PL25: The history of Liverpool vs Man United

It’s arguably the biggest fixture on English football’s calendar and the latest instalment comes this weekend – the Northwest derby.

Indeed, Liverpool host Manchester United at Anfield in Saturday’s early kickoff and this will be the 51st meeting between the two old rivals in the Premier League.

Celebrating the Premier League’s 25th anniversary this year, here’s a look back at the last quarter-century of the Reds’ and the Red Devils’ bitter-fought encounters in the top flight…

Head-to-Head

Perhaps unsurprisingly considering Liverpool have only finished above Manchester United three times in the Premier League, it’s the latter who’ve enjoyed the better fortune in this fixture down the years.

And despite Anfield once being a bit of a hoodoo ground for the Red Devils under Sir Alex Ferguson, United even boast a better win-rate than the home side on Liverpool’s patch, winning almost one-in-two of their Premier League outings there. However, United have certainly been put under the cosh, Liverpool averaging more than a goal per game against them and also forcing nine red cards.

Most intriguingly though, United have truly shown their authority in this fixture since their title-winning powers begun to wane in the early 2010s. Since 2011, Liverpool have beaten United just twice in the Premier League (both during the horrific 2013/14 David Moyes season) compared to seven wins for the Red Devils and three draws.

Top Scorers

Despite boasting some of the greatest goalscorers in Premier League history, midfielders have proved surprisingly potent in this fixture down the years – book-ending the top five goalscorers.

Indeed, while Ryan Giggs’ almost countless outings against the Reds produced four goals, Liverpool’s legendary skipper Steven Gerrard netted eight times in 30 top flight outings versus the Red Devils.

In fact, there are only two sides Gerrard scored more against throughout his Premier League career; Merseyside rivals Everton and Aston Villa. Wayne Rooney and Robbie Fowler, meanwhile, both bagged six goals for their respective sides – but while three of Rooney’s came at Anfield, Fowler only netted twice for the Reds at Old Trafford.

The shared hero – Paul Ince

With no footballer directly moving between both clubs since Phil Chisnall in 1964, there’s inevitably a real dearth of players who can claim to be viewed as a hero by both sides of the rivalry – not least because signing for one club usually makes you a life-long enemy of the other.

Michael Owen comes to mind but he only ever made 31 Premier League appearances for United in the twilight of his career, so almost by default, the honour of shared hero goes to Paul Ince.

‘The Guv’nor’ was one of the best midfielders in the world during his time at Old Trafford and the timing of his tenure was crucial to making United the most dominant force in English football, as a key part of the side that won the first two Premier League titles.

But after Sir Alex Ferguson ruthlessly axed the former England enforcer and sold him to Inter Milan, he returned to England two years later – this time with Liverpool.

Although Ince struggled to replicate the same level of form during his Anfield spell, which was considerably less successful in terms of silverware as the Reds’ young cohort were dubbed the ‘Spice Boys’, he did enjoy one particularly iconic moment – celebrating a late equaliser against his former employers in front of the Kop in 1999.

The classic clash – Liverpool 3-3 Man United

A six-goal thriller in which no striker actually scored, from the early stages of the Premier League timeline – back when tackles were tackles and foreign stars with exotic surnames weren’t more common than England internationals.

When United travelled to Anfield in early 1994 they were still yet to lose to Liverpool in the Premier League and that trend looked to continue when Steve Bruce headed home after just nine minutes. Ryan Giggs soon added to the scoreline with a beautiful lob over Bruce Grobbelaar, while Denis Irwin made it three just four minutes later, one of his trademark curling free kicks flying into the roof of the net.

But there was still plenty of time left on the clock and Liverpool instantly hit back – Nigel Clough popping up from midfield to open the Reds’ account only a minute after play had restarted.

The now-Burton manager completed his brace before half-time, latching onto some loose play from Roy Keane just outside the box before sliding the ball past Peter Schmeichel, leading to an incredibly tense second 45 minutes when Liverpool’s comeback was finally completed by a somewhat unlikely source in centre-back Neil Ruddock – heading in an effort not too dissimilar to Bruce’s.

The thrilling draw curtailed United’s progress momentarily but they still finished the season eight points clear at the Premier League’s summit. Liverpool, meanwhile, could only manage eighth place.