LIVERPOOL v MAN UNITED
It’s that time of the season again. We go up against what may possibly be our biggest and most fierce rivals: Manchester United. At least, they are now! I’d like to talk not just about the current day, but also about the way it was, in many years past.
It wasn’t always this way, you know. Liverpool have been around since 1892 of course and the history of our club has changed in some interesting ways over the decades. John Houlding originally created this club to be a direct rival to Everton… after Everton had stopped paying the rent at Anfield (yes, I said it… Everton used to pay rent to play at Anfield, but they decided it was too expensive and moved over to Goodison Park, where the rent was cheaper).
Mr Houlding held a little bit of a grudge against the club that refused to pay him, so he made his own club and named it Liverpool FC. (I have heard he even tried to name us “Everton Athletic”, but the Football Association said you couldn’t have two teams with the same name so we got called Liverpool instead). Liverpool would be the new team to play at Anfield and would from 1892 become the next biggest rivals that Everton had since they were not only in the same city, but they would now be competing for the same competitions – FA Cup, League Cup and same division titles. There was even a “Charity Shield” to be won from about 1909. Also European cups eventually, though Everton never once won one of those, while Liverpool have won 5 of them now.
The trophy count would rise and rise, with Liverpool eventually surpassing Everton in how much silverware had been won in total (despite Everton being formed as a club before Liverpool’s history began).
Anything they could do, we could do better! We started to win the competitions that our local rivals had intended to win. That must have pleased John Houlding a lot, to see his club out doing the team that had refused to pay him rent. Although he would die in 1902, just ten years after the creation of Liverpool FC, we had won the league title at least four times in three different divisions by then, as we kept going up and up to the top English league possible. For many years, the fact that we needed to go up against our local rivals would be of great motivation to our club, forcing us to play well (so as not to be shamed or outdone by our near neighbours).
My grandfather would tell me of the stories of past Liverpool V Everton games, and that we used to have a much more fierce rivalry when they were very successful and Liverpool would have to play well against Everton: it was one of the biggest fixtures of the season. A win against your local rivals was important. It still is, but Liverpool just know now that we’re much more likely to win than them, before the game even kicks off! It wasn’t always that way, they had a decent chance of victory in some of the oldest Merseyside Derby games. We really had to fight to get a draw even in some of them. At one point, Everton had FIFA World Cup winners in their squad like Alan Ball.
Also featured in that English World Cup winning squad was Liverpool legend Roger Hunt and Manchester United legend Bobby Charlton. Manchester United had not really come into prominence for many years after the Merseyside rivalry had already began. The two teams in Liverpool were off to a flying start as the English football league had begun in the late 1800s and they both set about trying to outdo each other, both of them achieving great success along the way. However, the biggest success Manchester United had seen really was from 1945 onwards, known as the “Busby years” – when Sir Matt Busby was in charge of their team. Then, much later – the Ferguson years.
Matt Busby was once a Liverpool player, you know! He played for Liverpool from 1936 to 1939 and was considered to be one of the greatest Scottish “half backs” ever to play for the club. As a position, that title (half back) isn’t even used any more – making him the best of them all, with nobody else ever to challenge that title.
By May of 1944, Busby had been appointed as coach and assistant manager of Liverpool, second only to the manager George Kay. In February of 1945, Busby would eventually be released of his positions at the club. Less than a week later, he had been appointed as manager of Manchester United. Just like today’s modern game – the step from our club to theirs was no small feat. It was a bold step for him to take but his achievements at Old Trafford were nothing short of astonishing with the birth of the “Busby Babes”, who won five First Division Championships and two FA Cups. Many Manchester United fans would put him up in the top 5 of “best Managers ever” at their club (and possibly the second best, though not many would claim he was better than Alex Ferguson).
He really began an era of success of a level that had not been seen before. He survived the Munich air crash disaster which had taken several lives of the Manchester United squad (and injured some) and then a decade later had put together the European Cup-winning team of 1968, shortly after which he was knighted and became “SIR Matt Busby” (a title most Manchester United fans will refer to him as, though Liverpool fans who knew of him in the late 1930s would be more likely to simply call him Matt Busby).
Simply astonishing. A surprisingly amazing “comeback”, from such overwhelming events.
Possibly the only manager ever to surpass him in achievements for Manchester United would of course be Alex Ferguson.
Even some of the youngest generations of Manchester United fans will surely have heard of this manager, having managed the team between 1986 and 2013 – only retiring from his position willingly (not being fired), a couple of years ago. To put it shortly, Alex Ferguson managed to win every available competition there is to win (with a top division English club) during his time at Manchester United. The full list of his managerial victories and claiming of silverware included: Premier League Champions (13 times), FA Cup winner (5 times), League Cup winner (4 times), Charity Shield (also known as Community Shield – 10 times), UEFA Champions League/European Cup (2 times), UEFA Cup Winners Cup (1 time), UEFA Super Cup ( 1 time), Intercontinental Cup (1 time) and a FIFA World Club Cup (1 time). Quite a list, huh?
