The American Gerrard- A History of Hope and Hatred
This weekend will play host to the Liverpool match I look forward to most each season: Liverpool vs. Manchester United. This time around, both teams are firmly placed at the top of the league. Their meeting on Sunday could very well be a title decider, making this year’s fixture one of the most exciting to date. In honor of this six-point match, here is an article about one of the sporting world’s most legendary rivalries.
In the modern era of Premier League football, Liverpool have many enemies. Some fans might argue that Manchester City have become our biggest rival these days, as they post the most consistent threat to the title. The locals might say it is cross-town counterparts, Everton. But in my opinion, all true fans know there can only be one arch nemesis, one villain of villains, one Devil to rule Hell (well Red Devils anyways). I am talking of course about Manchester United.
European football has its share of rivalries, but none compare to Liverpool and Manchester United. These two clubs are England’s most successful teams – with more then 120 trophies between them, they have the silverware to prove it! It is no surprise that the two best teams would naturally become rivals over decades of competition.
Numerous players and fans supporting each side have admitted their hatred for the other. The matches have always been a feisty affair, typically featuring cheeky fouls and trash talk between players. Fans have shot off flares at the opposing fan sections, and thrown eggs at managers and players from the away ends of stadiums. The passion has overtaken decency in some instances, when supporters have crossed the line by singing inappropriate songs about Hillsborough and the Munich air disaster. The animosity is so bad that not a single player has been transferred between the two sides since 1964. To put this in perspective, even fierce Spanish rivals Real Madrid and Barcelona have exchanged at least nine players between them. These English sides just hate each other more.
The true origin of football’s oldest and most legendary rivalry began from economical reasons, of all things (cue the History channel theme). It began during the Industrial Revolution of the early 19th century. Manchester and Liverpool were both booming economically. Manchester was full of textile factories and earned the nickname”Cottonopolis.” Liverpool were a large port city, and the two regions enjoyed a profitable relationship with the vast majority of Manchester’s goods shipping in and out of Liverpool’s docks.
The “partnership” ended when the Manchester Ship Canal was completed in 1894. This basically cut Liverpool out with Manchester now able to ship from their own docks. The economy in Liverpool was hit hard, while Manchester continued to prosper. Needless to say the people of Liverpool were very angry with the city of Manchester.
The old story among fans is that the Liverpool team at the time made a promise to the people of Liverpool to inspire hope. They would put their heart into their performance and thrash Manchester United that year when they faced each other for the first time. Liverpool fans will tell you they won the match. Manchester fans might claim the opposite.
The truth is that the first-ever meeting between both clubs came in a Football League test match in 1894, a post-season fixture to determine who will receive First Division membership for 1894–95. As Newton Heath (Manchester United’s original name) finished bottom of the First Division at the end of 1893–94, they had to play off against the champions of the Second Division, Liverpool. Liverpool won the tie 2–0 at Elwood Park in Blackburn, earning them First Division membership and condemning Newton Heath to the Second Division. Regardless of the result, the match was significant as it provided a distraction for the fans during a difficult economic period. This is where the football rivalry was truly born.
Why Always Them?
So if the hatred is based in both area’s history, why don’t Liverpool fans hate Manchester City the same as United? And in turn why don’t United supporters dislike Everton? The answer is pretty simple, Everton and Manchester City historically suck. They just do not have the same history of winning their city rivals enjoy. Liverpool and Manchester United have almost always been among the top teams in England. With that comes the expectation of winning trophies, sometimes at the expense of one another – thus creating a rivalry.
Liverpool officially became top dog in the ’70s and ’80s, winning 11 league titles and four European Cups from 1972 to 1990. Liverpool were considered England’s best team with a League trophy collection bigger then any other English team including Manchester United. Then Turd Ferguson came along.
