Continuing the series where I look back at my five favourite wins the Liverpool’s next opponents. This weekend Liverpool travel to Old Trafford for one of the biggest fixtures in British football to meet Manchester United and here are my five favourite wins from past encounters.
26th December 1978
MAN UTD (0) 0
LIVERPOOL (2) 3 (Kennedy R 5, Case 25, Fairclough 67)
MAN UTD: Bailey; Greenhoff B, Buchan, McQueen, Connell; Coppell, McIlroy, Thomas; Greenhoff J, Ritchie, Macari
LIVERPOOL: Clemence; Neal, Thompson, Hansen, Hughes; Case, McDermott, Souness, Kennedy R; Fairclough, Dalglish
Boxing Day 1978 and Liverpool were top of the table, a point ahead of Everton. Liverpool had been denied a hat-trick of League titles by Nottingham Forest the year before, and were determined to fight back. This was their record breaking season and they were especially impressive in defence. Man United were back in 7th and managed by Dave Sexton, whose QPR side had run Liverpool close to the title in 1976.
Liverpool had actually hit a bit of a rough patch with 2 defeats in their last 3 matches, against Arsenal and, surprisingly, Bristol City. Those disappointments were sandwiched between a 2-0 win over Champions, Nottingham Forest. United had just lost at Bolton, ending a run of 3 straight wins.
The home side were off to a great start when Ray Kennedy opened the scoring after just 5 minutes. Kennedy won goal of the season for his excellent strike against Derby and this season was his best ever in the League for Liverpool. Midway through the first half and Jimmy Case made it 2-0.
Liverpool were in complete control in the game as United struggled to find any sort of grip on the game. Their dominance was underlined when David Fairclough scored the 3rd goal. He only managed to net twice that season as he struggled to find a place in an increasingly dominant side who swept all before them. The result was rarely in doubt and it was the start of a run where Liverpool would win 16 of their final 22 matches, losing only once. They won the title by 8pts from Forest with United back in 9th. United did get their own back in beating Liverpool in the FA Cup Semi-Final after a replay.
In the United side this day was a young Northern Irish defender, Tom Connell. He’d made his debut in the Bolton defeat, where United lost 0-3. Three days later he retained his place for another 0-3 defeat and was never seen again.
7th April 1982
MAN UTD (0) 0
LIVERPOOL (0) 1 (Johnston 63)
MAN UTD: Bailey; Duxbury, Moran (Grimes), Buchan, Albiston; Coppell, Robson, Moses, Wilkins; McGarvey, Stapleton
LIVERPOOL: Grobbelaar; Neal, Thompson, Lawrenson, Kennedy A; Lee, Johnston, Souness (McDermott), Whelan; Rush, Dalglish
As with the 1978-79 match Liverpool arrived at Old Trafford in a season where they were determined to win their League title back having lost it to Aston Villa the season before. They were in great form too, having won their last 5 matches. They were top of the table, ahead of Ipswich on goal difference with 11 games to go. United were in 5th, 5pts off the lead.
Seven minutes into the game and United were awarded a penalty. Frank Stapleton stepped up to take it but Bruce Grobbelaar saved it. This endeared the Zimbabwean to many Liverpool fans early on in his career and years later Bruce explained how it came about.
“I was sitting in the dressing room reading the programme. In there was a sequence of photographs of where Frank Stapleton put his last home penalty. I took this on board and I thought nothing of it. Sure enough they got a penalty. There goes Mr. Frank Stapleton to take the penalty. I shimmied the opposite way and then I went the way they showed me in the book and I managed to save the penalty.”
This was Grobbelaar’s first season and he’d struggled for the first 4-5 months but a ‘gentle’ word from Bob Paisley turned things round after Liverpool were 12th at Christmas. After a Boxing Day defeat at home to Manchester City they lost just once more that season.
In the second half Craig Johnston broke the deadlock with what proved to be the only goal of the game. It was a crucial victory as Ipswich were being held at Sunderland on the same night. Things got even better three days later as Johnston was again on the scoresheet as they thumped Manchester City, 5-0 as a Glenn Hoddle goal gave Tottenham a win against Ipswich. Liverpool were 5pts clear at the top and never looked back.
Liverpool won their 13th title and the 5th under Bob Paisley in 8 years. United finished 3rd but were 9pts behind the winners. Liverpool also won the League Cup beating Tottenham 3-1.
