Saturday, 21 September 2013

Five Favourite Wins Against - Manchester United at home

Continuing the series where I look back at my five favourite wins the Liverpool’s next opponents.  This weekend Liverpool play against their arch rivals, Manchester United at Anfield.  Here are my five favourite wins from past encounters.

25th February 1978
LIVERPOOL   (1)   3   (Souness 40, Kennedy 49, Case 84)
MANCHESTER UNITED   (0)   1   (McIlroy 60)

LIVERPOOL: Clemence; Neal, Thompson, Hughes, Smith; McDermott, Souness, Kennedy; Fairclough (Case), Dalglish, Heighway

MAN UTD: Roche; Nicholl, McQueen, Houston, Albiston; Coppell, McIlory, Hill; Macari, Jordan, Pearson

Liverpool had won the title in the two previous years, but this season saw the emergence of Brian Clough and Nottingham Forest, who were 4pts clear at the top by this time.  Liverpool were back in 4th with United down in 11th.  United had denied Liverpool a treble when they beat them in the FA Cup Final the previous May, and had managed to hold them to a 0-0 draw in the Charity Shield and then beat them 2-0 at Old Trafford in October.  But this time Liverpool were to make them pay.  Liverpool were at them from the off and Fairclough had the first real chance when Dalglish turned quickly from a throw on the left and his ball into the area was narrowly hooked over by Fairclough.  Kennedy then had a shot from outside the area just go over as Liverpool piled the pressure on.  Then Dalglish’s left wing cross was only half cleared to Kennedy who crossed it in again only to see McQueen head it away again.  The ball fell to Souness on the edge of the area and his first time volley only just went over.

Emlyn Hughes then had two good chances in quick succession, one was a long range drive and the second was a header from a McDermott corner.  As he was bundled to the ground after making his header, Hughes managed to split his shorts.  In an amusing moment, typical of the man, Hughes then proceeded to change his shorts on the pitch as Ronnie Moran came on with a fresh pair.  In another attack Souness was free in the area and pulled the ball back for Kennedy who fired a characteristic low shot which Steve Coppell scrambled off the line.  Heighway then sent the ball back into the area and it bounced around before Fairclough hooked it onto the bar.

Liverpool were relentless and as half time approached they finally got the breakthrough.  The move began with Heighway on the left continuing to terrorise Jimmy Nicholl.  As he beat him yet again to get to the bye-line he fired a low shot which Roche parried back past him and Nicholl lumped the ball clear to try and give them a breather.  But Thompson got to the ball first and played it forward for Souness.  This was only his 4th appearance since his move from Middlesbrough but it was this game where Souness really started to show his quality.  Souness turned and immediately looked to his right where Terry McDermott was in space but running away from goal.  With great skill Souness bent a pass sufficiently ahead of McDermott to allow him to simply turn around without dropping pace, rather than have to make an immediate change of direction.  McDermott collected himself, saw plenty of men in the box but also picked out Souness who now had run into the area.  Souness, on the penalty spot, met the ball full on the volley left-footed and gave Roche no chance.  It was a stunning strike and one we would come to expect from the Scot over the years.  This was his first goal for Liverpool and few would forget it.

Into the second half and Liverpool were quickly into their stride as they stormed forward.  Dalglish was again involved finding Fairclough on the left.  He beat Nicholl and the ball ran to Heighway who’d run round behind Fairclough.  Heighway’s shot was only parried by Roche and McDermott tried to turn it in but Houston got in the way.  The ball ran loose and there was Ray Kennedy to fire a low shot right-footed into the bottom corner and Liverpool were 2-0 up.

United then got a goal back, although they were still very much second best.  Liverpool failed to clear a cross and McIlroy dummied to beat Hughes and then fired a low shot past Clemence.  This simply seemed to galvanise Liverpool who started to play some real exhibition stuff.  Souness found Heighway on the right and he in turn found McDermott who played the ball into the area where Jimmy Case easily turned McQueen.  He played it to his left to find Dalglish on the 6-yard box but he couldn’t get a shot in and the ball ran to Kennedy, who laid it off for Souness to find another spectacular first shot but Houston saved it on the line.

Liverpool kept going and Souness spread the play from right to left where Dalglish played it onto Heighway wide on the left.  He skinned Nicholl for the umpteenth time then his shot was deflected by McQueen past Roche and Jimmy Case turned it in from close range.  3-1 it ended and had been a vintage performance from Liverpool.  They finished the season retaining their European Cup and finished 2nd to Nottingham Forest in the league.  United ended the season down in 10th.

