“..during 90 minutes of football, I want United to die.”
This quote from the normally demure Steven Gerrard from his autobiography underlines the deep lying hatred that Liverpool FC and Manchester United share for each other. The two most recognized and supported English clubs, the two giants from the north-west of England contribute to one of the most intense and passionate rivalries anywhere in the football world. Separated only by 30 miles and connected by the M62 motorway, The Reds and The Red Devils lend a derby feel to their biannual clashes and manage to extract the most passionate performances from their players and fans alike.
And like every other legendary rivalry, this one too goes back in time and beyond the realm of merely football. Being the hubs of industrial activity during the Industrial revolution, the cities of Manchester, with its industrial supremacy and Liverpool, with its central port, vied for north-west supremacy. But with the building of the new ship canal in Manchester, the Liverpool port was bypassed leading to resentment between the two sets of citizens. Football, with its mass appeal became the major carrier of this enmity in the 20th century.
In the 1970s and 80s, Liverpool’s fine run of form, which transformed them into an English and European superpower, coincided with United’s worst slump in their history. But with the advent of the Premier League, Manchester United steamed ahead and achieved parity with their rivals by dominating the past two decades. Each club’s rise has coincided with the other’s tumultuous decline and this has transformed the fans’ resentment into pure hatred and given rise to the most hostile of atmospheres during their meetings.
Here’s counting down the most memorable of these epic conflicts in the last decade of the Premier League.
MAN UTD 0-1 LIVERPOOL –
(17 December, 2000)
Before this game, Liverpool hadn’t beaten their bête noire in their last ten meetings. This led Liverpool manager Gerrard Houllier to famously proclaim, “We will beat them one day, I promise you that”. Nobody expected that day to arrive with a game at Old Trafford, especially with United dominating Liverpool at ‘The Theatre of Dreams’.
Right before half-time, United conceded a free-kick outside the box. Up stepped a certain Danny Murphy, who produced a sumptuous curler far beyond the reach of Barthez into the bottom right corner. Liverpool held onto that slender lead and managed to break their jinx, thanks to Danny boy who would end up tormenting The Red Devils for years to come.
LIVERPOOL 3-1 MAN UTD
“The goal is still shaking!”
(November 4, 2001)
The game that produced that unforgettable thunderbolt of a free-kick from John Arne Riise, this was Liverpool’s fourth consecutive win over Manchester United. Defender Wes Brown was at fault when he failed to cut out Smicer’s ball which was eventually slotted in by Michael Owen. Owen also scored Liverpool’s third with a header following a calamitous error by Barthez.
But the real moment of the match came in the form of the spectacular second goal scored by Riise. When Brown gave away a silly free kick 28 yards out, the flamed-haired Norwegian stepped up and unleashed a left foot rocket that had the stunned Kop singing for years,
MAN UTD 1-0 LIVERPOOL
“Leaving it late”
(22 January, 2006)
This match produced one of the most enduring and controversial goal celebrations which has come to epitomize the mutual hatred surrounding this fixture over the years. However, quite contrary to what is depicted by the eventual scoreline, the match was dominated by Liverpool. The visitors should have taken the lead around the hour mark but with the goal-mouth at his mercy, Djibril Cisse somehow managed to blast over the bar. The missed chances would come back to haunt Liverpool, as in the last minute of regulation time, Ryan Giggs curled in a free kick which was superbly headed in by Rio Ferdinand.
All hell broke loose. The lid was lifted off Old Trafford and Gary Neville proceeded to run the entire length of the field to celebrate emotionally in front of the visiting fans, complete with pelvic thrusts, badge waving et al. The local police blamed his passionate display as a reason for clashes between the fans after the match. He was later charged with improper conduct by the FA and fined £5,000. Neville defended his actions and asked the FA if they wanted the players to behave like robots with no emotions.
MANCHESTER UNITED 4-0 LIVERPOOL
“A thrashing to remember”
( April 5, 2003)
No United fan will forget this match in a hurry. All their stars aligned in the most auspicious manner and the Manchester United march to the title achieved its most significant milestone with this crushing defeat of Liverpool at Old Trafford. One could argue that the absence of Michael Owen or the sending off of Captain Sami Hyypia in the 5th minute itself, giving United their first penalty of the afternoon, was the catalyst in this rout but no one can deny that the scoreline did justice to a superb display by the Manchester club who showed all the signs of Premier League Champions.
Liverpool held tight to the 1-0 deficit and prevented any further damage for over an hour before Igor Biscan gave another spot kick away for Nistelrooy to slot home from 12 yards for the second time in the match. Giggs and Solskjaer completed the destruction with two finely taken goals to give United its biggest win over Liverpool in 50 years.
MAN UTD 1-4 LIVERPOOL
“The OT massacre”
( March 14, 2009 )
Liverpool Fan #1 – Who came up with the idea of these horrendous away kits? We’ll look like bus boys of a cheap restaurant in them!
Liverpool Fan #2- The only thing that can save this kit now is if, you know, we manage to beat, you know, United away by a big margin or something.
Liverpool’s fledgling Premier League hopes were given a boost when they visited their title rivals all dressed up in that horrid away kit. Rapidly falling behind in their title aspirations, Liverpool needed to produce an emphatic performance in this potential six pointer. But even the most ardent Reds’ supporter would not have predicted the degree of humiliation their bitter rivals would have to suffer at their team’s hands.
The Reds looked in fine form having completely outclassed Real Madrid 4-0 at Anfield midweek. But United looked to be on a familiar track when they took the lead after 23 minutes with a Ronaldo penalty. But then came the moment that allegedly cost Nemanja Vidic ‘The Player of The Season’ award. A speculative clearance by Skrtel was allowed to bounce by the Serbian with Torres lurking behind him. The Spaniard covered the ground in a flash and managed to hold off Vidic and snatch the ball from him to finish coolly past Van der Sar resulting in that ‘five finger salute’ celebration. The comeback was complete when Gerrard scored from the spot , a minute from the half, after Evra fouled him in the box.
Gerrard slots the ball and kisses the cam!
The second half saw the hosts fighting hard to regain parity but that only left more space for Liverpool to exploit. When Gerrard was left one on one with Van der Sar following another mistake from Vidic, the defender had no choice but to haul him down for which he got a straight Red, his second of the season against The Reds. Fabio Aurelio proceeded to rub salt into United’s wounds by scoring a spectacular goal from the resulting free-kick. There was still enough time for Andrea Dossena to lob one over Van der Sar for Liverpool’s fourth to complete a magical week for the Reds.