18th March 1990
MAN UTD (0) 1 (Whelan og 83)
LIVERPOOL (1) 2 (Barnes 15, pen 55)
MAN UTD: Leighton; Anderson (Duxbury), Bruce, Pallister, Phelan; Blackmore, Phelan, Ince; Wallace (Beardsmore), McClair, Hughes
LIVERPOOL: Grobbelaar; Venison, Hansen, Hysen, Staunton; Houghton, McMahon, Whelan; Beardsley, Rush, Barnes
Liverpool travelled to Old Trafford in 1990 on an unbeaten run of 12 matches but still 5pts behind leaders Aston Villa. United were struggling down in 16th, just 2pts above the drop-zone. They won just 2 of their past 15 matches and things were decidedly unsettled around Old Trafford.
Despite their dominance during the 1980’s it had been eight years since Liverpool last won at Old Trafford and United had lost only 2 of their previous 20 League games against Liverpool.
United could’ve taken an early lead but for Steve Staunton’s excellent interception when McClair looked to have a free shot on goal. But Liverpool were soon into their stride and 15 minutes in they had made the breakthrough. Venison dispossessed Martin, fed Houghton who then drilled his pass to Beardsley. The diminutive Beardsley, ever industrious, then instinctively found Barnes marauding his way down the left. Barnes ran most of the United half unchallenged before sliding the ball under Jim Leighton. It was a goal of simplicity made possible by players who just knew where each other would be at any given time.
United then had a couple of chances to equalise but the visitors always looked the more likely to score. Then early in the second half Liverpool pounced on some sloppy United passing and Houghton played the ball forward to Beardsley, just outside the United area. McMahon was also involved in the play which saw Viv Anderson’s clumsy attempt to halt Rush’s progress bring about a penalty. John Barnes stepped up and sent Leighton the wrong way for a 2-goal lead.
The second half then slipped into a pattern of Liverpool creating, then spurning, several chances but they looked comfortable for a victory until the game took a rather odd turn which brought about a much more tense finish than the previous 80 minutes had promised. Bruce played a long ball from the back but Hysen got up to nod the ball down where it fell to Ronnie Whelan, about 25 yards from his own goal. Whilst facing his own goal, Whelan presumably intended to play the ball back to Grobbelaar to take the sting out of the attack but unbelievably he met the ball on the half-volley and it looped over the Liverpool keeper for a shock goal.
It was one of the strangest own-goals and possibly one of the longest and it brought about a strange period when Liverpool seemed slightly uncertain of their own ability to see the game out. They did, though, and moved to within 2pts of Villa and still a game in hand.
Both Liverpool and United were expected to meet in the FA Cup Final too, as they were both in the Semi-Finals by this stage, but Liverpool were beaten in a dramatic Semi-Final by Crystal Palace, who themselves were minutes from beating United in the Final. Had they done that, then the next 23 years could have been completely different.
Liverpool won the title by 9pts from Aston Villa and just missed out on another double by losing the FA Cup Semi-Final. United finished in 13th, just 5pts from relegation, but won the FA Cup in a replay against Crystal Palace.
17th December 2000
MAN UTD (0) 0
LIVERPOOL (1) 1 (Murphy 43)
MAN UTD: Barthez; Neville G, Brown, Silvestre, Irwin (Chadwick); Beckham, Butt (Greening), Keane, Scholes, Giggs; Solskjaer
LIVERPOOL: Westerveld; Babbel, Hyypia, Henchoz, Carragher; Gerrard, Murphy (McAllister), Biscan, Barmby; Heskey, Owen (Smicer)
When Liverpool arrived at Old Trafford just before Christmas 2000, they were lying in 6th having already lost 6 of their 17 matches. United were top of the table, having lost just once, at Arsenal, and had picked up 25pts from a possible 28pts since then.
At this stage, Liverpool hadn’t won at Old Trafford since 1990, when they last won the League, and had not beaten United home or away in the Premier League for five years. During this match they displayed defensive qualities which had been absent on numerous occasions that season. Gerrard was immense in midfield, well supported by Biscan. United seemed complacent, possibly underestimating their opponents.
The game turned just before half-time. In fact, it wasn’t until the 42nd minute that Liverpool had their first meaningful chance on goal when Scholes cleared off the line from Heskey. A minute later Gary Neville inexplicably chose to punch the ball just outside his own area and Liverpool were awarded a penalty. Danny Murphy stepped up and curled it perfectly into the top right-hand corner of the net leaving Barthez stranded.
Liverpool were able to defend their lead throughout the second half by a combination of working extremely hard as well as the confusion around United’s attacking options. Ferguson had started with Scholes playing off Solskjaer but then changed that to move Giggs there, but neither combination bore fruit. Without Cole, Yorke or Sheringham they were fairly impotent but nothing should be taken away from the effort put in by the visitors. Liverpool’s previous league game had been a home defeat to Ipswich for which Houllier received strong criticism. But now the Frenchman received deserved praise for his tactics. Ferguson’s attacking plight was summed up when he brought on two youngsters, Greening and Chadwick, only to see the latter get sent-off in the last minute. It was the first time a United player had been sent-off at Old Trafford since April 1998.
