6-1, 5-1, 4-1. Playing Manchester City and getting tonked by them is actually a fairly regular occurrence these days. But way before then, it didn’t help that Manchester United were rubbish. It didn’t help that any team can have an off day. It didn’t help that Manchester City have recently been able to play really, really well. Those are miserable defeats, ones that can linger like a scar. But it’s not just losing to Manchester City we’re going to talk about now, but also against the possibly even more hated Liverpool. What’s that? No, come back, it’ll be fun. Promise.
Manchester United 0-1 Liverpool, 24 April 2004
Danny Murphy was staggeringly good value, costing just a couple of million pounds from Crewe. He doesn’t play like an English midfielder – he can pass, for one – and despite the fact he wasn’t the best player in Liverpool, the neutral could really enjoy and warm to him. He wasn’t especially arrogant, he was erudite by footballer standards, and he’s never really been involved with some grotesque moral outrage. Which is great, if you’re a neutral, and devastating if you’re a certain type of Manchester United fan. To plenty, he was scum. Under that veneer of decency was the dark heart of a man willing to play for Liverpool. He should have been playing for Spurs, or Everton, or anyone else. What kind of animal would join Liverpool? What kind of man would then go on to enjoy it?
In truth, this wasn’t even the most harrowing defeat. This was the third time under Gerard Houllier that Murphy had scored the deciding goal against Manchester United for Liverpool. And this goal was the one to end the mathematical hopes of winning the league. It may not have been a shock that United lost – this was a squad with David Bellion introduced to chase the game for the last ten minutes – but with Murphy scoring again it was painfully predictable.
Manchester City 1-0 Manchester United, 30 April 2012
Eight points. Eight points. Eight. Points. Three weeks before the game Manchester United had an eight point lead over Manchester City. They were going to win the league, again. Ferguson was going to make a fool of the passive aggressive idiot Roberto Mancini, who had publicly conceded the league. Eight points. Eight points. Eight. Points.
The four, five and six goal defeats are, from a distance, comical aberrations. They’re so ridiculously awful at the time that they exist on another plane. This defeat wasn’t a dagger to the heart like Sunday was, it was like being in a car crash on ketamine.
A tepid loss to Wigan, and an even more inexcusable 4-4 draw at home to Everton having had a two goal lead, and United were in the brown stuff. But no worry – Ferguson was going to take the game to Manchester City, and a draw or win would give United the chance to remain in charge of the race, and stabilise the psyche. But oh no!
Ashley Young and Ji Sung Park were present. The always-cowardly and the now-pointless, respectively. United never threw a punch, and Captain of Smug Vincent Kompany headed inte winner. It was a pathetic showing, allowing Manchester City to go ahead on goal difference. And how did City win the league in the end? That’s right! Goal difference!
Eight points. Eight points. Eight. Points.
Liverpool 2-1 Manchester United, 28 January 2012
Luis Suarez is a racist, is a racist. Luis Suarez racially abused Patrice Evra over the course of a match earlier in the year, and was ultimately banned for being a racist. Luis Suarez = racist. What better way, then, to deal with the club that stood by the racist Luis Suarez – the club, who at the match, also had a fan make monkey gestures at Evra – than to give them an almighty dicking on the football pitch. Liverpool were a team of utter muck, and United were in the middle of seemingly getting back into the title (though see above).
It was not, we have established, the time to lose to an injury time goal from a Rafa Benitez acolyte and anti-football disciple. Dirk Kuyt is a miserable example of everything Liverpool stood – a shit folk hero in love with a club’s shit mythology – and he scored the winner. Some of us heard about the result in a car park in North Yorkshire. Some of us considered staying in the car, running a hosepipe from the exhaust through the window, and giving in.
Manchester United 1-4 Liverpool, 14 March 2009
Manchester City 4-1 Manchester United, 14 March 2004
Having just got knocked out of Europe, this is the genetic perfection of the worst defeat. Smarting from an eminently winnable Champions League with a bit of focus and luck, United had no luck and lost their focus. That continued against City. Smarting and grumpy, United lost 4-1 to a dreadful Manchester City side. Worse than that, it was a dreadful lose to a team containing the openly scouse Robbie Fowler. He might have been an excellent player, he might have supported striking dockers, but there’s a lot wrong with him. For one, he homophobically abused Graeme Le Saux, which is as thick as it is tedious. Worse than that, he’s from Liverpool.
The team United faced was dog dirt. A real collection of Premier League rubbish, and yet they won. Look at this:
James, Dunne, Van Buyten, Distin, Wright-Phillips, Reyna (Bosvelt 45), Sibierski (Jihai 84), McManaman (Sinclair 45), Tarnat, Macken, Fowler.
This was before City became good off the back of money earned through the exploitation of slave labour and dictatorship in the Middle East, so it wasn’t the level of the defeat, it was the fact of defeat. This was meant to get the season back on track, three easy points. Instead it was the third defeat against City under Fergie ever. There was indignity last Sunday, but was it as undignified as losing to this pile?