England's biggest tribal clash resumes at Anfeild
Anyone who has just discovered English football might never appreciate the intense rivalry that a Liverpool Vs Manchester United match creates. These two teams in the North-West of England together have dominated the football in the country like none other.
London based clubsides use the lure of the bright lights of the capital to lure foreign talent most of the time but until the arrival of the Russian Billionaire at Chelsea, United and Liverpool have enjoyed nearly four decades of domination.
Many years ago when Liverpool ruled the roost, I read what their then England full-back Phil Neal said: “this country is just not big enough to contain the two clubs really. However, I believe strongly that should Manchester United eventually get ‘it’ right they will dominate for a long time”. Alex Ferguson on arriving from Aberdeen determined to “knock Liverpool off their … patch”. He has done so and some.
There have been more than a few humdingers at Anfield over the years. Below are some .
18th February 2006: FA Cup 5th round tie. Peter Crouch leapt above the newly arrived Vidic to power a header down and beyond van der Sar in goal for United to give Liverpool a deserved 1-0 victory. Manchester United were awful and rarely threatened Liverpool for who Gerrard and Kewell and match winner Crouch played very well. The match was marred by the horrific injury to Alan Smith of Manchester United as he tried to charge down a Riise free-kick. Amazing thing was that this was Liverpool’s first FA Cup win over United for 85 years. Manager Rafa Benitez cult status was growing at Liverpool following his arrival and Champions League victory in his first season. There was renewed optimism on the red side of Merseyside with regards.
15th January 2005:: Wayne Rooney scores the winner on his first visit to Liverpool as a Manchester United player. Manchester United were compact with a midfield trio of Keane, Fletcher and Scholes. Rooney, Ronaldo and Saha upfront while new Liverpool manager Benitez gave debuts to Fernando Morientes in attack and Pellegrino in defence. Jerzy Dudek in goal for Liverpool really should have done better with Rooney’s shot from outside the area but his team mates did very little to trouble Roy Carroll in goal for the visitors.
What has always mystified me was Wes Brown’s second yellow card to led to his sending off. Ref Steve Bennett had already blown for another offence involving Paul Scholes before the United defender upended Riise a clear case of play carrying on because the players had not heard the whistle. United finished the season empty handed while Liverpool somehow prised the Champions League from the grasp of the Milan players in that unforgettable night in Istanbul.
1st December 2002:: This fixture came at a really awful time for the visitors in terms of injuries and form. Rio Ferdinand, Nicky Butt and David Beckham were missing through injury while skipper Roy Keane was serving a domestic ban because of his book revelations. Arsenal the champions were already on a roll playing an intoxicating brand of football that United were not expect to reclaim the league from the Londoners. Fortunately for United, Liverpool under Houllier were also not in form.
This was the match that turned a hitherto hapless Uruguayan striker into a hero. Diego Forlan scored twice as Manchester United won 2-1. His first was a great example of how important fortune/luck can be to ANY human being especially sportsmen and women. Harmless back pass from Carragher, Dudek gathers the ball comfortably. Or so it seems for somehow it fell out of his grasps and through his legs and Forlan gleefully pounces to walk into an empty net. Five minutes later, Hyppia misses a tackle, Forlan goes clear and beats Dudek at his near post. Hyppia did pull a goal back but United held on.
What is always overlooked was the fantastic shift that Quinton Fortune put in that day in the Anfield cauldron. He did not shirk a challenge and drove United on from the middle of the park alongside Paul Scholes – the injury he suffered that afternoon was to affect him for the rest of the season. Later in the season, Dudek turned in a man of the match performance at the League Cup final against the same opponents. Manchester United did go on to regain the League title from Arsenal.
17th December 1995:: Liverpool won this Premier League fixture at a canter and frankly it really should have been more than the two Robbie Fowler goals. Peter Schmeichel in goal for the visitors had an afternoon that will haunt Stan Collymore in his dark and gloomy nights. Fowler got 2 but Stan should have had at least 3 more. From the kick-off, spurred on by the home fans the visitors were absolutely battered. The midfield duo of Sharpe and McClair were given a proper run around by Barnes, Michael Thomas and Steve Mcmanaman. Cole and Cantona upfront were isolated into nothingness. It is still a mystery to me that that Liverpool squad did not win the title that season or even the next season. That is the most talented pool of footballers never to win a title in the premier league years.
4th January 1994: : Manchester United had won their first league title since 1967 the previous season and this season they had started like a house on fire led by the talents of Eric Cantona burning up all before them. They arrived at the home of their greatest rivals in good form and parading one of the strongest sides of the Alex Ferguson years. Keane and Ince were dominant in central midfield, Kanchelskis was uncatchable on the right flank while Giggs had a role ahead of Cantona upfront. The skipper Bruce scored a battering ram of a header for the first from a Cantona cross, Giggs added a delicious chip for the second and Irwin delivered what seemed at the time the coupe de grace with a dipping curling free-kick. 3-0. Wow. Liverpool would not lie down. Nigel Clough scored two almost identical strikes from the edge of the area and then near the death defender Neil Ruddock followed the Bruce example from the first half by bravely heading in the equaliser from a great hanging Bjornebye cross. Breathless stuff!! This match stands out because of the banner that the Kop unfurled before kick-off that read “Au Revoire Cantona and Man Utd…..Come back when you have 18”. I am sure there was nothing that could have told the banner designers that 15 years later, Man United will actually come back with 18 titles won!!
Also this weekend, resurgent Arsenal take on Champions Man City. Both teams had different outcomes on their European travels and it is important that markers are laid down this early in the season. That will be a corker for sure.
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