When talking about two clubs that have met 187 times since 1895 and have combined for 121 trophies (62 for United and 59 for Liverpool) it’s easy to get wrapped up in just the football side. What if I told you that the rivalry really began between two cities over industrialization?
In the mid to late 1800’s Manchester was a booming industrial town specializing in cotton and even earning the nickname of “Cottonopolis.” The start of the American Civil War hurt the amount of cotton that was available to the town. Couple that with having to use the Port of Liverpool primarily for import/export of goods and a decline in the economy began.
Liverpool, knowing that Manchester needed the port, charged some of the highest dock fees in Europe. Because of that, Liverpool had a booming economy and even established a University in 1881. To counter the high dock fees Manchester set out on an audacious project to build a major ship canal. It officially opened in 1894 and was the largest in the world. This directly led to lost jobs and a declining economy in Liverpool. United’s current crest even has a ship on it which some see as a subtle shot at Liverpool.
Thus began a rivalry that found its way to the pitch. The first documented match between the two sides was in 1895 at Anfield where Liverpool won 7-1. Currently, that’s the largest victory/defeat depending on which side of red you are on. Skip to the period between 1974 and 1990 where Liverpool won 11 English Championships and 4 European titles. They were lead by players like Kenny Dalglish, Ian Callaghan, Allan Hansen, Colin Irwin, Alan Kennedy and David Fairclough. Bob Paisley started the collection of trophies by winning 6 league titles and 3 European titles in 9 seasons. Joe Fagan took over and decided winning was so much fun that he led Liverpool to the treble in 1983/1984 season. In 1985 he was in charge of the team during the Heysel stadium disaster. Dalglish took over shortly after Fagan’s retirement and was in charge during the Hillsborough disaster.
In 1986 the brightness of Liverpool red started to shift towards Manchester when a Scot named Alex Ferguson was hired. In his first season Ferguson moved United from 21st in the table to 11th. In his second season United climbed the table finishing 2nd to Liverpool, still 9 points adrift. United won their first trophy under Ferguson in 1992 defeating Nottingham Forest in the League Cup.
From the early 90’s to now there have been many memorable moments between the clubs. In 1994 United quickly jumped on top 3-0 only to see Liverpool claw their way back to draw 3-3. Goal scorers that day were legends such as Nigel Clough, Steve Bruce, Ryan Giggs and Denis Irwin. In the FA Cup Final of 1995 Eric Cantona scored the winner in the 85th minute from a corner by David Beckham at Wembley. In 2009 Liverpool defeated United at Old Trafford 4-1 which, for a brief time, gave Liverpool supporters hope for their first title since 1990. United still went on win the title with Liverpool finishing second.
Controversy is something that has followed the clubs throughout the years. Whether it’s been the two fan bases taunting each other about the Munich air disaster or Hillsborough disaster, Liverpool fans defacing Old Trafford in 1996 or a current chant of “Luis Suarez your teeth are offside” there’s always something to talk about with these two.
With Liverpool already being “knocked off their perch,” new boy David Moyes will lead the United ranks out against second year manager Brendan Rogers this weekend. Will we see Suarez bite someone (no he’s still suspended), Steven Gerrard exchange shirts (to this day he still hasn’t with a United player), Nemanja Vidic sent off (he has 3 times against Liverpool) or will Rooney kiss the United badge in front of the Kop (like he did in 2006)? None of that would surprise us but it’s sure to be a heated contest full of talented footballers and supporters that just don’t like each other.
And remember Liverpool fans, history is always written by the victors and 20 will always be greater than 18. “Take me home, United road, to the place I belong, to Old Trafford.”