16th September 1990
LIVERPOOL   (3)   4   (Beardsley 11, 32, 81, Barnes 44)

LIVERPOOL: Grobbelaar; Nicol, Gillespie, Hysen, Burrows; Houghton, Whelan, McMahon; Beardsley, Rush, Barnes

MAN UTD: Sealey; Irwin, Pallister (Beardsmore), Bruce, Phelan; Webb, Ince (Donaghy), Blackmore; Robins, Hughes, McClair

When United arrived in 1990 the two had already met in the Charity Shield again, and drawn again.  Liverpool had hit the ground running this season winning their four matches so far.  United had the best of the opening exchanges as Robbins and McClair had chances but a swift attack from the back, beginning with Grobbelaar’s throw to Barnes saw them open up the visitors.  McMahon bombed forward and returned Barnes’ pass and then continued running where Barnes play a perfectly weighted pass to find McMahon in the area.  His ball into the 6-yard box forced Bruce into making a hash of a clearance and the ball bounced off Les Sealey and there was Peter Beardsley to turn it in for an 11th minute lead. 

Just on the half-hour Liverpool again opened up United with a lovely passing move involving Whelan and Houghton on the right moved across by McMahon to Barnes on the left.  Barnes waited for McMahon to continue his run and then poked the ball forward beautifully into his path.  McMahon then played the ball to his right and there was Beardsley to finish for a 2-0 lead.  It was all quite easy and then just before the break, Houghton absolutely skinned Blackmore on the right and his cross was helped on by Nicol and Barnes simply headed past Sealey for the third.  United hadn’t been that bad and had created some good chances but this Liverpool side were just so clinical.

United had a great chance early in the second half but inexplicably McClair decided a back-pass to Grobbelaar was preferably to a shot.  Liverpool just passed the ball around at will throughout the second half, as Barnes, Houghton and Rush all went close.  Remarkably Ian Rush had not scored against United in 19 attempts and the whole side seemed desperate to turn that round.  Into the last ten minutes and Houghton took a quick free-kick from the centre circle chipping it over the defence for Beardsley to run onto and as Sealey came out, he just lobbed it over him to complete his hat-trick.  United were one of 8 sides Liverpool beat in their 100% successful start to the season.  It was eventual champions, Arsenal, who broke the unbeaten run when they won at the beginning of December.  Liverpool finished 2nd with United ending the season in 6th.  If United hadn’t won the cup that year many 20 year old United fans may never have heard the name Ferguson.

26th April 1992
LIVERPOOL   (1)   2   (Rush 12, Walters 87)

LIVERPOOL: Hooper; Jones, Tanner (Venison), Wright, Burrows; Houghton, Molby, Thomas, Barnes; Saunders, Rush (Walters)

MAN UTD: Schmeichel; Donaghy, Pallister (Phelan), Bruce, Irwin; Kanchelskis, Ince, Robson, Giggs; Hughes, McClair

When United arrived at Anfield towards the end of the final season of the old First Division, they seemed on the verge of their first league title for 25 years.  They had been in a battle with Leeds United all season and were 1pt behind them with 2 games to go.  On the same day Leeds were away at Sheffield United and won 4-3 to put the pressure on Man Utd to get a result later that afternoon.  If they lost, Leeds would be champions.  9 days previously when Leeds arrived at Anfield some bookmakers had stopped taking bets on United winning the title, but since then they’d been held by Luton and lost to Forest and West Ham..  But for a side so free-scoring in 1991, they only found the net in 6 of their last 11 matches.  Liverpool were back in 6th but had a Wembley Cup Final to look forward to, having just beaten Portsmouth in a dramatic Semi-Final which went to penalties after a replay.

Jan Molby was immense that day as Ferguson surprised many by including Robson and Ince when their seasons seemed to already be at an end.  12 minutes in and the home side’s first serious attack brought success.  Molby was involved as a throw-in on the left saw him play a simple, but effective pass to Barnes, who in turn had the necessary vision to pick out a run by Ian Rush.  Rush ran across the defence to find space and was clear to clip the ball past Schmeichel.  Unbelievably, for a player who scored goals for fun this was Rush’s first against Man Utd in 24 appearances.

Ince then hit the post with a shot from outside the area and then Liverpool really should’ve increased their lead when United seemed reluctant to clear and Barnes cheeky back heel fell to Venison who hit the side netting when it seemed easier to score.  Straight after the break United hit the bar twice as Hughes and Kanchelskis went close then Schmeichel pulled off a fine save to deny Saunders.  With three minutes to go Thomas stole the ball in midfield and then stormed forward to cross for Houghton who hit the bar and there was Walters to convert the chance to confirm the win.  As you can imagine, Liverpool fans delighted in having a hand in denying their fiercest rivals the title, and all around the ground could be heard “You lost the league on Merseyside” and “Always look on the bright side of life”.

Leeds were crowned champions that day and a week later Liverpool lifted the FA Cup for the third time in 7 years.

