Liverpool vs Manchester United: The North West Derby

The history of the derby, the struggle for title supremacy and notable games throughout time

Liverpool vs Manchester United: The North West Derby

Ahead of Sunday’s game between Liverpool and Manchester United, we take a look at the North West derby, including the nature of the rivalry, as well as the overall results throughout history.

Liverpool – Manchester United Rivalry

The rivalry between Manchester United and Liverpool, also known as the North West Derby, is arguably the most heated rivalry in English football, mainly because Liverpool and Manchester United are the two most successful English football clubs.

The two teams have won a combined total of 38 league titles, with Manchester United winning the league 20 times and Liverpool 18. In addition, they have achieved more in European Competitions than any other English team. Liverpool have won 9 major European titles (6 European Cups and Champions Leagues, 3 UEFA Cups), while Manchester United have won 5 (3 European Cups and Champions Leagues, 1 Europa League and 1 European Cup Winners’ Cup).

Despite the game not exactly being a local derby, the rivalry between the two clubs is so intense because of the proximity of the two cities, just 35 miles away from each other.

The two teams face each other on Sunday the 19th of January. Liverpool are unbeaten, find themselves at the top of the table with 20 wins and just one draw, which happened to be against Manchester United in the first half of the season.

History of the derby

The tension between Liverpool and Manchester first started in the 19th century as an industrial rivalry. The main reason for the latter was the construction of the Manchester Ship Canal to bypass Liverpool’s financial control over imports and exports.

Until 1894 when the Manchester Ship Canal was completed, Liverpool was the only city within the area to have a port. Hence, the construction of one in Manchester, just 35 miles away, had a negative impact on the economy of Liverpool.

Though the rivalry started through industrial tensions, football was the primary reason to inspire any real hatred between the two cities.

Manchester United were the team founded first in 1878 as Newton Heath LYR F.C. and renamed to Manchester United F.C. in 1902. Old Trafford has been Manchester United’s home ground since 1910.

Liverpool were founded in 1892 by John Houlding who was at first an Everton FC member. Houlding purchased Anfield stadium from his friend John Orell in 1892 and asked Everton FC, that had already been playing there, for an increase in rent. Everton FC refused and left Anfield. They went 0.9 miles away to build Goodison Park. John Houlding was left without a tenant and hence in 1892 decided to form a new team. That team was Liverpool F.C.

On the 28th of April 1894, the first match between the two teams took place, in the form of a football league test match. Liverpool won 2-0 against Newton Heath. A year and a half later, on the 12th of October 1895 at a second division match, Liverpool celebrated the largest victory in the history of their rivalry, standing until today, with a 7-1 score. At the end of the season, Liverpool won the league and hence their promotion to the first division.

The 60’s

In the 60s, Liverpool enjoyed much success in music with the formation of the rock band of The Beatles. Football success followed suit to make Liverpool FC fans even prouder. The rapid rise of Bill Shankly’s side challenged the country’s elite sides and overcame United in the 1964 title race. The next season, Liverpool FC won the FA Cup. In 1965-66 they celebrated again by winning the league title.

Munich Air Disaster

After the Munich Air Crash in 1958 where 8 Man United players died, the team followed a period of rebuilding by the manager of the club Matt Busby who survived the crash. Six years later, in 1964-65, Manchester United became champions of England again. Ten years after the air crash tragedy, the club celebrated winning the European Cup for the first time in their history. The game took place at Wembley where the Manchester club faced Eusebio’s Benifca. United defeated the Portuguese club with a 4-1 score.

The 70’s and 80’s

The following two decades were dominated by Liverpool and it was unboundedly the most successful period in the history of the club. Liverpool won the league an astounding 11 times which is calculated as 61% of their total league titles. Also, the club’s worldwide popularity skyrocketed through European competition success.

Liverpool won the UEFA Cup twice in 1973 and 1976. A year later, the club celebrated their first ever European Cup, a success which was repeated the next season as well. In the final of 1977, Liverpool won against Borussia Monchengladbach with 3-1. In the next year’s final they defeated Brugge with 1-0.

