Any team that steps out to play Liverpool is the enemy for the next 90-odd minutes, but some rivalries run much deeper than that. The team that play in blue from over the road, for instance, who we always enjoy seeing on the wrong end of a result, whether or not Liverpool are involved, and you’ll be hard-pressed to find a Reds fan who doesn’t enjoy seeing Arsenal and Chelsea slip up.
And then there’s Manchester United.
The very mention of the name is likely to make the ears of any Liverpool supporter prick up. Every Anfield regular loathes the team from Old Trafford, and plenty still consider a trophyless season a success if Liverpool do the double over the Red Devils. Manchester United supporters feel much the same way.
But where did all this animosity come from? Why exactly is the Liverpool-Manchester United rivalry one of the biggest British football?
The answer is a combination of ambition and keeping up with the Joneses. Both clubs have a burning desire to be the football powerhouse of the north-west, the UK and, ultimately, Europe. It’s a rivalry that transcends sport – it’s about regional pride and superiority.
A meagre 35 miles separates Merseyside and Manchester, and in terms of culture, industry, politics and more, the cities have been at loggerheads for decades, and this acrimony continues to this day. The 1894 opening of the Manchester ship canal, which bypassed Merseyside ports, leading to huge job losses in the area, is thought to have sparked the bitterness between the cities, and football soon became a platform for the airing of this hostility.
Liverpool and Manchester United going on to become the two most successful football clubs in England has only stoked the fires of this rivalry, with the two sides competing against one another for top domestic and European honours.
United have the edge when it comes to head-to-head meetings, winning 79 to Liverpool’s 65, and a series of tasty clashes over the years have only served to fuel the conflict. One of the sweeter outcomes for Liverpool was winning the first-ever game at Old Trafford in 1910, overturning a three-goal deficit to win 4-3, while snatching the First Division title from United’s grasp and handing it to Leeds United with 2-0 win in 1992 was also a moment to savour.
However, results such as our FA Cup final defeat in 1977, and our fourth-round defeat in the same competition in 1999 as United went on to win an unprecedented treble, still sting to this day.
Players and managers have both played their part in maintaining and even intensifying the rivalry, with Sir Alex Ferguson and Gary Neville notorious for their digs at Liverpool during their time at United.
Unsurprisingly, transfer business between the two clubs is virtually non-existent, with no player moving from one club to the other since Phil Chisnall moved from United to the Reds in 1964.
After years dominating the Premier League, United have struggled since Ferguson retired in 2013. While they overtook Liverpool’s league title record during Ferguson’s reign, with current boss José Mourinho struggling to get his team performing consistently, as previously commented on by 888sport, our European Cup/Champions League record looks unlikely to be surpassed any time soon.
While Mourinho has yet to restore the Red Devils to their former glory, Jürgen Klopp has plenty of work to do too if Liverpool are to make a more serious bid next season to claim a first league title since 1990. It’s a huge task, and an important one – we’re two titles behind United now, and there’s nothing in the world Reds supporters would love to see more than their club reclaiming its perch from the old enemy.