Liverpool and Manchester United clashes are never pretty. The fierce rivalry between the clubs fans, and even some of the players, often leads to controversial and sometimes vile actions on and off the pitch. Unfortunately, in recent matches, the standard of football has a lot to be desired.
Last season, the games were particularly awful. It was the first year for a while where the two teams were actually competitive rivals as well. They drew 0-0 in a boring game at Anfield, and met again at Old Trafford, when the pressure really was on, with both teams eager to catch Chelsea. All game Liverpool fans were giving Gary Neville grief, and in response, United fans bellowed the “Gary Neville is a red, he hates scousers” chant. As the game, which had again been rather dull, was drawing to a close, United were awarded a free kick to the left of the box. Ryan Giggs floated it in, and the ball met Rio Ferdinand’s head. Gary Neville, being a true United supporter, celebrated in the way any true United fan would, and the FA fined him for it.
Sometimes you just can’t write football. This was definitely the case here, as Manchester United and Liverpool were drawn a few days later to face each other in the next round of the FA Cup, the game was to be played on Gary Neville’s birthday. Another dull game, which saw Liverpool win 1-0 through a Peter Crouch goal. United didn’t play well, and didn’t seem to have the hunger you’d expect them to have for such a game. When you compare this to when the two teams met in the 98/99 season, where United trailed, and then came back to win the game with two goals in the last two minutes, it was horribly disappointing. However, the result was overshadowed by what happened in the last minute of the game, when Alan Smith broke his leg, blocking a powerful shot from Riise. The Liverpool fans began to sing songs mocking his terrible incident. Liverpool fans threw faeces at United fans in the away section, and when Alan Smith left the ground in an ambulance, some Liverpool fans tried to rock it over, threw things at it, and shouted “Munich scum” in reference to the Munich Air Disaster where nine United players lost their lives. Things had reached a new level.
The season ended with United finishing one point ahead of Liverpool in the league, after a closely fought second half of the season between the two clubs. This season, the situation on the field is rather different. The two clubs meet again for the first time since the FA Cup match, and Manchester United could go eleven points clear of Liverpool with a win. Alan Smith has commendably said today he doesn’t hold a grudge and wants to focus on the game in hand. He has only played two games for his club since returning from the awful injury, and is likely to feature on the bench on Sunday.
On paper, United have to be favourites, and have been playing some of their best football in years. Rooney is back on form, Ronaldo and Giggs are playing brilliantly, Rio, Heinze and Neville should all return from injury, things look good. However, things looked good in the run up to the Arsenal game a few weeks ago as well, but that didn’t go to plan.
There will always be a fierce rivalry between these two clubs, and there will always be a minority of fans who give the club as a whole a bad reputation, but for the sake of football, we all have to hope that Liverpool fans tone down their dreadful actions at the weekend, and that after the match the talk will be of a wonderful football game and three points for us, rather than fans bad behaviour.