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Manchester United VS Liverpool rivalry

A majority of Manchester United fans would love to see their local rivals Manchester City beat Liverpool to the league title this season.

KS
Last updated: 23.02.2019
Manchester United VS Liverpool rivalry| Sports Social Blog

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A majority of Manchester United fans would love to see their local rivals Manchester City beat Liverpool to the league title this season. While it might seem odd to a layman – wishing one’s city rivals over another club in the north west of England – but Manchester United-Liverpool rivalry runs deeper.

Manchester and Liverpool are two cities in the north west of England, around 30 odds miles from each other on the M6. On the face of it, the two cities have a lot in common. Both were hugely important during the Industrial Revolution of the 19th century and both were important ports for a British economy, which was heavily dependent on shipping to run their huge empire.

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And as with all the northern cities of England, they share a certain amount of disdain for London and their people or as they say, Cockney lads. The north of England has not always been very flattering about the south and the seat of their Crown and the government. Even in recent times Manchester and Liverpool’s political choices reflect their nature of going against the prevailing mood in the country. Both the cities voted to remain in the European Union in 2016’s referendum, while Britain cumulatively (by a close margin) decided to leave.

So despite all the similarities why are we talking about the rivalry between the two cities and hence between their two biggest clubs?

Gather around lads, time for a history lesson.


Manchester through to the 18th century was a more populous city in the north west of England. Their manpower and their contribution to the Crown’s

Exchequer made them hold a significant position and sense of nobility as a representative of the north of England.

However, by the turn of the century, Liverpool was coming into their own. It had grown into a major seaport and a world economy that sustained itself on shipping, it was a major boost to the people of Merseyside. Their grown and developed over the next century helped them overtake Manchester as the most significant city in the north of England. In fact, it’s important can only be guessed upon by the fact that by the early 20th century it was known as the second most important city in Britain behind London.

But the merchants in Manchester were not exactly sitting idle. Plans to build the Manchester Ship Canal was vigorously opposed by Liverpool-based politicians. It’s completing in 1894 further heightened tensions between the two cities. The working class Liverpool Dockers were not pleased to see the Canal take away business from their city.

Amidst the mounting tensions, Liverpool and Newton Heath, which goes on to become Manchester United, faced each other in a playoff. The latter suffered a defeat and got relegated to the second tier of English football.

The post-war shifts in economic ties, reliance on coal and the major change in transatlantic trade patterns changed the manufacturing reality in the north of England. While Liverpool suffered the loss of its primary to southern post cities, Manchester still managed to sustain itself with some of their manufacturing heritage.

But where does football come all this?

Calm down lads, I am getting there!

Ever heard of the Busby Babes? Of course, you have. Sir Matt Busby created one of the most fascinatingly youthful side in the 1950s. Tragically before they could fulfil their potential, they lost eight of their squad in an air crash in Munich in 1958.

A decade later Sir Matt came a full circle when he led Manchester United to the European Cup in 1968, fulfilling a life-long dream.

How many of you know Sir Matt was a former Liverpool player? Yes, those were simpler times.

However, away from the Munich tragedy and their subsequent Phoenix-like rise a decade later, Liverpool were making their mark on the social circles of Britain.

In the 1960s, Liverpool came to the fore in the fields of music and fashion. Beatles, the most celebrated British band till date, originate from the northwestern town. Their Liverpool side were soon going to come forward and create f the legacy-defining era of the football club.

Liverpool football club were gradually making a mark on the map of England. Led by another great Scotsman in Bill Shankly, the Reds pipped Manchester United to the league in 1964.

Shankly won two more league titles as Liverpool manager but it would be his predecessor who would eventually complete the work his mentor started.

Bob Paisley, who was Shankly’s assistant, took charge of the Reds in 1974. He built a Liverpool side that went onto dominate English and European football for the next decade. Six league titles and three European Cups followed and the Reds became one of the most feared sides in Europe.

Manchester United rescinded in the background. Sir Matt’s departure led to turmoil and frequent managerial changes and relegation ensued for the former European champions.

Tommy Docherty, who oversaw Manchester United’s relegation in 1974, brought them back to the top tier the next season. A few old-timers suggest relegation was the best thing that could have happened for the club. Their season in the second tier helped the club to shake off their Busby hangover and they played some scintillating football with young players to roar back into the top division.


