AHEAD of Liverpool’s trip to Old Trafford TAW contributors look back on seven times The Reds conquered Manchester United away from home soil.
Liverpool 2 Manchester United 1 – March 26, 1983 (Wembley)
THE eighties wasn’t all MTV and blokes with hair like Dolly Parton, dressed like Pirates. Well not in Liverpool, and especially not when we were playing the Mancs.
The rivalry between the supporters was on an upward trajectory of violence. It had initially manifested itself so viscerally at the 1979 FA Cup semi-final (imagine the opening 20 minutes of Saving Private Ryan: us dressed by Adidas, them by Freemans Catalogue) and went on to peak six years later at another semi-final. Both ended in defeat for Liverpool; albeit only on the pitch.
Sandwiched in the middle: the 1983 League Cup final. We went by car and I eschewed usual terrace attire and dressed up. Terrified of getting caught up in some frenzied scallywag bloodlust beneath the Twin Towers, I hoped they’d mistake me for… well, ANYONE other than a fellow combatant. Tickets were sourced from Manchester and we ended up in the upper seated tier, opposite the Royal Box and two rows behind Sir Baldy Charlton, whose cueball noggin was the target for much flicking of chewing gum.
Goal down early to Norman Whiteside, him blessed with a fantastic touch and strength but with the looks of a Shankhill brick thrower. For an hour we pressed, to no avail. Then with 15 minutes left Sammy Lee set up Alan Kennedy 25 yards out. My mate and I both shouted “don’t shoot!”, immediately exposing ourselves as ‘being in the wrong end’. Kennedy ignored us and equalised. With extra-time looming Bruce Grobbelaar should have walked after flattening Gordon McQueen who’d beaten the offside trap. Then we spurned a three-against-one break in the last minute; my mate and I the only standing, screaming figures in a sea of seated United support. We’d had plenty of ale so didn’t give a flying fuck.
Extra time saw King Kenny inexplicably miss a sitter he’d created for himself, but all came good when Ronnie Whelan curled the winner into the top corner. All around we were told to “fuck off you Scouse bastards!”, but we didn’t care. These were all arl fellas and celeb fans. It’s those teenage psychopaths over behind the goal we were trying to avoid. Captain Graeme Souness sent manager Bob Paisley up to collect the ugliest trophy English football had ever seen — the Milk Cup being, in effect, a milk bottle with two handles. Trophy lifted, my mate and I look at each other like we’re in a landing craft at Omaha beach about to hit the sand. The booze had unfortunately worn off.
The walk up Wembley Way was… well I’d love to say it was like the Bayeux Tapestry, an endless flowing vista of hand-to-hand combat and prone bodies, but we never saw it. We only heard it, as we speed-walked back to the car noses pressed into the programmes we were pretending to read. Once safely in the car we could see the carnage all around, the highlight being a minibus full of Mancs being rocked and kicked, and almost overturned, at a petrol station. We did the full-pelt back up the M6 and were back in Chaucer’s on Hardman Street at midnight for a stay-behind till 4am.
They don’t make cup finals like that one anymore.
Manchester United 1 Liverpool 2 – March 18, 1990
WE didn’t beat United a great deal when we were very, very good.
I can recall only two wins at Old Trafford in the 1980s, and they were at either ends of the decade. In fact the second one wasn’t even technically in the ‘80s. The 2-1 win in March of the 1989-90 season was the first at the ‘Theatre of Dreams’ since 1982. History contextualises it now as something of a last hurrah win. It was almost as if the great Liverpool era was saying farewell before handing its mantel over to Alex Ferguson and United. A statement of a performance that said: ‘This is what champions do, lads. Watch, learn and understand what it is to wear the crown’.
Liverpool were irresistible from the off. Almost dismissive of United. Playing football that said ‘we have a title to box, we can’t be bothered with your parochial issues around us or your perception of the rivalry’. Liverpool weren’t playing a derby. Liverpool were in destroy mode. Two-nil before the hour through two John Barnes strikes including a brilliant run and finish on the counter. It was all too easy. United were being humiliated. Ferguson was being humiliated. A fluke of an own goal by Ronnie Whelan (lofting one into his own net from 25 yards) as if dared to do so as the ultimate disrespect to the hosts, lent the scoreline a false respectability. ‘Look United, we even have to score your goals for you’, Whelan’s carelessness seemed to imply.
In the post-match interview round, Ferguson fumed at an injustice he couldn’t quite nail. He appeared almost angered that Liverpool had a player as good as Barnes. ‘Give me that player. Give me a John Barnes and watch what I’ll do,’ were not his words, but were his angry defiant conclusions. Ferguson was clinging to his big job at United by the skin of his teeth. Many wanted him gone. He knew he was the real deal, but on a miserable afternoon on a muddy pitch he came to realisations that were to alter the direction of English football.
He saw that having the league’s best player was so obvious a solution that he’d missed it. When the next John Barnes was up for grabs he would recognise him and he would buy him. He would ensure that the country’s wealthiest club, his club, would not flinch when the bidding opened.
