by Rob Shepherd.
You will have to be well into your thirties to remember clearly the last time Liverpool won the title.
For those of us a little older and who witnessed Liverpool dominate English football at the end of the Seventies and throughout the entire Eighties, a period when they also won the European Cup five times, it would have seemed surreal to predict that the title success of the 1989-90 season would be their last for over two decades.
And when Liverpool disposed of United 2-1 at Old Trafford in March 1990 – John Barnes (2) Ronnie Whelan (og) – setting them on the run-in to an 18th title, it seemed incomprehensible the tables would be turned so dramatically. At the time that made the title count 18 – 7 to Liverpool.
While Liverpool were still then a well-oiled machine, United remained a team of talented individuals lacking consistency or identity.
Liverpool eventually held off the challenge of Aston Villa led by their former boss Ron Atkinson, whilst United finished 13th, a place behind Coventry City.
It was highly likely Sir Alex Ferguson would have followed Big Ron out of the Old Trafford door at the end of the season (Howard Kendall had been rumoured as a successor) had United not gone on to win the FA Cup that season beating Crystal Palace in the final after a replay.
That success gave Ferguson the breathing space he needed to see big money gambles like Gary Pallister and Paul Ince produce and home-grown players led by Ryan Giggs come through, before huge impact signings like Peter Schmeichel, Roy Keane and Eric Cantona made their mark.
The title score is now: United 20 Liverpool 18.
Yet for all United’s dominance the overall trophy count for both clubs remains pretty close. As this table shows:
The rivalry is not just about the shift in power over recent years.
It is deep rooted, it’s geographic context fueling the traditional rivalries and jealousies of both sets of fans – not just in football but in terms of their working class roots, industry, politics and even music.
Always played in a fraught and hostile atmosphere (sometimes hateful), there’s now the added spice as bitter rivals as players Gary Neville and Jamie Carragher go head-to-head as Sky TV pundits.
Despite Neville’s assertions, this is still a long way from being ‘a pub match’ though.
Can United maintain their recent momentum under van Gaal ?
Is Brendan Rodgers a one season wonder at Liverpool ??
Sunday could be a pivotal day for the future of both these great clubs.
Liverpool ‘Stick’ on 18
For those who have never seen Liverpool lift the title, here it is;
It’s so long ago that it’s the old Football League Championship trophy.
The teams from that day at Old Trafford: