Manchester United vs Liverpool F.C.: EPL's Fiercest Rivalry
Manchester United v Liverpool: EPL Big Game
Every football league in the world has its one big game each season. In Spain, it's Barca against Real, El Clasico. In Italy, it's Inter against Milan. In Iceland, it's Knattspyrnufelag Reykjavik versus Valur.
For sure the game of the season in the EPL has to be Manchester United versus Liverpool, two of the most successful clubs in world football. Chelsea, Arsenal, and Manchester City may have something to say about that, but in terms of history, value and success, Man U v LFC is the game to watch.
While Manchester United has the bigger stadium and world fanbase, Liverpool is a six times Champions League (European Cup) winner and has, as some argue, a brighter future. German manager Jurgen Klopp has restored confidence to the team, the stadium has been enlarged, and there is a renewed optimism amongst the Anfield faithful.
Liverpool, with their increasing emphasis on swift lightweight attacking players and a fast-pressing game, has the chance to claw their way back to the top and gain the upper hand in this oldest of rivalries.
Matches between these two are often tight, keenly-fought affairs. But occasionally, you do get a freak scoreline as in 2009, when Liverpool went to Old Trafford and won four goals to one. And recently, Manchester gained revenge with a sweet 3-0 beating of the Reds.
The media is guaranteed to get involved in controversy somehow, and it's often up to the fans to show them what these games are all about — passion, skill, and bragging rights.
This article will concentrate on the bitter and witty rivalry between the two sets of supporters, as well as concentrate on the football. As a regular at these matches over the years, I can vouch for the unique atmosphere generated; a mix of hostile fervour, mutual appreciation, and ecstatic celebration.
In the football world, nothing can quite equal the feud between these clubs. Ask any of their supporters.
The two teams first played each other way back in April 1894, with Liverpool winning 2-0. Then in October 1895, Liverpool thrashed the Mancunians 7-1! So began the history of these two iconic clubs, and it has gone on for all these years, except for two short hold-ups—World War 1 and WW II. Even soccer has to stop for wars.
In all the ensuing years, there have been 220 matches in cup and league competition.
Between the two clubs, they have won 38 League Titles, eight European Cups, four UEFA Super Cups, three UEFA Cups, 18 FA Cups, 12 League Cups, and 35 Community Shields. Quite an amazing collection of silverware!
Manchester United fans will claim that they are the giants of English football, being ahead in the number of trophies by 42-41. Liverpool fans can counter that claim by stating the fact that they have been Champions of Europe five times, while Manchester United have only conquered Europe three times.
The Fans-Scousers and Mancs
Liverpool and Manchester are two powerhouse cities in North West England. They are only 30 miles apart, yet the fans seem like they are worlds apart when it comes to culture and identity. But they may be closer than they let on.
Mancunians are well-known for their grit, honest determination, and down-to-earth accents. Manchester has produced the likes of Oasis, Morrissey, Danny Boyle, L.S. Lowry, and many more famous sons and daughters.
Scousers are renowned for their acidic wit, honest observations, and unbelievable accents. Liverpool has produced the likes of the Beatles, Elvis Costello, Glenda Jackson, Sir Simon Rattle, and oodles of famous daughters and sons.
- Both cities share common ground in their effervescent creativity which transcends boundaries and spreads artistic ripples across the globe.
The two teams have a history of playing open, attacking football. This ethos has led them to success and made them leading brand names in the world of sports. Strong homegrown fan bases and a boost from the formation of the EPL has led them to global popularity.
Don't get me wrong; there is plenty of venom and loathing between the fans when the two teams meet. I'd be disowning the truth if I didn't accept this basic fact.
Yet, deep down, I suspect that these rival Scousers and Mancs, who shout such vitriol at one another across the terraces, have an unconscious respect for each other's names and history.
The Munich Disaster and the Hillsborough Disaster
You don't get real success without having to go through some pain. Both teams have suffered over the years with major tragedies hitting both clubs.
On 6 February 1958, the aptly named Busby Babes—named after Matt Busby, then manager—were taking off in snowy weather from Munich-Riem Airport when their plane crashed. 23 people lost their lives, amongst them some of the best young footballers in the country.
A nation mourned the unbelievable loss. Matt Busby miraculously survived the disaster and went on to build more great teams, culminating in the 4-1 victory over Benfica in the 1968 European Cup Final. They were the first English club to become champions of Europe.
