Liverpool V Manchester Utd : A History of English Football's Fiercest Rivalry

Nabeel KhokharCorrespondent IMarch 1, 2011

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - MARCH 21: Jamie Carragher (L) of Liverpool argues with Gary Neville of Manchester United after United were awarded a penalty in the first half of the Barclays Premier League match between Manchester United and Liverpool at Old Trafford on March 21, 2010 in Manchester, England.  (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)
Michael Regan/Getty Images

English football has many derbies and rivalries; the Liverpool v Everton (Merseyside Derby), the Arsenal v Tottenham Hotspur (London Derby), the Manchester United v Manchester City (Manchester Derby), the Newcastle v Sunderland (Tyne-Wear Derby); just to name a few.

One of the fiercest and most eagerly awaited is the North West Derby between bitter historical rivals Liverpool and Manchester United. But this contest is about more than just football bragging rights; there is the time honored history of each city that is played out on the football pitch every time these two great football clubs go head to head.

Liverpool and Manchester are two of the largest conurbations in England, jammed into the North West corner of the country, just above Wales. It is almost as if the North West is not big enough to accommodate them both and they fight over which will ultimately swallow the other.

Over time, the geographical layout of England will evolve and grow, as it has, and boundaries and borders of these two great English cities may blur. One may absorb and take on the identity of the other and it appears that each time Liverpool and Manchester Utd take to the football pitch, there is regional dominance to the victor.

This coupled with the fact that Liverpool FC and Manchester Utd are far and away the most successful football clubs in the history of English football, makes the rivalry all the more intense.

Between them, they have won 36 League titles, 18 FA Cups, 11 League Cups, 33 Charity / Community Shields, eight European Cups, three UEFA Cups, one Cup Winners Cup, four European Super Cups, one Intercontinental Cup and one World Club Cup; a staggering 116 trophies.

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What makes it all the more interesting is that current the overall split is 58 trophies each!

Therefore, currently no one club can say it is the most successful in English football history overall; the next trophy takes on all the more significance.

Domestically United have the edge with 51 trophies to Liverpool's 47, but in Europe Liverpool lead the way with 11 cups to United's seven.

However, the almost loathing of each other's cities stems back to the days of the industrial revolution, with each trying to gain supremacy of the North Western part of England; Manchester with its base in manufacturing and Liverpool with its prominence as a port.

The rivalry gained almost hostile proportions when the Manchester Ship Canal opened, allowing ships to sail directly into Manchester and thereby bypassing the port of Liverpool completely. This led to the demise of Liverpool as a city and the intensity of bad feelings between the cities.

But as the prominence of manufacturing in the North of England declined, so did Manchester and so both cities fell into difficult times; but this did nothing to dampen the hatred. Instead it got taken into other arenas such as sport and in particular on the football pitch between Liverpool FC and Manchester Utd.

In the 1970s and 80s it was Liverpool that were the kings on the pitch and therefore off it too; but in the 1990s and into the new century, it was Manchester Utd that wrestled the crown away from Anfield to Old Trafford.

Such has been the bitterness between the two team that not since 1964, when Phil Chisnall went from United to Liverpool, has there been a direct transfer of a player between the clubs.

The only other time there has been even an interest, was when Argentine Gabriel Heinze was courted by Liverpool's Rafa Benitez. Sir Alex Ferguson was not interested in selling any player to Liverpool and the transfer did not take place. Heinze however displayed the ultimate betrayal by wanting the move and with no place left in the team for such a player, he was later sold to Real Madrid.

In the era of the First Division title and in particular during the 1970s Liverpool were regularly beating United home and away. But despite the dominance of the Reds in the 1980s they only registered one home and one away win against United in the league in 1988 and 1982 respectively.

In the 1990s United took control and since the beginning of the Premier League in 1993 United have had the upper hand with 19 wins home and away to Liverpool's 10 victories. 

In 1986, Manchester United appointed Alex Ferguson as their new manager and he came into English football with one purpose and that was to knock Liverpool Football Club off the perch as English football's most successful team to date.

Ferguson is quoted as saying "My greatest challenge was knocking Liverpool right off their f*****g perch. And you can print that!"

If that quote does not sum up the intensity, then nothing does.

In recent years, Liverpool v Manchester United have had some epic battles with some amazing moments for Liverpool fans.

In December 2000, a young Danny Murphy stroked in a free kick from just outside the area at Old Trafford to seal a "smash and grab" 1-0 away victory.

Then in November 2001, with 38 minutes on the clock and the Reds 1-0 up at Anfield, a young John Arne Riise blasted a rocket free kick that gave the Reds a two goal cushion and took him into Liverpool Football Club folklore.

Such was the venom and power of the shot, that Martin Tyler (the commentator) suggested that it was amazing that the goal was still standing. Liverpool went on to register a 3-1 win that afternoon.

But, probably the most famous Liverpool win over their great rivals was in March 2009 at Old Trafford, when the Reds destroyed United by four goals to one. It was a stunning encounter, with all the ingredients of the North West Derby, drama, goals, red card, penalty and a brilliant free kick. This was probably the victory that was the sweetest for Liverpool Football Club and its fans and for certain the one the hurt United the most.

There are many more stunning memories for Reds' fans to savor, those are just a few.

For those involved the North West Derby is also most probably the biggest game of the season.

The most hated by Liverpool fans of all Manchester United players was no doubt Gary Neville, who would constantly belittle and disparage Liverpool Football Club, its fans and the city.

Neville once said "I can't stand Liverpool, I can't stand Liverpool people, I can't stand anything to do with them. When I was growing up there was certainly a large amount of jealousy involved. The truth is, I envied them for all the success their team was having."

In the years when Rafa Benitez was manager of Liverpool the rivalry between the clubs and in particular between Rafa and Sir Alex Ferguson become especially heated. It all culminated and came to a boil in Benitez's famous press conference, dubbed later as 'The Rafa Rant' or 'The Facts press conference'.

With the next installment of the North West Derby coming up this weekend at Anfield, Liverpool will be looking to avoid a whitewash from United this season. Most recently they lost at Old Trafford in the 4th Round of the FA Cup, but it was the 3-2 defeat at Old Trafford last September that was the harder to swallow for the Reds.

With Dimitar Berbatov scoring on either side of half time, Liverpool were looking for a fight back and managed to get a foothold in the game five minutes after United's second, with a penalty from captain Steven Gerrard.

This shifted the momentum and Liverpool attacked with more heart and were rewarded with a 70th minute equalizer for Gerrard again. But just as a heroic fight back to gain a point or even three was on the cards, Berbatov got his and United's third and the Reds took the short drive back down the M62 with nothing.

The biggest fear for Liverpool fans is that if Manchester United win any sort of silverware this season and Liverpool do not then, the crown passes to Manchester. This will only fuel their bitter rivalry to greater heights.

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