Ferguson also gleaned that the best players, the future stars, would be playing in indeterminate attacking positions. They wouldn’t be classic no 9s, or midfield generals, or golden era wingers. They might be positioned nominally as wide men, but they would be allowed the freedom their talent demanded. These ‘wingers’ were as likely to be arriving late in the six-yard box, or threading a through ball from a central position, as skinning people and getting chalk on their boots. Barnes, at Old Trafford in March 1990, made English football’s most prolific trophy gatherer fall in love with ‘wingers’. To such an extent, he thereafter virtually always played with two.
Manchester United 0 Liverpool 1 – December 17, 2000
IN January, 1999, Liverpool had lost to Manchester United at Old Trafford in the most agonising circumstances.
Two late goals knocked Liverpool out the FA Cup and sent United on the way to a treble. After the game Gerard Houllier said “One day we will beat Manchester United. I promise you that.” It sounded as desperate as it did prophetic. But over the next few years we didn’t do too badly at Old Trafford at all. Even if they kept winning the leagues and that.
That run started in December 2000. At the time I was a first year in Newcastle at university. Me and my mate John Siddell from school had found a decent, Australian-themed, pub to watch games in which always had plenty of Reds in. Not really having the money at the time to get down to Manchester, and probably not expecting much to be honest, “Bar Oz” for us became the next best thing.
I don’t really remember much happening in the game, to be honest. I don’t think a whole amount did. But then, just before half-time, Gary Neville inexplicably gave away a free kick right in front of goal. And by inexplicably I mean he tried to catch the fucking thing. And Danny Murphy curled it in. Fosters aots.
Second half I was expecting real backs to the wall stuff but it didn’t really happen. Michael Owen hit the bar and then handsome Luke Chadwick got himself sent off. It felt good beating the Mancs, even if they were still miles top and we were, as usual, about fifth or sixth. It even had a song about it. It was a bit rubbish, like, but it had actions which is always fun when you are drunk.
Altogether now. To the tune of Go West:
Danny Murphy, curled it round the wall (do curl with arms)
Gary Neville, plays beach volleyball (do volleyball spike with arms)
(Repeat x 100,000)
Manchester United 0 Liverpool 1 – January 22, 2002
A FIFTH consecutive win over a Manchester United dominating the English game for a decade.
At the season’s end, a first league finish in ages above the Mill Town scruffs. Sadly, Arsenal just seven points too strong.
It’s worth reminding ourselves of a few things from this night. Danny Murphy wasn’t a bad player. No-one scores a Liverpool winner at Old Trafford three times by being incompetent.
Gerard Houllier’s Liverpool era was a good time to be a Red and this 2001-02 campaign realised 80 points in a season we also reached the last eight of the Champions League. However, the credit for this victory largely goes to the forgotten Phil Thompson who managed the side from October through to March and was in charge this cold January evening at Old Trafford.
A Liverpool team with an average age of 24 gives lie to the notion that Jürgen Klopp’s belief in young players is exclusive. A local core of Jamie Carragher, Steven Gerrard, Stephen Wright, Michael Owen and Murphy repelled all that a lauded United team could land and Jerzy Dudek in goal was at the height of powers few now recall.
With Alex Ferguson’s perennial winners frustrated, the Reds delivered a stunning late coup de grace. Gerrard’s angled low pass dinked into the box, Murphy stretching and clipping neatly. The ball suspended in the air for an age before dipping and nestling in Fabien Barthez’s net 200 yards away in front of a gormless, gobsmacked Stretford End.
A riot of plastic red seats, bruised knees and lacerated shins, and contorted ecstatic faces. The newly-adopted, Italian terrace tune screaming “Liiiii-verpool”, which defiantly, victoriously fills the Old Trafford air.
If you’ve ever seen The Reds win at Old Trafford, you know the score. And here, it’s 1-0 Liverpool.
Liverpool 2 Manchester United 0 – March 2, 2003 (Millennium Stadium)
IF Liverpool don’t win the League Cup against Manchester United in 2003 then I reckon they don’t win the Champions League in Istanbul.
We can come back to that.
Liverpool 2 United 0. Steven Gerrard with a deflected pearler. Michael Owen sealing the game for Liverpool. The last joint day in the sun for these two lads, careers, lives and place in the Liverpudlian pantheon very much diverging from this point. The noise incredible, the roof closed, Cardiff at its best. What an atmosphere that day and what a game to win. Alex Ferguson’s United, in a final, beaten by Gerard Houllier’s Reds. Glorious.
What we should focus on, though, is the performance of Jerzy Dudek. Liverpool win the game against United 2-0 but they can very much thank the goalkeeper for that one. Liverpool goalkeepers don’t get finals named after them. It indicates we were second best, we were ‘lucky’.
Against United we were second best. We were ‘lucky’. There are a couple of truly brilliant saves from Dudek at 1-0, when United — led by Ruud van Nistlerooy, now the most underrated player of the Premier League era — weren’t just knocking at the door but battering the life out of it with a sledgehammer, that effectively win the game for Liverpool. In keeping the score from going from 1-0 to 1-1, he keeps it from going to 1-2 as well. Man United were really, really, really good at football then. And they were even better at momentum.
