Liverpool v Manchester United – Examining a great history of rivalry.

Liverpool v Manchester United – a history of rivalry, this rivalry will spark once again this Sunday.

Manchester and Liverpool, two great North West cities who hold a lot of resentment towards each other. The areas are steeped in great success, created by the people that have grown up there. When we think of music, we think of Oasis and the Beatles. When we think of television, we think of Coronation Street and possibly even Brookside. However, when we think of English football .. It is Manchester United and Liverpool that sink into our minds. Two great clubs who host successful histories and many trophies. This weekend, the game may decide who will win another trophy .. the league title in four months time. The two cities, as well as clubs, continue to compete against each other.

The first meetings between the club came in 1894, two years after the Reds were founded by John Houlding. Newton Heath, as United were called then, travelled to Anfield for a ‘Test match’ and they returned to Manchester disappointed with a 2-0 defeat.

The two other most iconic games in this decade were fixtures that held many goals. A league division two tie in Liverpool, Heath winning 5-2. Revenge for what occurred a month previous, a 7-1 league defeat for the Red Devils in Manchester.

This rivalry has existed ever since, as both clubs have gone on to put their name into global lights. Liverpool have won six European cups, their last being in 2019, as well as nineteen league titles. On the other hand, United have won three European cups and twenty league titles but haven’t been awarded a trophy since 2017.

Considering they won the league last season, you may be in good mind to say that Jurgen Klopp’s reds have better league form. However, since Bruno Fernandes’ arrival to Old Trafford in January 2020 no club has managed to pick up more points than Ole’s devils.

Before we take a look at the upcoming league encounter at Anfield, let’s first take a look at what truly separates the cities and clubs.


  • The Manchester ship canal.

The North West cities, separated by 56 km, have since the industrial revolution been also separated by a rivalry based on economic and industrial competition. Manchester were originally the more populated city which held a position of significance. However, due to Liverpool’s major seaport growth they had grown to supersede their counterparts and were often described as the British Empire’s second city. 

The construction of the Manchester ship canal, was opposed by Liverpool politicians and a great sense of resentment grew from this. The canal would mean that less money would come into Merseyside and Manchester would thrive, cotton was rife here. Thus, tensions between Scouse dockers and Mancunian labourers was heightened in 1894 just three months before the first meeting of the clubs. A fixture that would see Newton Heath relegated. 


  • Success. 

Before Shankly came to Anfield, he was questioned by the Liverpool owner if he would like to come to Merseyside to take charge of ‘the best club in the country. The Scotsman replied ‘Is Matt Busby packing in?’. Shankly would soon sign on the dotted line to become the Red’s head coach and four years after the Munich air disaster he would take the club up to the first division. It is here where we can see a rise of resentment as Liverpool would dominate the 70s and 80s before United took charge in the 90s and 00s.

  • 1977 FA Cup final.

The two clubs met, in a final, for the first time when they reached the 1977 cup final. United ended Liverpool’s treble dreams with a 2-1 win, with goals from Stuart Pearson and Jimmy Greenhoff.

  • 2003 League Cup final.

Liverpool won the league cup final, academy graduates Steven Gerrard and Micheal Owen were the two scorers that day.

  • March 2009.

In the 2008/09 season, the two clubs fought against each other in a title race. The Reds were managed by Rafa Benitez and the Red Devils were managed by Sir Alex Ferguson. Prior to this fixture, Benitez gave an impassioned compiled speech to the press about ‘facts’. The fact of the on-field matters was that Benitez’s team would win 4-1 but would lose out on the league title to their great rivals.

  • Suarez v Evra.

Liverpool’s star man Luis Suarez was declared as ‘guilty’ for racially abusing United full-back Patrice Evra in 2012. In the aftermath of this game, the Merseyside club’s players wore shirts to signal their respect for their team-mate as he declared to them that he was innocent. Time and the truth soon caught up on this team and when the pair met again, the phenomenal goalscorer would refuse to shake hands with Evra. United’s key player would celebrate the victory in front of his abuser, in an acceptable but controversial style.

  • Penalties.

Going into this weekend’s fixture, a game which sees two clubs that are fighting for the title come head to head, one sense of resentment is Klopp’s recent comments about United’s penalties. Following a defeat on the South coast, to Southampton, the Liverpool manager stated that he was unsure how the Red Devils had been awarded so many penalties. Last season, the Old Trafford club were awarded 14 spot kicks and from this position Bruno Fernandes is so clinical. Ole hit back saying ‘I don’t know why he has said that, maybe it is to influence future officials’. A Facebook ‘meme’ has joked this week saying that a potential start of World War 3 is if United are to win 1-0 with thanks to a penalty, this is funny, whilst also being not too far away from the truth.

  • Hooliganism.

The rivalry is one that steps off the field, as seen in these instances as well as many others. The abuse is, in my opinion, sickening and uncalled for as both clubs and their respective tragedies should be honoured. 

1966 cup final – An unidentified Liverpool fan spat at Eric Cantona and threw a punch at Alex Ferguson as a victorious Manchester United walked up to the royal box to collect their awards.

2006 cup match – Liverpool fans threw objects at United fans, including human excrement.

2011 youth cup game – A match was called off due to disgusting Hillsborough and Heysel chants from United fans. John Aldridge, talking to the Liverpool Echo, said that ‘the level of abuse was sickening’.

  • However, despite all of this, some players have played for both clubs.

Paul Ince, Peter Beardsley, Micheal Owen.

  • Quotes from club legends, who shared a dressing room with one or two of the above names.

Gary Neville: ‘I can’t stand Liverpool, I can’t stand the people, I can’t stand anything to do with them’.

Steven Gerrard: ‘A mate owned a Bryan Robson, Manchester United shirt, I wore it once on the estate and my dad screamed at me. He said no one should take the family name through the mud like that. I thought we’d have to move house’ 

  • The Manchester ship canal, you could argue that this is the start of the resentment between two great North West cities.

This Sunday, as both clubs aim for victory in their respective title charges, this rivalry is about to spark yet again. It should be a very interesting league encounter and you can watch it on Sky Sports.

Thank you very much for reading,

Stay safe,

Ethan Hoijord

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  1. Another great read from a talented writer.. I’m not happy with Neville though !!!

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