In the 80s, Liverpool won two more European Cups with the first one being in 1981 against Real Madrid. In the final, Alan Kennedy scored the goal in the 82nd minute. The second one was in 1984 against Roma in their home ground of Stadio Olimpico, where they won the game in a penalty shootout with 4-2.

What do the numbers say?

Win Percentage

The two clubs have faced each other a total of 203 times. Manchester United have won 68 games, Liverpool 56, while 49 games have ended in a draw. The team playing at home, naturally, has a significant advantage. This is proved by the fact that in Anfield, where 86 league games took place, is where Liverpool have won 40 (47%), Man United 25 (29%) and 21 times the two sides drew (24%). Similarly, in 87 matches at Old Trafford, Man United won the 43 (49%), Liverpool 16 (18%) and 28 matches ended in a draw (32%).

Trophies and Titles

Manchester United lead the battle in terms of domestic titles as they have won a total of 66 titles opposed to the 63 of Liverpool. Manchester United have won the league 20 times whereas Liverpool have won it 18 times. In addition, the Red Devils have celebrated the winning of the FA Cup 12 times and while the Reds of Liverpool 7 times.

In terms of European competitions, Liverpool are more successful than Manchester United, having won the European Cup or Champions League a total of six times against the three of Manchester United. Also, Liverpool have won the UEFA Cup or Europa League three times and the UEFA Super Cup 4 times. Manchester United managed to win the Europa League once, the same number as their other European trophies, the European Winners’ Cup and UEFA Super Cup.

Individual Player Records

In regard to individual records, Ryan Giggs is the player to have played the most North West derbies. Giggs has participated in 48 out of the 203 total games (24%) in which the two teams faced each other.

Three players hold the top scorer record in the Liverpool versus Manchester United games with 9 goals. These are the legendary ex-captain of Liverpool Steven Gerrard and two players of Manchester United who played in the early 1900s, George Wall and Sandy Turnbull.

Notable matches

Ending Liverpool’s treble dreams

In 1977 the two teams faced each other in an FA Cup final for the first time in history. The game took place at Wembley on the 21st of May, some days after Liverpool celebrated winning the league.

In addition, four days later on the 25th of May, Liverpool became European champions for the first time in the history of the club. However, despite Liverpool being the favorites, Manchester United ended Liverpool’s treble dreams with a surprise 2-1 win. Stuart Pearson and Jimmy Greenhoff scored for United whereas Jimmy Case was the scorer for Liverpool.

The last final of Bob Paisley

On the 26th of March 1983, the two sides met in the League Cup Final. Liverpool won the Wembley final with 2-1. Alan Kennedy and Ronnie Whelan (who also played for Apollon Limassol) scored for Liverpool while Norman Whiteside scored for Manchester United.

At the end of the season, the legendary manager of Liverpool Bob Paisley left the club after nine successful years in charge as manager. Prior to that, Paisley was the assistant manager of another Liverpool legend, Bill Shankly, for 14 years (1959-1974). Paisley also played for 15 years for the club (1939-1954). Bob Paisley served Liverpool FC for a total of 38 years.

Eric Cantona’s final

The year of 1995 was probably the hardest in the career of Eric Cantona as he had been suspended for 8 months after the ‘kung-fu’ incident with a fan on the 25th of January at an away game against Crystal Palace.

Eight months later, on the 1st of October 1995, Cantona made his comeback against Liverpool. However, the match against Liverpool that truly marked history took place at the end of that season. In a 1996 FA Cup final, Eric Cantona scored the winning goal in the 85th minute to win the trophy for his team. Eric Cantona played just one more year for United before retiring.

The heaviest home defeat in 17 years

On the 14th of March 2009 Manchester United were at the top of the table with Liverpool aiming for a late comeback to fight for the title. During their game at Old Trafford, Cristiano Ronaldo opened the score for Manchester United with a penalty kick in the 23rd minute.

However, Liverpool subsequently scored four goals with Fernando Torres, Steven Gerrard, Fabio Aurelio and Andrea Dossena to win the game 1-4.

Though this was the heaviest home defeat for Manchester United in any competition for 17 years, they managed to go on and win the league at the end of the season, finally matching Liverpool’s 18 league titles.

by Joseph Violaris


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