That’s why even some of the rather aggressive tactics employed and possibly intentionally offensive words Ferguson had to say about other clubs were often dismissed with surprising ease… through his massive success he simply had earned the respect of many other people, even those who did not represent or support Manchester United themselves.
How did Liverpool and our fans react to this great success? With caution and class, as time went on and United had won every trophy Liverpool had ever won. The Liverpool way to do things was to remain humble and respectful to those around us, not being bitter at other English teams taking away what was once expected to be Liverpool’s to claim. Times had changed, dramatically.
There was once a time when Liverpool had been top of the list of league winners – having won 18 top division league titles, whilst in the early 1980s, Manchester United had only won about 7. Liverpool fans would chant things like “come back when you’ve won 18” to them and now, Man United fans chant “you told us to come back when we’ve won 18, we’re back, we’re back” – due to the fact that 13 of Alex Ferguson league title wins eventually pushed the club up to a total of 20, two more than Liverpool ever managed to claim in their history since 1892.
The fans would become bolder and bolder, and the rivalry more fierce as the competition became tougher… Liverpool fans came to know that Everton weren’t the biggest threat in England any more. Everton’s last trophy claimed would be the 1995 FA Cup they won, while Man United have continued to win trophy after trophy in the 20 years that followed that happening.
Liverpool weren’t without their glory in those past two decades, either… in 2005, we managed to claim a 5th European Cup (which we got to keep and is displayed at Anfield currently), a feat never achieved by Manchester United – they have only ever won 3 European Cups/Champions League Finals in their history. We also managed to put the total amount of League Cup wins to a British record (8 League Cups), while claiming a couple more (2) FA Cups and (2) Charity Shields, a UEFA Cup (1) and UEFA Super Cups (2) along the way as we were writing more history for the books which will tell the success of the greatest football clubs to have ever been.
Lets come back to the current day. The current squads. The current threat we face.
Manchester United’s squad boasts players such as Juan Mata, Wayne Rooney, Angel Di Maria, Marcus Rojo, Luke Shaw, David De Gea, Ashley Young, Radamel Falcao, Marouane Fellaini and Robin Van Persie while Liverpool’s squad has such stars as Philipe Coutinho, Daniel Sturridge, Adam Lallana, Raheem Sterling, Simon Mignolet, Alberto Moreno, Mamadou Sakho, Kolo Toure, Jordan Henderson and Steven Gerrard.
To say we’re “equal strength squads” would be unfair to Liverpool, in my opinion. I honestly think we have the stronger squad and that we can beat them at what is known as our “Fortress” (Anfield), for good reason… we don’t let people just turn up and defeat us there with ease. It’s going to be a battle to remember for years to come. Although their current manager (Louis Van Gaal) hasn’t experienced anywhere near the amount of success Alex Ferguson had, he still has a team that will need all our best performances to beat.
What’s up for grabs? 4TH PLACE IN THE PREMIER LEAGUE! Liverpool really have fought hard this season, though the start of the season could easily be labelled as “disappointing” and injuries to key players like Daniel Sturridge did not help us to move up the table very far, we had a slow start and not as much success as expected. For a large part of the season we’ve been chasing 4th place, looking up the table from around 7th place mostly.
Other teams that have done surprisingly well this season include Southampton and Tottenham Hotspurs, both of whom aren’t typically in the “race for the top 4” with Liverpool – often we’ll only see Manchester United, Chelsea, Arsenal and Manchester City up there. Currently, Liverpool sit in 5th place after making our way past Southampton and Tottenham, and have a chance to claim 4th place if we can get all three points from this game – not even a draw will see us get enough points for pushing up the table. IT MUST be a win!
This is important for the club. We want 4th place. We want to claim and then hold that position (or better, if we get the chance to climb further up) until the last game of the season has finished. We want Champions League football next season. Those are some of the goals we’re going to be trying to achieve, among others (like the FA Cup we’d like to win). It means a lot to me. It means a lot to the dedicated fans who have been sticking with their club, despite not recreating the amazing success we had when Luis Suarez was scoring over 30 goals for us last season. The fact that we’re here challenging for this at the moment is a credit to the Liverpool squad. It’s been great to watch, although frustrating at times. We’ve still got the belief. We’re not going to give up now because we have a tough opponent to face. We are READY!
We are still here, walking on with hope in our hearts… and You’ll Never Walk Alone, Anfield Family.
[written by] Stuart Drewery.
I’m an Englishman (born and raised in Liverpool in the 80s). My whole family including my parents and grandparents were Liverpool fans so i was born into being a red.
I’ve seen Liverpool win the league (about 25 years ago) and I’ve been 100% loyal and committed while supporting the Reds through all the good times AND the bad times since the 80s.
I’m a die hard Liverpool fan (only supported ONE club in my whole life, Liverpool) and one of the most dedicated fans you’ll ever meet.