Liverpool and Manchester. It’s a rivalry that predates football itself. It harks back to the times of the Industrial Revolution and the Manchester Canal. Scousers and Mancs just don’t get on, do they? Especially United and Liverpool. The rivalry between Manchester United and Liverpool is legendary, by far the most romantic and famous in English football. When these two teams meet, Sky’s incessant ramblings about ‘Super Sunday’ and ‘Ford Football Focus sponsored by Gillette Soccer Special’ seem actually apt. Bu these two just don’t get on? There are many, profound, historical and deep-rooted reasons for this and I’m not going to get into today. All I’ll talk about today is why I strangely respect my team’s supposed arch-rivals and why I definitely don’t hate them…. Well unless they’re playing against my beloved United that is!
1. They’re not Chelski or Citeh
Liverpool FC is a club steeped in history. In a similar vein to United, it is a club that the romantics can enjoy. It is a club with a glorious yet sometimes tragic past. The club has character. Unlike our brand new, plastic, corporate, mega-bucks rivals. Chelsea and Man City are two average clubs with an average fan base and a very modest history and trophy cabinet. Neither have produced the teams, the players, or indeed the moments that United and Liverpool have. Manchester United and Liverpool are pillars of English football, institutions almost. They are names synonymous with success and glory. City and Chelsea are merely pretenders.
2. The fans of LFC are quite special
If there is one thing to be said about scousers, it’s that they know how to create noise. European nights in Anfield (which are absent this year) are quite unique. While the Kop may be a proudly anti-United organisation, it’s hard not to admire them. Seeing the Kop in full flow, with their red scarves piercing the night’s sky, belting out You’ll Never Walk Alone (which I’ll get to later) is quite a scene to behold. It’s a quite tedious running joke that United fans are a muted, impassionate bunch and while this may be true for a small portion of the fanbase, the Stretford End is still a bastion of intense ecstasy. There are many parallels between these two great terraces.
Football has produced many larger than life characters, men who, at the risk of sounding American, simply exude the spirit of the game. Brian Clough. George Best. Malcolm Allison. Robin Friday. There are many more names that you could add to that list on one of them is without doubt Bill Shankly. Whatever one’s feelings about LFC may be, you cannot help but admire the love he had for the club and especially its fans. The scenes at Anfield when he retired in 1973 have not been witnessed since and the grief that surrounded the club when he sadly passed away ten years later remains unparalleled. He is also a one man quote machine. We all know the trademark ‘Football isn’t a matter of life or death – it’s much more important than that’ and ‘form is temporary, class is permanent’ but frankly these have been driven to the point of absurdity. His more impressive quotes in my opinion would include “"The socialism I believe in is everyone working for each other, everyone having a share of the rewards. It's the way I see football, the way I see life” and my personal favourite “At a football club, there's a holy trinity the players, the manager and the supporters. Directors don't come into it. They are only there to sign the cheques”. These quotes become more and more pertinent as time passes on.
4. Munich and Hillsborough
I must say, it both astounds and disgusts me that the Munich and Hillsborough disasters have become a dividing factor in the rivalry between United and LFC. No other English clubs, with the possible exception of Bradford, have experienced such deep and tragic disasters as the Munich air crash and the Hillsborough disaster. One would assume that the fact that fans of the two clubs could relate over the grief and pain felt by the two disasters but in actual fact, the two sets of fans disgrace both tragedies with vile taunts and chants. I would argue that we United fans should be more understanding of Hillsborough and the deep, indelible scar it has left on the club and maybe then they shall also be more respectful towards Munich. They’re part of our collective history and one cannot help but admire the fraternity witnessed at LFC in the wake of Hillsborough, almost mirroring the response Munich received at United. In a much similar vain to the Munich air disaster and United, it was a tragedy that shook the club to its very core.
5. You’ll Never Walk Alone
It’s my guilty pleasure. As a United fan, I find it hard to listen to a song that is so associated with my club’s main rivals as I feel as if in a way, I am betraying them but my god, it’s a good song. I’m talking the Gerry & the Pacemakers version now. It is one of the most uplifting and inspiring songs I have ever heard and I do not blame LFC at all for adopting it as their anthem. Hearing the Kop sing it with such fervour and soul is almost awe-inspiring. Not quite as good as hearing the Stretford End chanting ‘We Shall Not Be Moved’ or ‘Are You Watching Merseyside’ but good nonetheless, Oh, and it was Bill Shankly who decided it should be the club anthem. Don’t you just love him?