31st March 2001
LIVERPOOL   (2)   2   (Gerrard 15, Fowler 40)

LIVERPOOL: Westerveld; Babbel, Hyypia, Henchoz, Carragher; Gerrard (Owen), Hamann, Murphy, Berger (Barmby); Heskey, Fowler (McAllister)

MAN UTD: Barthez; G. Neville, Brown, P. Neville, Irwin (Chadwick); Beckham, Butt (Scholes), Keane, Giggs; Yorke, Sheringham (Silvestre)

2000-01 was a famous season for Liverpool.  They won a unique treble of three cup competitions.  When United arrived at the end of March Liverpool had already won the League Cup, were due to play Semi-Finals in the UEFA Cup and FA Cup against Barcelona and Wycombe Wanderers respectively.  United were 16pts clear at the top of the table and soon to meet Bayern Munich in the Quarter-Final stage of the Champions League.

Liverpool had won the previous meeting when a Danny Murphy free-kick saw Liverpool become the first team to win at Old Trafford for two years.  Liverpool were up for this meeting right from the start as United seemed to have their minds on other things.  15 minutes in and a poor clearance from Barthez was headed back by Hamann and then Robbie Fowler knocked the ball to his left where Steven Gerrard had found some space.  He took two touches and from about 35 yards out hit a stunning shot which flew in past Barthez for a fantastic goal and gave Liverpool the lead.  United seemed stunned and were unable to gain any grip on the game.  Gerrard was dominant in midfield and Fowler was a constant thorn in the visitors side.  Both were involved in Liverpool’s 2nd goal 5 minutes before the interval as Gerrard crossed from the right, Gary Neville slipped and as the ball came over Fowler’s shoulder he controlled it with his left foot and then poked it past Barthez.  The skill with which he brought the ball down was impressive enough but the power he got in the shot from a short back-lift was too much for the French keeper.  In between the two goals Liverpool had a penalty appeal turned down as Gary Neville appeared to handle Murphy’s header but Graham Poll waved play on.

In the second half Danny Murphy was sent off for a 2nd yellow card but Liverpool weren’t to be denied and were rarely troubled by a United side who gradually seemed to be resigned to their fate.  Dwight Yorke did get the ball in the net but it was ruled out for offside and then just before the end Heskey hit the bar.  Liverpool were buoyant after the win and it was their first ‘double’ over United since 1979.  United eventually won the title by 10pts with Liverpool finishing third.  But Liverpool had the consolation of winning every cup competition they entered.

4th November 2001
LIVERPOOL   (1)   3   (Owen 31, Riise 39, Owen 51)
MANCHESTER UNITED   (0)   1   (Beckham 50)

LIVERPOOL: Dudek; Carragher, Hyypia, Henchoz, Riise; Smicer (Berger), Gerrard, Murphy, Hamann; Heskey, Owen (Fowler)

MAN UTD: Barthez; G. Neville, Brown, Silvestre, Irwin (O’Shea); Beckham (Scholes), Butt, Veron, Fortune; Solskjaer (Yorke), van Nistelrooy

The following season had seen Liverpool start brightly.  Having lost to Bolton and Villa they won 5 of their next 6 to sit in 5th place just above United who’d also lost twice.  As they did back in March, Liverpool were the busier and hungrier of the two sides and Owen and Heskey were especially  impressive, combining well to create chances.  After 31 minutes Hamann and Smicer combined to send Owen through and as Barthez came out, Owen curled the ball beautifully past his outstretched left hand for the opening goal.  Then just 8 minutes later came another memorable strike.  Liverpool had a free-kick on the right hand side about 25 yards out.  Hamann touched it to his left and John Arne Riise struck it with such ferocity that some observers reckon it hit 70mph before exploding into the back of the net.  There were many behind the goal who were glad it hit the net for more than one reason.  It was a goal which sparked many years of the chant “I wanna know how you scored that goal”.

5 minutes after the break, Irwin’s cross was missed by Riise and Beckham was on hand to turn the ball in for a consolation goal for United.  But within 60 seconds the home side had restored their 2-goal advantage when Riise’s throw on the left was headed on by Heskey and little Michael Owen rose above Silvestre to head in his 2nd and his team’s 3rd.  It was difficult to work out who was more to blame, Barthez for coming out and not getting to the throw or Silvestre for not competing enough for the header.  Liverpool won comfortably for their 4th consecutive victory over United, their best string of results since 1910.  Liverpool eventually finished 2nd to Arsenal in the League with United back in 3rd.

It was difficult to leave out the 3-1 win from March 2011 when Suarez danced a merry dance to help Dirk Kuyt to a hat-trick but in the end I plumped for these five.

HEAD TO HEAD at Anfield

Matches: 82
Liverpool win: 40
Man Utd win: 23
Draws: 19

Liverpool goals: 139
Man Utd goals: 91

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