The rivalry

Manchester United became the English side in 1999 to win the treble of the Premier League, the Champions League and the FA Cup. Liverpool could easily have been the team almost 22 years before that. Guess which team stopped them on their tracks to a historic treble?

Docherty’s Manchester United were not challenging Liverpool for the title but they always had a puncher’s chances in cup ties. They lost the FA Cup final to Southampton in 1976 but a year later they were again the final.

The Red Devils were the underdogs against Paisley’s all-conquering Liverpool. Goals from Stuart Pearson and Jimmy Greenhoff earned an unlikely FA Cup triumph for the Old Trafford outfit.

And Liverpool were denied a historic treble.



Throughout the 1980s the rivalry between the two sides only simmered at the surface. Liverpool were the dominant team but games against Manchester United were mostly competitive.

Ron Atkinson’s Manchester United played some free-flowing football during the early half of the decade and won a couple of FA Cups. But years went by and the wait for an elusive league title continued.

Manchester United laid their eyes on a young Scotsman who broke the hegemony of the Celtic-Rangers Old Firm with his youthful and plucky Aberdeen side in Scotland. A win over mighty Real Madrid in the European Cup Winners’ Cup final didn’t harm his reputation as well.

And by the late 1980s, it was Manchester's turn to lead the way on the music front, as the Happy Mondays and the Hacienda appeared on the British cultural landscape.

Will football be far behind?

Knock them off their perch

It was a typical cold and wet day in Manchester on 6th November 1986 in Manchester. Margaret Thatcher was England’s Prime Minister and the Iron Lady was still unpopular in the north of her country. But a seismic shift was taking place at Old Trafford. Manchester United announced the appointment of Alex Ferguson as their manager.

Ferguson made his ambition at Manchester United pretty clear in his programme notes before his first win over QPR on 22nd November 1986: “Taking over a club of the magnitude of Manchester United is an awesome prospect. But ultimately a football club is a football club and I shall simply try to run things at Old Trafford in what I believe to be the right way.

“I am not really interested in what has happened here in the past. I don't mean any disrespect to the great achievements of Manchester United over the years. It's simply that now there is only one way to go, and that is forward. The aim at this club must clearly be to win the championship.”

The two things were clear, it was either his way or the highway and a definite goal to challenge for the league, which in that era meant calling out Liverpool.

By that time, Manchester United hadn’t won the league for two decades and I am sure many scoffed and laughed at the suggestions that a former Aberdeen manager was now going to take on the Liverpool machine.

The 1990s-2000s, the money, the Premier League and the Manchester United empire

Following a few years of trials and tribulations, Ferguson won his first trophy in the form of the FA Cup in 1990, which was also the last time Liverpool won the league.

Through the rebuilding process, Ferguson had revamped the academy and the club were producing players an unheard rate. His team were now preparing to go into an era of domestic domination that would go on to eclipse Liverpool’s time of the 1970s and the 1980s.

However, a lot of work was also carried out at the boardroom level of prepare Manchester United for the modern era. With the advent of Sky Sports and their huge investment in English football, the Premier League was conceived. English football was embarking on an era of globalization and no club were better prepared than Manchester United. Former chairman Martin Edwards expanded Old Trafford’s capacity, installed executive boxes at the Stretford End and revamped the club’s merchandising operation. The Manchester United Club Store was one of a kind in English football in the 1990s.

The club not only became a footballing behemoth but the increased financial capacity allowed Ferguson to compete for the top players in the transfer market.

While at the other end, Liverpool were struggling to take off under different managers. Some poor spending, some questionable managerial recruitments and an archaic business model left them trailing far behind Manchester United.

They did win their fifth European Cup in 2005 but Manchester United were undisputed Premier League leaders and were always competing for the top honours.

Ferguson’s dream off knocking Liverpool off their perch came true in 2009 when Manchester United surpassed 18 league title victories with their 19th top-flight title.

The present day

History doesn’t repeat itself but it often rhymes. Manchester United are again struggling to find their footing after the departure of legendary Scotsman and Liverpool are resurgent under a charismatic young coach, who broke Bayern Munich’s domination in Germany.

Sounds familiar?

Manchester United host Liverpool on Sunday at Old Trafford. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s team have their reasons to win because of their need to finish in the top four. But ask any fan on Sir Matt Busby Way on Sunday, they would say, it’s more about stopping those Scousers from winning the league.

Football Bloody Hell!


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