The Ferguson Years
During the 90’s Manchester United became the team to beat. Man United Manager Sir Alex Ferguson lead the team to an unprecedented 38 trophies during his 25 years as manager. Ferguson really hated Liverpool, he was even famously quoted saying:
“My greatest challenge was knocking Liverpool right off their fucking perch. And you can print that.”
Unfortunately, he was successful. In the 2010-2011 season Manchester won their 19th league title, finally beating Liverpool’s record of 18 top-flight titles. To add insult to injury, they added another in 2012-2013.
Manchester United surpassed Liverpool’s trophy and title win number to become England’s top team. While Manchester United added to their trophy cabinet, Liverpool struggled with poor ownership decisions and their domestic form suffered for it. Liverpool went through a title drought lasting decades leading many to believe the Anfield side’s glory days were behind them.
Sir Alex Ferguson retired from management at the end of the 2012-2013 season. Little did the fans know, he was leaving Manchester United in a mess. To this day, they have spent many years and many failed attempts at replacing him. They have not won a title since Ferguson left, while wasting loads of money on players who have flopped. While United have struggled to retain top form, out from the shadows crept Ferguson’s worst nightmare. Liverpool were back and they were coming for their perch.
Hope, Thy Name is Klopp
I am not discrediting any of the great managers Liverpool have had over the last 30 years prior to Klopp. Roy Evans and Gerard Houllier discovered a generation of awesome Scouser footballers. Uncle Rafa gave us our fifth Champions League trophy, shining a light in the darkest of times. Brendan Rodgers gave us a sight of hope on empty seas, propelled by the swashbuckling rampage of Luis Suarez and the steady stewardship of Captain Steven Gerrard. Roy Hodgson gave us… Paul Koncheski… Ok forget the last one. Jurgen Klopp surely is something special.
After more then 20 years of coming close but no cigar. Years of struggling to claw our way back into a Champion’s league places. Seasons where our best players deserted us for pastors new. Liverpool made their best signing of all. Jurgen Klopp became Liverpool manager on 8 October 2015. He promised to give Liverpool fans the one thing they had been craving: a league title. And Klopp kept his promise. In 2020, 30 years after winning their last English top-flight title, Liverpool won their 19th ending the drought. I could write an entire article about how great Klopp is, but this is not about Klopp, it is about the Manure.
Fast forward to recent times, with Manchester United experiencing their own success drought. Liverpool were able to make their way back onto the perch, winning their sixth Champions League, and 19th English top-flight title in the process. This season provides Liverpool fans with something they have contemplated for many years. The chance to equal United’s English top-flight title record, and finally silence the shit talking voices of Old Trafford.
As I stated earlier on in the article, this week’s clash of the titans has major title implications. Manchester United somehow went from bookies favorite to sack their manager to standing three points above the reigning champions. The fallout from worldwide pandemic has seen many of Europe’s top teams and predicted champions fail to meet expectations. The congested fixture schedule has resulted in injury hit squads. This opened the door to a mediocre team like Manchester United to claw their way back onto Liverpool’s coattails. I think it is time we sent these penalty punks back down the table for good.
Which Liverpool Will We See?
Jurgen Klopp’s men recently righted a series of bad performances against lesser sides with a 4-1 win against a depleted Aston Villa side consisting of youth players. Hopefully this can provide the lads with the confidence boost they need to beat Manchester United once again.
Aside from Liverpool winning the league, 2020 was not a great year for most people. COVID-19 is continuing to increase in numbers, with many areas around the world returning to lockdown and stay-at-home orders. Sport – football in particular – is becoming people’s last bastion for sanity and normality. A needed distraction from dark times. Like the early days, we need Liverpool to thrash Manchester United to inspire hope and happiness to a troubled world again.
Will Liverpool have what it takes to dismiss Manchester United’s Title hopes with a win against their hated rivals at an empty Anfield? As long as Xherdan Shaqiri stays fit, I think we have a chance.
I am Jordan Gerrard and as always I thank you for reading!