The rivalry between Manchester United and Liverpool is as heated and passionate as any in the sport. Even a footballing sage like Paul Scholes believes that Liverpool are United’s biggest rivals. But the truth is despite the passion and the players, these two teams have never been in the ascendancy at the same time. While Liverpool dominated the 70s and 80s, United have reigned supreme over the last two decades – only once has Liverpool finished above United in the Premiership.
Their rivalry is really about history. First United chasing Liverpool’s record of league titles and now Liverpool looking up at United. Ahead of their clash on Sunday, we look back at five of the best matches between these two historic sides.
Manchester United 2, Liverpool 1, FA Cup final 1977
Liverpool were in their pomp and had a chance of becoming the first English side to win the First Division title, FA Cup and European Cup. In the final, they came up against a United side that trailed them by 10 points in the league. Liverpool were the favourites but it was United that took the lead in the second half when Stuart Pearson got on the end of a long ball forward and beat Ray Clemence. The lead didn’t last long though, as Jimmy Case smashed a half-volley into the top corner.
On this day though, Manchester were not to be denied and three minutes later they enjoyed the slice of luck every title winner needs. Lou Macari’s shot deflected off teammate Jimmy Greenhoff and left Clemence no chance as it looped over him and into the back of the net. Liverpool duly completed their league and European Cup Double, but this one would hurt for a while.
Manchester United 2, Liverpool 2, Premiership 1995-96
The return of King Cantona. The French forward had been banned for eight months after his kung-fu kick attack on a fan at Selhurst Park and as fate would have it, made his return against Liverpool. His impact was almost immediate as he crossed Nicky Butt’s opener inside two minutes.
Liverpool had their own star striker in Robbie Fowler, nicknamed God, and he used his lethal left foot to rifle one past Peter Schmeichel to even the score. In the second half, he showed his right foot wasn’t too shabby as he chipped Schmeichel to give his side the lead. The last word would belong to Cantona though. Ryan Giggs earned the penalty but it was Cantona who smashed it home. With their talisman back, United went on to win the Premiership while Liverpool finished third.
Manchester United 2, Liverpool 1, FA Cup fourth round, 1999
United Treble winning season has gone down in history but it all almost came unstuck against Liverpool. Michael Owen had given Liverpool an early lead and the Reds held onto it for 86 minutes. But with two minutes of normal time left, Jamie Redknapp was called for a foul and Dwight Yorke scored from the resulting free kick. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer then provided a preview of their famous Champions League final against Bayern Munich by popping to score in injury-time and set United on their way.
Liverpool 3, Manchester United 1, Premiership 2001-02
Liverpool were full of confidence under Gerard Houllier, having won the UEFA Cup, FA Cup and League Cup the previous season and the 2001-02 was the only one in which they finished ahead of United. Michael Owen was at his peak – he would be named European Footballer of the Year – and he duly opened the scoring. But the game was destined to be remembered for John Arne Riise’s left foot. The ball was rolled to Riise from an indirect free kick and seemed to fly off his foot and past Fabian Barthez. David Beckham pulled one back but Owen added a second with a header after a mistake from Barthez to seal the match.
Liverpool 4, Manchester 1, Premiership 2009-10
The only season Liverpool pushed Manchester all the way and in this game they were irresistible. They trailed United by seven points and only a win could keep their title dreams. It looked like United would take control when Cristiano Ronaldo scored from the spot but it was the cue for Liverpool to turn on the style.
A free-scoring Fernando Torres tormented Nemanja Vidic, before breaking free to tie the score. A Steven Gerrard penalty made it 2-1 but Vidic was sent off for fouling Gerrard as the last man. Fabio Aurelio then made it three with the resulting free-kick before Andrea Dossena, who would score only two goals for Liverpool, lobbed Edwin van Der Sar for the final goal of the game. The result inspired Liverpool to briefly reach the top of the table, but they would eventually have to settle for second place, four points behind United.
Do you remember any other great matches between the two teams? Feel free to tell us about them in the comments section