In this series I have tended to mostly enjoy games where Liverpool has crushed their opponents in a shower of goals, but this victory was special as it ended the long unbeaten home record of United. As the Liverpool Echo put it - “After 3,240 minutes, 296 fouls, 28 bookings and 133 goals, United lose at Old Trafford”.
Liverpool were up to 5th and when they beat Arsenal the following week were now just 2pts off 2nd place. They ended the season 3rd in the League as United won the title, but Liverpool pulled off a unique treble by winning the FA Cup, League Cup and UEFA Cup.
14th March 2009
MAN UTD (1) 1 (Ronaldo pen 23)
LIVERPOOL (2) 4 (Torres 28, Gerrard pen 44, Aurelio 77, Dossena 90)
MAN UTD: van der Sar; O’Shea, Ferdinand, Vidic, Evra; Anderson (Berbatov), Carrick (Scholes), Park (Giggs); Ronaldo, Rooney, Tevez
LIVERPOOL: Reina; Skrtel, Hyypia, Carragher, Aurelio; Gerrard (El Zhar), Lucas, Mascherano, Riera (Dossena); Kuyt, Torres (Babel)
A truly memorable day for many a Liverpool fan. Rafa Benitez had enjoyed success in the tactical battle against Alex Ferguson before, but this was a day when they just ground their opponents into the dirt. This was United’s biggest league defeat for 17 years and one which saw their acclaimed boss running scared of the post-match interviews.
Liverpool came into the game with just 1 defeat in their last 17 matches, and were 3rd in the table level on points with Chelsea and 7pts behind the leader, United. United had won 11 straight matches coming into this one and were unbeaten in their last 16. It had been over a year since United fans saw their side beaten at home and their hopes of continued success seemed boosted as Liverpool’s plans were thrown into chaos just before kick-off when Arbeloa withdrew through injury.
23 minutes into the game and Ji-Sung Park was put through by Tevez into the area and as he pushed the ball passed Reina, he made sure he left a trailing leg for Reina to slide into and the referee, Alan Wiley, had no hesitation in signalling for a penalty. Cristiano Ronaldo made no mistake from the spot and United were in front.
This season United had gone from mid-November to mid-February without conceding a goal in the league, and so were expecting to maintain their lead.
Five minutes later and with the ball in Liverpool’s right hand corner of their half, Martin Skrtel launched a ball forward where Torres was marked by both Ferdinand and Vidic. Vidic made the cardinal error of letting the ball bounce and this allowed Torres to nick the ball off him and as van der Sar came out, Torres just dinked the ball over him for the equaliser.
As half-time approached Torres threaded a ball through for Gerrard to run onto and he had the better of Patrice Evra whose late challenge brought down the Liverpool captain and Wiley signalled to the spot again. Gerrard stepped up to take it and beat van der Sar to give the visitors a half-time lead.
In the second half United came at Liverpool and Ronaldo hit the post with a cross, then Tevez just failed to turn the ball into the net but things soon turned sour as Vidic hauled down Gerrard. Ferguson had just completely changed his midfield by using all three subs and now Vidic was sent-off for a desperate challenge when adjudged to be the last man. Once everything had died down and the home players got used to one of theirs being sent-off at home, Fabio Aurelio stepped up and calmly curled the ball inside van der Sar’s near post. Liverpool were 3-1 up and only the second side to score at least 3 goals against United since Chelsea almost three years previously.
Gerrard then blasted the ball over the bar from 10 yards out but as the final whistle loomed, Reina’s goal-kick bounced all the way through to the edge of the United box and Dossena, a second half substitute for Riera, lobbed the ball over van der Sar. Old Trafford was already emptying out before the 4th goal went in but the travelling Liverpool fans were having the time of their life.
For Liverpool, this game was one of 11 wins from their final 12 matches but they were still 4pts short of Champions, United.
1st October 1995
This wasn’t a victory but contained two unforgettable goals from Robbie Fowler. United fans may point to the return of Eric Cantona after his lengthy ban for attacking a supporter, but for many of us Fowler’s 2nd goal where he barges Gary Neville out of the way before deftly chipping Schmeichel, with live long in the memory.
HEAD TO HEAD at Old Trafford
Liverpool win: 15
Man Utd win: 40
Liverpool goals: 78
Man Utd goals: 144