Houllier’s last trophy. The man won finals. Apart from that by this point it was all going wrong really. It was painful and in many ways it still is. There’s a Flaming Lips song called Waitin’ For A Superman where Superman can’t cope, where it’s getting heavy, too heavy for Superman to lift and it hits that moment where the realisation around that batters down so, so sweetly. Better than this writing can. Houllier had turned up and been our Superman. He’d lifted everything there was to lift bar one thing and it had become increasingly clear that it was too heavy for him now. That he couldn’t do it. He wasn’t going to do it.
This win gave him one more season. That one more season saw Rafa Benitez get into position to be Liverpool manager and Liverpool qualify for the Champions League. That qualification led to the European run of 2004-05. And on we go.
And in Istanbul the goalkeeper is…
It’s an interesting thing being Liverpool goalkeeper. Dudek isn’t seen as a bonafide Liverpool great — he’d be significantly behind Ray Clemence, Bruce Grobbelaar or Pepe Reina in any all-time 11 reckoning. But he’s put in serious performances in the finals of two of the trophies won in the previous decade. Sander Westerveld was in goal for the treble season! Goalkeepers — always wild. Always mad. But Dudek — so often very good indeed.
Shall we call it The Dudek Final? Yes. Let’s.
Manchester United 1 Liverpool 4 – March 14, 2009
FOR several reasons I didn’t get the chance to go and watch Liverpool play live in my young life.
So when I was offered a ticket to go watch The Reds play at Old Trafford, the biggest game of the season around ours, there was no way I was turning it down. Except this wasn’t any normal invitation to go the game. This would be 90-plus minutes of watching The Reds firmly behind enemy lines. My stepdad was — and is to this day — a United season ticket holder. It makes matchdays in our house interesting to say the least.
There was a mixture of nerves and excitement walking up to Old Trafford, unsure what this day would hold for me. I needn’t have worried.
It didn’t start well, though; Pepe Reina adjudged to have brought down Park Ji-Sung inside the area and Cristiano Ronaldo converting from the spot. It was soft but that United side would always get those.
Minutes later Nemanja Vidic allowed an upfield clearance from Martin Skrtel to drop over his head giving Fernando Torres the chance to level. I didn’t react, obviously. I was on strict instructions to sit on my hands.
Just before the interval Patrice Evra brought down Steven Gerrard, who buried his penalty. Once again, no movement. I didn’t dare.
Nemanja Vidic was tormented by Torres all day — he must still have nightmares about the Spaniard. It was no surprise then when he took his eye off the ball and allowed Gerrard to go by him, hauling him down.
Most of the complaining Mancs had barely put their bums back on seats before Fabio Aurelio curled the subsequent free-kick inside the near post. That was a ‘fuck this’ moment for me. I stood up, overcome by the joy of The Reds stunning Old Trafford. Adrenalin was coursing through me. I wanted to scream “GET THE FUCK IN” but, after taking a look at the despairing faces surrounding me, decided against it and returned to now literally sitting on top of my own hands.
Then possibly the greatest moment in a Manchester United v Liverpool game happened. Reina’s long ball looped over everybody and found Andrea Dossena — a genuinely bad football player — round the back. In one breathtaking motion, he looped the ball over the advancing Edwin Van Der Sar.
Four-one. Old Trafford silenced; bar the thousand or so Scousers tucked away in the corner. Now I can safely say… GET THE FUCK IN.
Manchester United 0 Liverpool 3 – March 16, 2014
LIVERPOOL have sent some decent sides to Old Trafford over the years yet too many times, when it came down to the crunch, The Reds (*they* are the fucking Red DEVILS FFS) ultimately bottled it.
It happened time and again, it seemed. Our boys arrived mentally in the wrong place – fluffing their lines for the big performance; blamming shots into the crowd and misplacing passes.
On other occasions Liverpool have seemed almost too pumped up. Just in my time of watching The Reds, Gary Ablett, Michael Owen, Sami Hyypia, Javier Mascherano and Steven Gerrard have all been sent off at Old Trafford.
For all these reasons – not to mention years of working with crowing Mancs – the March 2014 visit to Salford shines bright in the memory.
This was a time Liverpool swaggered into the enemy’s lair, laughing heartily at a Manchester United side managed by a bug-eyed chancer promoted beyond his skillset. We knew he was doomed to fail – in this match, and in general. His demeanour and his quotes before the game suggested he knew that too.
The game finished 3-0, Gerrard scoring two penalties and missing another, with Luis Suarez adding the other. Nemanja Vidic was sent off. Again. United were never in it — it was a great afternoon; the easiest of Liverpool wins.
As the triumphant Reds marched off the pitch, Jon Flanagan saluted the Stretford End with a clenched fist. It should have been two fingers.
Wayne Rooney called it “one of the worst days I’ve ever had in football”. A Bluenose Scouser, turned Manc, defeated on home turf by the team he grew up hating.
Makes it that much sweeter, doesn’t it?
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