Tragedy at the Stadium
Liverpool are no strangers to tragedy. In April 1989, during a FA Cup semi-final match at Hillsborough Stadium in Sheffield, 96 of their fans were crushed to death as a result of poor crowd management and lack of organisation.
Family and friends of the bereaved fought a long, hard battle for justice and have recently been vindicated in their belief that their loved ones died unnecessarily. A fitting memorial at Anfield gives the names of those who lost their lives, alongside an eternal flame.
Whilst rivalries remain, and history is rewritten with every match that is played, both clubs and supporters can hold their heads high and celebrate the fact that they have come through tragedy and are ready to move forward to greater glories.
Both clubs have had great teams over the decades, dominating the English game since the 1960s. As for the legendary players within those brilliant teams, the list is a long one. It is nigh on impossible to name them all but here we go.
To cut to the chase, I've compiled two teams made up of the legends over the years.
- Peter Schmeichel
- Denis Irwin
- Bill Foulkes
- Duncan Edwards
- Patrice Evra
- Roy Keane
- Paul Scholes
- Bobby Charlton
- Cristiano Ronaldo
- Denis Law
- George Best
- Ray Clemence
- Phil Neal
- Ron Yeats
- Emlyn Hughes
- Alan Kennedy
- Graeme Souness
- Peter Beardsley
- Steven Gerrard
- Luis Suarez
- Kenny Dalglish
- Robbie Fowler
Premier League Encounters-Statistics
Premier League Record
Liverpool at Anfield
P21 W7 D4 L10
Goals for 30 against 29.
Manchester Utd at Old Trafford
P20 W12 D 4 L 4
Goals for 32 against 18.
Managers: Jurgen Klopp and Jose Mourinho, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. . .And Next?
The introduction of a fresh, intense pressing game by Jurgen Klopp, plus new players to bed in, has made for an interesting season for the Reds. Mistakes have proven costly, and results have suffered. Liverpool has lost matches they were expected to win and won against more difficult teams.
The Anfield faithful, welcoming the new Teutonic philosophy, have had to bite their knuckles and walk through a storm or two. Defeats at Anfield against clubs such as West Ham and Crystal Palace have been frustrating, while wins away at Manchester City and Chelsea have brought fresh hope for glory.
Overall, Klopp has won the trust of the fans with his passion and colourful commentary—he has a great opportunity to make his mark at this famous old club.
Meanwhile, Manchester United have parted company with Louis van Gaal, the stubborn, brilliant Dutchman, despite the club winning the FA Cup in 2016. His methodical preparation, his slow, some would say boring, approach to playing football went against the ethos of the team.
Old Trafford fans demand fast flowing attack, wide wingers, creative midfielders, and explosive finishing. Above all, they want positive results with flair.
What set the Red Devils apart under their legendary manager Sir Alex Ferguson was an uncanny ability to win matches even if they were playing poorly. Winning in style was everything.
Jose Mourinho's appointment is a bit of a surprise because his teams tend to be defensively minded. His style may differ from Van Gaal, but the end result is often similar. You get cautious and intense midfield play. The idea is to wear the opposition down with possession, hard work, and mean defending.
Will Mourinho gain the trust of the fans with this cautious approach? Time will tell of course, but he is already facing unprecedented pressure. So far, he has kept his head above water, but who knows what this season will hold?
So, with Jose now gone, under a cloud of controversy and bickering, old favourite Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is now coach and main man. Within only a few weeks however, he is under enormous pressure.
The results have been poor. This season, 2019 -20, has been Manchester's slowest start for 20 years. Their confidence is low, their tactical awareness poor and their goal-scoring attempts few and far between.
The latest result against their fiercest rivals Liverpool, a 1 - 1 draw at Old Trafford, gives Solskjaer some breathing space, perhaps up to Christmas 2019. But make no mistake, if results are consistently poor against other EPL teams, the 'Baby faced Assassin' could suffer an early demise himself.
Meanwhile, Liverpool, European champions, roll on. As I write they're clear at the top of the EPL by 6 points ( Novermber 2019) and seem to be building another serious title challenge.
Can they sustain their tremendous form and continue their winning ways despite some dodgy performances? Perhaps an indicator as to whether or not they'll be up there come May 2020 will be the clash against Manchester United in December 2019, this time at fortress Anfield.
One thing that will remain a constant is the fierce rivalry between these two historic football clubs.
Who will win (and by what score) the next match between Manchester Utd and Liverpool?
© 2013 Andrew Spacey