This Sunday sees the two biggest clubs in English football come head-to-head once again. No matter what the position of the two teams, or what they are trying to achieve in any given season, this is the one fixture in the calendar that both sets of fans, players and managers look out for- and it is the turn of the Theatre of Dreams to take centre stage. Such is the rivalry and the history between Manchester United and Liverpool that any game between the two is usually full of drama- and not one for the faint hearted.
Here are five of the best matches that have taken place at Old Trafford between these two great teams, in the last 20 years:
1) The return of King Eric– the date was 1st October, 1995. This could not have been scripted better- a game against Liverpool for Cantona to make his comeback in. Much of the pre-match hype surrounded the fact that this was Cantona’s first game back after serving an eight month ban from football for the infamous kung-fu kick on a fan. The match lived up to all its expectations as a pulsating encounter ended with a 2-2 draw. Inevitably Cantona had a big say in proceedings as he set up the first United goal for Nicky Butt and then scored a penalty after Ryan Giggs had been fouled. Liverpool twice came back in to the match, the first equaliser coming from Robbie Fowler who had been played in from a magnificent Jamie Redknapp pass- something that happened a lot during the match. The goal to make it 2-2 came in the second-half of the match. Once again the lethal Fowler was the finisher, as he coolly tucked the ball past an advancing Peter Schmeichel.
2) The FA Cup…with a late comeback– this day belonged to United. In this treble winning season of 98/99 there were plenty of matches that have made this club famous for the late excitement and goals, and the fourth round FA Cup tie in January 1999 was no different. Michael Owen had given Liverpool a third minute lead and for all of United’s efforts for the rest of the match it just seemed like the Reds were going through to the fifth round. However, with two minutes remaining Dwight Yorke leveled and it seemed like a replay at Anfield awaited everyone. Then, just as United have done so often in their history, up popped the ‘baby faced assassin’ Ole Gunnar Solskjaer to give his team a 2-1 victory in injury time and Old Trafford went wild.
3) Oh no…not Danny Murphy– “We will beat them one day, I promise you that” were the words of Liverpool manager Gerard Houllier at the time. The match in December 2000 was to be the day that Liverpool did beat United after failing to do so in their previous 10 meetings. A Danny Murphy free-kick just before half-time was enough to settle the event 0-1. This was one of those games that the home team will look back on and wonder how they did not get anything out of it. Murphy would go on to become United’s tormentor in coming seasons as he scored in and won matches for Liverpool against United more than once.
4) Crash, bang and wallop– the 2007/08 season was one of United’s most memorable and successful ones in recent times- they completed an amazing league and European cup double. This match saw them run out as 3-0 winners in one of the most comprehensive victories they must have achieved over Liverpool. Wes Brown, Cristiano Ronaldo and Nani were the names on the score sheet as the Red Devils ran the Reds ragged. The game will also be remembered for Javier Mascherano’s red card and his refusal to leave the pitch, which resulted in Rafa Benitez having to calm the midfield man down and order him to just head for an early bath.
5) Nemanja’s nightmare– surely even the most ardent Liverpool fan did not expect this- a 4-1 thrashing of their bitter rivals, at their home, almost a year after losing 3-0 so convincingly. The scoring actually began with the home team thanks to a Ronaldo penalty, and at that time everything seemed rosy for United. However, the match turned on its head when the Fernando Torres-Nemanja Vidic incident took place. An innocuous long ball was not dealt with by Vidic and Torres, with blistering pace and a typically composed finish, got his team back in to the match in what proved to be the turning point. From there on Liverpool got a thoroughly deserved penalty which Steven Gerrard duly tucked away and further goals from Fabio Aurelio, curling home a brilliant free-kick, and a stoppage time lob from Andrea Dossena meant that the majority of the fans headed for the exit signs.
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