point behind Man City in the title race. The teams are now preparing for battle on Sunday and it promises to be an intriguing clash between these bitter foes.