Top Tenner: The most memorable Man United vs. Liverpool games of all time
Manchester United and Liverpool have played some memorable encounters throughout the years. Nick Miller looks back at 10 of the best.
(This article was first published on Jan. 14, 2017)
10. Liverpool 2-0 Newton Heath, 1894
The inaugural game between Liverpool and Newton Heath, the team that would become Manchester United, was effectively a relegation playoff and would -- almost, assuming they were elected by the league -- decide whether second-division winners Liverpool would be promoted and Newton Heath, bottom of the top flight, would go down. First-half goals from Patrick Gordon and Harry Bradshaw won it for Liverpool, who were subsequently granted promotion. "It may be truthfully stated that the Liverpool team had fairly got the measure of their antagonists," reported the Liverpool Mercury, "who never at any period of the game afterwards played with confidence or showed signs of winning, or even of holding their own." We think that all means Liverpool were the better team.
9. Manchester United 2-2 Liverpool, 1995
This was less a game and more a homecoming for Eric Cantona, who played for the first time after serving a nine-month ban for kicking a Crystal Palace fan. United's No. 7 was hailed as a Roman emperor might have been upon returning to his kingdom and set up a goal for Nicky Butt within two minutes. Robbie Fowler seemed keen to ruin the celebration, though, scoring two brilliant goals to put Liverpool in front -- "It was the game of my life," he later said Fowler -- but Cantona would have the last word. With 71 minutes gone and Jamie Redknapp fouled Ryan Giggs, the Frenchman slotted home a penalty and celebrated with uncoordinated glee, jumping and twirling around the goal stanchion. Despite viewing the game as two points lost, Cantona-inspired United went on to win the double.
8. Liverpool 1-2 Manchester United, 2015
Just before United visited Anfield in March 2015, some well-sourced articles appeared in the media detailing how Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers had brilliantly reimagined his side. They had struggled after the departure of Luis Suarez, but a switch to a 3-4-3 system by Rodgers had seemingly fixed things. Presumably, if such a thing was possible, this made United's eventual victory even sweeter, as Juan Mata scored twice, one of his goals an acrobatic scissor kick, to end Liverpool's 13-match unbeaten run. And yet more amusement for away fans came when Steven Gerrard, playing for the last time vs. United, was sent off for fouling Ander Herrera, just 38 seconds after coming on at half-time. The win was the catalyst for Louis van Gaal's side to clinch a Champions League place.
7. Liverpool 2-1 Manchester United, 1983
Perhaps slightly surprisingly, given they have basically dominated English football for the better part of 40 years, the two sides have only met in four major finals. There was the 1977 FA Cup final and the notoriously tedious 1996 edition -- both of which were won by United -- as well as the 2003 League Cup decider, which Liverpool won 2-0. Arguably the best of them all, though, was the final of the same competition 20 years earlier. United went ahead with a brilliant Norman Whiteside strike but then lost Kevin Moran to injury. When his central defensive partner Gordon McQueen was also crocked, he had to hobble around up front because United had used their lone substitute. Alan Kennedy equalised and then, in extra-time, Ronnie Whelan's magnificent winner clinched Bob Paisley's last major trophy.
6. Liverpool 4-4 Manchester United, 1953
This remains the highest-scoring, post-war match between these two great rivals. And not only were there plenty of goals, they were also arranged in such a way as to present quite the pulsating, end-to-end encounter, the advantage swinging this way and that. Jack Rowley gave United the lead, but Louis Bimpson equalised with the first goal of his hat trick and Bill Jones put Liverpool ahead just before the break. Roger Byrne struck back to level for United, then Bimpson completed his treble with two goals by the hour mark. Eddie Lewis pulled one back before Tommy Taylor ultimately secured the draw with a controversial goal, shoving both ball and the Liverpool keeper into the net. Fans had to be restrained from protesting, but the goal stood and the points were shared.
5. Liverpool 3-3 Manchester United, 1988
Sir Alex Ferguson was two years into his attempt to reclaim the league title for Manchester United but when they visited Anfield in April 1988, it wasn't going entirely to plan as leaders Liverpool had an 11-point advantage. Bryan Robson gave United an early lead, but then Liverpool woke up and scored three times either side of half-time: Peter Beardsley, Gary Gillespie and Steve McMahon seemingly sending them on their way to victory. That win looked even more certain when United's Colin Gibson was sent off but, remarkably, Ferguson's men stormed back late in the game through goals from Robson and Gordon Strachan, who celebrated by puffing an imaginary cigar in front of The Kop, to grab an unlikely point from a memorable encounter.
4. Manchester United 2-1 Liverpool, 1977
Twenty-two years before United completed the first treble in English football, their rivals had a chance to do it themselves. Liverpool already had the league sewn up and would also beat Borussia Monchengladbach in the European Cup final. Between those two triumphs, though, was the FA Cup final against a United side that had finished 10 points behind them. "We weren't confident," admitted United forward Stuart Pearson, but his pessimism was misplaced. Pearson opened the scoring, only for Jimmy Case to level two minutes later with a fine turn and shot that goalkeeper Alex Stepney probably should have saved. Two minutes after that, however, Lou Macari's mis-hit shot spun in off teammate Jimmy Greenhoff. United held on and Liverpool had to be satisfied with just a league and European Cup double.
3. Manchester United 1-4 Liverpool, 2009
The 2008-09 title race is often seen as one that Liverpool lost, but that's unfair to both them and United, a juggernaut who won all-but three games after Christmas. One of those games was against Liverpool at Old Trafford, when Fernando Torres' hex over United defender Nemanja Vidic seemed to be at its height. Cristiano Ronaldo's penalty gave the hosts the lead before, but Steven Gerrard levelled with a spot kick of his own and Torres got the better of Vidic for the second. Fabio Aurelio and Andrea Dossena -- an unlikely scoring pair from the left flank -- completed the rout and the Liverpool fans floated home. "I thought we were the better team," claimed Ferguson, showing that he had a neat line in comedy as well as winning trophies. But, needless to say, he had the last laugh.
2. Manchester United 2-1 Liverpool, 1999
This was a prime example of the United sides that didn't just beat most of English football in the 1990s and 2000s, but annoyed everyone except their own fans while doing so. The term "Fergie time" was coined because his side habitually scored goals very late in games, not down to luck but more because they were absolutely relentless. And never in more dramatic circumstances than in 1999: While the Champions League final comeback win vs. Bayern Munich was obviously the most remarkable, the FA Cup fourth round against Liverpool wasn't too far behind. Michael Owen's third-minute header looked set to give Liverpool victory until, two minutes from full-time, Dwight Yorke popped up to equalise. Moments later and not for the last time that season, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer hit the winner.
1. Liverpool 3-3 Manchester United, 1994
This was a meeting between the coming force of English football and its declining superpower. United had won the league title for the first time in 26 years the previous season and stormed into a 3-0 lead after just 23 minutes at Anfield, with Steve Bruce, Ryan Giggs and a brilliant Denis Irwin free kick providing the goals. But by half-time it was 3-2 thanks to two efforts from the the hitherto disappointing summer signing Nigel Clough. Liverpool defender Neil Ruddock headed the equaliser home with 11 minutes of the game remaining. "That was incredible stuff," said Ferguson afterwards, denied a win and two points but still able to appreciate a great game. "The excitement, the pace of it. They ran a yard further and a yard faster. The crowd had them at fever pitch."
Nick Miller is a writer for ESPN FC, covering Premier League and European football. Follow him on Twitter @NickMiller79.