It remains the most anticipated and hyped fixture in the English top-flight calendar.
Manchester United travel to Anfield today desperate, as ever, to wipe the eye of their bitter rivals. The feeling will be mutual.
No Irish players will grace the pitch this weekend but a rich seam of talent from the Emerald Isle runs through the history of this great rivalry. Here, we look at five men who made their mark on the big occasion.
‘Big Bamber’ was a mainstay of the great Liverpool sides of the 70s, marauding down the wing and providing the bullets for Keegan and Toshack. In the April 1971 he broke the deadlock at Old Trafford after 19 minutes, with the Reds going on to plunder a 2-0 victory against hosts who included George Best in their line-up. Arsenal were the champions that year, while Liverpool and United had to settle for fifth and eighth respectively.
He never managed a goal against Liverpool but Keane did produce one of his best, most underrated performances in the 1996 FA Cup final win against Roy Evans’ ‘Spice Boys’. United won the league that year but they’d been outplayed twice by Liverpool coming into the much-hyped Wembley showdown. They were lucky to draw 2-2 at Old Trafford and in the return at Anfield, a 2-0 loss actually flattered Alex Ferguson’s men. With Liverpool hoarding the ball in both of those games, Keane was tasked with upsetting their rhythm. Mission accomplished. A masterful display of controlled midfield aggression nullified an accomplished opposing midfield in what was, really, a dour contest. Eric Cantona’s volley won it. Keane laid the foundations.
O’Shea picked up plenty of silver in his 12 years at Old Trafford, including five Premier League titles and a Champions League medal, but he cemented himself in the hearts of the United faithful in a March lunchtime clash at Anfield back in 2007. Paul Scholes had been sent off for a challenge on Xabi Alonso and the hosts had bossed large spells of a physical encounter, but in injury-time O’Shea stole it, prodding home from close range after Pepe Reina spilled a Cristiano Ronaldo free-kick. United went home with three points and would ultimately wrap up the league.
The ever-reliable Cork full-back had a few eventful nights against Liverpool. He bent in a glorious free-kick at Anfield back in 1994 during that famous 3-3 draw but was also sent off five years later after picking up a second yellow card for kicking the ball away in a fiery 2-2 humdinger. Earlier that season, he steered home a 19th-minute penalty to set the Red Devils on their way to a 2-0 win over the Roy Evans/Gerard Houllier-helmed visitors. That partnership was already falling apart before that September clash at Old Trafford. Alex Ferguson’s men would go on to win the treble.
Whelan is another who had a mixed bag in this fixture. He scored a comical own goal at Old Trafford in 1990, lobbing Bruce Grobelaar from the edge of his own box, but he deserves to be remembered for his gorgeous ‘banana goal’ that won the 1983 League Cup final at Wembley. Norman Whiteside put United ahead with Alan Kennedy bringing it to extra-time. Enter Whelan. He curled a 98th-minute stunner into the top corner to settle it, one of the great goals between these rivals. An honourable mention also has to go to the Irishman’s fantastic effort in the 1985 FA Cup semi-final when he played a one-two before floating it effortlessly past a sprawling Gary Bailey.
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