Liverpool V Manchester United… head to head
Liverpool continue their season and recently progressed to the last 16 of the Europa League (formerly known as the UEFA Cup). Our next opponents will be Manchester United, someone fans of the English leagues and cups will know very well as our biggest rival outside of Merseyside.
Liverpool have gone up against the team known as “Manchester United” in fixtures since the 1904/1905 season. Back in the late 1800s however, they were once known as “Newton Heath FC” and Liverpool played Newton Heath in the 1893/1894 season, only a couple of seasons after being created (Liverpool began their history in 1892). Newton Heath changed their name (to Manchester United) in 1902 and no more than two seasons after that, both teams had already started to play fixtures against each other (with both home and away games to play in the league seasons at least).
There have been more than 80 meetings at Anfield alone (and over 80 more at Old Trafford) between the two sides who have been stuck together in the English football leagues and domestic cups for over a century. Liverpool have won close to 50% of the 80 games at Anfield, while Man united have only won 30% of games played at Anfield and the other 20% being draws at Anfield. Without a doubt, the home side have the advantage for success in this fixture, based son past results.
Surprisingly, Liverpool and Manchester United have never faced each other in the UEFA Cup (Europa League) before, a meeting in this (or any) European competition is something new to both sides even though we’re well introduced to each other in different competitions.
The two sides have played each other in the Second Division, The First Division, The Premier League, The FA Cup, The League Cup, The Charity Shield… but the two have not had the chance to meet in a European competitive fixture ever before. Although these European competitions were introduced in 1955 (European Cup) and 1971 (UEFA Cup), the chance for the two local English sides to play each other this way hasn’t occurred with anywhere near the regularity of the other competitions they faced off in. Manchester United have won 3 European Cups, Liverpool have won 5 European Cups and 3 UEFA Cups. However both sides haven’t had to play each other in a European Cup Final or UEFA Cup Final (or any European fixture leading up to the Final even) when they were busy winning their trophies. It was just always the way that other European football teams would go up against Liverpool or Manchester United separately as they made their way to success in Europe. We still had to beat a lot of great European teams to get to the Final, of course. But these two English rivals just didn’t play each other as they won game after game in the competitions.
Qualification rules in the Premier League make it so that only the top 4 placed teams will qualify for Champions League (European Cup) and the 5th placed team will qualify for UEFA Cup/Europa League. It is then at best only a 1 in 5 chance that two English teams could meet another English team in either of the two European competitions, but when the group stages teams (32 of them) are all randomly selected (by a pot luck “draw”), it’s still possible for any other English teams in the competition with another English team not to meet – they’re far more likely to play some of the vast selection of other European football teams not from England. Once the group stages are done with, another pot luck draw is made and then teams start attempting to knock all the opponents they play out of the competition, with progression only happening to victors and every time they progress, another pot luck draw to decide new teams for future fixtures. With all this in place, it’s obvious why it’s actually rather difficult for any English teams to meet each other in European competition. The last time Liverpool played an English side in the UEFA Cup, it was Tottenham Hotspurs in 1973. Spurs had won the UEFA Cup in 1972 and were backed to be winning it again but Liverpool eventually managed to win the UEFA Cup in 1973, even besting the favourites that season. Liverpool haven’t played any other English teams in European competition since that glorious season.
As Liverpool fans recount their memories of past success in European competitions since 1973 you’re likely to hear names of opponents like “Barcelona”, “Juventus”, “AC Milan”, “Borussia Monchengladbach”, “Brugge” or “Deportivo” – but you just won’t hear any English names at all. Maybe soon we can add “Manchester United” to the list of teams we’ve had success against in European competition. It’ll be worth it, even if just for that specific honour over our rivals.
WHY are Liverpool and Manchester United rivals?
Well, being local to each other is part of the rivalry… both teams want to outdo sides from neighbouring cities. Liverpool and Everton and also Manchester United and Manchester City already have rivalries within their own cities but just outside of their city walls, are even more teams to “best” and cultivate competitive relationships with. Success for either side is failure for their rivals side and it gets rubbed in, with a pinch of salt. Every trophy or even single fixture won is a chance for fans of winning sides to boast and make jealous the rival fans. Although it’s a strong word, it’s fair to say the rival fans “HATE” each other. Don’t misunderstand that hate, please. It’s not random hate or specific discrimination of any singular kind (for example sexism, racism, ageism etc), it’s just an ongoing healthy rivalry between competitive football supporters really. Man United and Liverpool fans have been hating each other for many years. If you can’t understand the hatred between rival fans or why it has been happening for almost as long as both clubs have existed, you’re probably best off just not being a football fan at all. It’s a part of the game, fans accept that they will have to hate other rival fans.
There’s the players from each others teams we’ll probably dislike strongly for various reasons (including arrogance or being a “traitor” to the city you grew up in – loyalty is expected from players and punished with hatred if a player is disloyal to their hometown club) and then there’s the “cheating” factor. If a rival team cheats to win (and it’s been known that Manchester United have cheated a lot in their history and their fans may point out a few occasions when Liverpool have cheated too), the rival fans will hate them for it. Personally, that’s one of the biggest reasons for me to dislike or hate Man United… I cannot accept cheaters who manage to win. If the two teams go up against each other and one of the sides wins a fair fixture then fine – there was clearly a better side on the day of that fixture and I can accept that kind of defeat if it happens. But if two sides face each other and one wins by breaking the rules and perhaps gaining the favour of the referee to give all decisions in their favour… then it’s very hard to accept defeat that way. Rather infuriating, in fact. Though the things that make us mad, will be the things that our rivals will make jokes of to laugh at us. If you have no sense of humility or humour, you won’t enjoy this part of football at all.
Fans remember all the ways their team lost and why it may have been very unfair for many years to come. Offside goals, penalties given to players who “dived” in the penalty area, multiple minutes of extra time that were perhaps not deserved and a goal during that time… all of these things and more will be recalled as some unfair reasons as to why your team may have lost to a rival. Nothing is ever forgotten, once a victory is sealed it is written into the history books and fans will be talking about it season after season, most likely with strong emotions as they remember exactly how it happened. All the ways the teams were “wronged” in unfair matches will breed more hate and an even bigger rivalry than before. Fans will cultivate passion for “revenge” on a rival team that took a win without fully deserving it and it is part of the fixtures that must be played against each other. I’ve been as descriptive as I could about this and hope you fully understand it perfectly. If you still don’t get it… then football’s just not for you! Watch another sport. Seriously.
For the fans that get all this and have been a part of it for years… then, enjoy the game. You already know this is gonna be big and what’s at stake – including “bragging rights”.
Kick Off will 8:05PM (GMT). Be sure to watch this evening as this is undoubtedly the most important fixture we’ll have in this competition. Our home leg, where we don’t want to let our opponents score any away goals at all. Once we make our way to Old Trafford for the second leg, we will want to have an advantage every time we score. Do not concede at home and also remember to score away goals – that’s something good for Liverpool to achieve. We’ll see how we do tonight. Remember that we’re all in this together. We’ll all be a part of what happens. We’ll all walk on, with hope in our hearts.
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 (more than 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