Football Rivals Man Utd and Liverpool

Every team has their football rivals. Football fans are tribal with hatred often coming to the fore. Maybe as we get older that anger and hatred slowly ebb away but we all have that one team that we hate. 

Geography is the main reason for this hatred and as a Mancunian growing up as a red, it was the red of Merseyside I hated and for good reason.

Mancunian rivalries

At school, there were no Scousers to argue with on a Monday about the weekend football, just a few blues who followed City. It’s been a funny situation with City as they always seemed a little irrelevant as they yo-yo`d the divisions in the mid-1980s. United’s real football rivals came from down the other end of the East Lancashire Road and Anfield.  

Although derby day against City was a big event, it lacked the intensity on and off the pitch when the Scousers were in town. 

Even now with City being the force they are derby day still doesn’t quite get my blood boiling, it’s more about bragging rights in work. That doesn’t mean the 5-1 defeat at Maine Road in 1989 didn’t hurt like hell or the buzz I got from the revenge 5-0 win over City at Old Trafford a few years later meant I struggled to sleep that night.

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Football Rivals Man Utd and Liverpool

Whilst I hated Liverpool, I have often admired all they have achieved in the game. Our two cities are linked in so many ways. Downtrodden by the Tories and specifically Maggie Thatcher, the working classes and trade unions smashed to pieces. Both cities have produced music greats from the Beatles and Merseybeat to The Smiths and Madchester.  

Growing up stood on the Stretford End in the 80s the songs were anti-Liverpool, they won everything before them, something that is hated in this country. Now I know why United were hated under Sir Alex Ferguson’s trophy-laden era by so many others.

Football Rivals Man Utd v Liverpool

“Stretford End, Old Trafford.” flickr photo by shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license

Liverpool had some hard bastards in their side with the likes of Souness, McMahon even David Speedie and David Burrows were sneaky on the pitch and would scream at the referees all game long. We even thought George Courtney, the top referee in the game at the time, wore a Liverpool shirt under his black top.

Then there were the Munich air disaster references and fans with outstretched arms long before Hillsborough and then Heysel which led to a lifetime ban for English clubs in European competitions which was ultimately reduced to 5 years.

"Even Ferguson remarked how the United squad could hear the Liverpool squad rejoicing and singing in the changing rooms mocking United's loss and Leeds winning the league".

Football rivalries in the ’80s

Football in the 80s was a battlefield on the terraces and forecourts outside grounds.

After one game at Old Trafford, Liverpool fans set off a large firework which flew into the stands hitting United fans as they were walking down the staircases to the exits much to the delight of the away end. It was a toxic mix which meant it was a mutual hatred. 

Despite Liverpool being successful with United managing the odd FA cup, United always did a job on the Scousers. In 1986 the United squad were attacked with ammonia by Liverpool fans which also affected young Liverpool fans who were waiting to see the teams arrive.

My first visit to Anfield

My first visit to Anfield was a painful one that stuck in the memory bank for many a year. 

April 1992 was a horrendous month as United’s title charge crumbled away after a home draw to Luton Town and a home defeat to Nottingham Forest over the Easter period meant Leeds United leapfrogged the reds into the top spot… 

On 26th April we listened to the radio on the coach as we drove to Anfield as Leeds won at Sheffield United 3-2, anything less than a United victory would hand the title to Leeds. 

Anfield was loud, the stands pumping with hatred and they loved seeing their team dismantle a sorry United side resulting in a 2-0 win for the scousers and the wait for the league title returning to Old Trafford went onto 26 years. 

Banners were saying “Have you ever seen United win the league?” Even Ferguson remarked how the United squad could hear the Liverpool squad rejoicing and singing in the changing rooms mocking United’s loss and Leeds winning the league. 

Anfield wasn’t a pleasant place to be that day for a 17-year-old who longed to see his team win the title just once in his lifetime. On the 26th April, I wondered if that day would ever come as Scousers were overcome with delight at our demise.

Anfield Glory in the ’90s

Thankfully I returned triumphantly later in the 1990s and watched a United side rip Liverpool apart in their backyard as champions and how I lapped it up. It was penance for 1992. 

As we get older, the hatred subsides but both clubs continue to try to knock each other off their perches. When the fixture list comes out it’s always the games with Liverpool I look out for first.

Article by Halftimepie

Featured image attribution: “Old Trafford 031” flickr photo by fourthandfifteen shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license

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