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Greatest clashes between Liverpool & Man United

Ben Blackmore January 27, 2012
There is always plenty of bad blood between rivals Liverpool and Manchester United © PA Photos

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ESPN Fan Films: The Spirit of Shankly

FA Cup fourth round weekend brings together arguably the two fiercest rivals in English football. Manchester United make the trip to Anfield to play Liverpool in a fixture that boasts a deep history of drama, controversy and sheer entertainment, so we take a look back at ten of the best.

Manchester United 2-2 Liverpool, 1995
The day Robbie Fowler upstaged Eric Cantona... or did he?! It was the much-anticipated return of King Cantona after a lengthy ban for his kung-fu kick attack on a fan at Selhurst Park, and typically it was Liverpool against whom he made his comeback. Within two minutes the Frenchman announced his arrival, crossing from the left for Nicky Butt to hand United the lead.

However, if United had the King, Liverpool had God. Robbie Fowler, sporting bleached blonde hair, suddenly attacked from the left flank and sent a crowd-silencing arrow past Peter Schmeichel for 1-1. Then, in the second half, he muscled the limp Gary Neville to one side to chip Schmeichel with his wrong foot. Liverpool deservedly led.

The script was always written for Cantona though, and when Ryan Giggs burst into the area to earn a soft penalty from Jamie Redknapp, Cantona stepped up to earn the Red Devils a point - swinging around a pole like it was his own Broadway show. With Cantona back, United went on to win the title by four points, with Liverpool 11 back in third.

Liverpool 3-3 Manchester United, 1988
Back in the 80s it was Liverpool who were the dominant force and United who often raised their game in order to secure bragging rights against the perennial league champions. One such occasion happened at Anfield when Liverpool threatened to humiliate their visitors, only to end up furious at Gordon Strachan who celebrated with a pretend cigar as United walked away with a point.

Liverpool were well on their way to winning another top-flight crown by an eventual nine-point total when United arrived in April, and they turned on the style to lead 3-1. Bryan Robson scored early for the Red Devils but a quite outstanding Peter Beardsley goal inspired the turnaround as Gary Gillespie and Steve McMahon put Liverpool in the driving seat.

These were the formative years of the Sir Alex Ferguson era though and, having fought off the threat of relegation just 18 months previous, United were now on course to finish second in the table. Goals from Robson and Strachan showed Liverpool they would no longer stand for the Reds' ruling of the English game, something they truly enforced in the decade to come.

Manchester United 2-1 Liverpool, 1999
Many anyone-but-United fans hold Bayern Munich fully accountable for their incredible Treble achievement in 1999. At 1-0 up in that Champions League final the Germans contrived to concede two goals in the dying moments to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.

However, it was a scenario that United had already witnessed earlier in the same season. In the fourth round of their successful run to FA Cup glory - one of the three legs of the Treble - United trailed Liverpool for 86 minutes at Old Trafford. Michael Owen scored early for the away side, who then rode their luck as United hit the woodwork twice.

The game-changing moment arrived with two minutes of normal time remaining, when Liverpool's luck changed as Jamie Redknapp was controversially adjudged to have committed a foul. Dwight Yorke scored from the resulting set-piece, and then in injury-time United provided a footballing prophesy of what would happen to Bayern later in the year, with Ole Gunnar Solskjaer snatching the winner.

John Arne Riise announced himself to the Kop with a stunning free-kick at Anfield © Getty Images

Manchester United 2-1 Liverpool, 1977
Liverpool may have failed in their bid to prevent United's Treble in 1999, but the Red Devils did not make the same mistake when the boot was on the other foot two decades previous. The Liverpudlians were chasing the First Division, FA Cup and European Cup Treble (the equivalent of United's Premier League, FA Cup and Champions League success in 1999), but they were denied by a result that sticks in the throat of Liverpool fans to this day.

United arrived at Wembley as a team that were 10 points worse off than their opposition in the First Division table (16 by modern-day rules of three points for a win). However, a rather fortunate deflected winner from Lou Macari, after Jimmy Case had cancelled out Stuart Pearson's opener, meant United secured a victory that became all the more significant when Liverpool went on to complete a league and European Cup Double, which they knew should have been a Treble.

Manchester United 1-2 Liverpool, 1983
Liverpool did not compete in the FA Cup final for nine years after that loss in 1977, but they did gain revenge on United at Wembley in 1983. This time it was the Milk Cup at stake, with Liverpool looking for a hat-trick of trophies in the competition having won it the last two years.

The final will be remembered for its winner, from Ronnie Whelan, after Alan Kennedy's drive had cancelled out Norman Whiteside's opener for United. With the match in extra-time, Whelan produced one of his lung-busting runs from midfield, before capping it with a quite delightful deciding goal. Whelan initially attempted a poked pass into Kennedy, who had stormed into the box, but when the ball bounced back to him off the defender, the Republic of Ireland international bent a majestic first-time shot into the far corner for the winner.

Manchester United 0-2 Liverpool, 2003
More League Cup glory came for Liverpool against their arch rivals 20 years later, when Gerard Houllier continued to prove he held something of a winning formula against the Red Devils - having master-minded a series of victories during his time in charge. United were en route to another league title, and they boasted the attacking talents of David Beckham, Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes and Ruud van Nistelrooy.

However, Houllier set up his team to play on the counter-attack through the pace of Michael Owen and Emile Heskey, and his tactics worked to perfection. Steven Gerrard launched a 25-yard rocket for the opening goal, aided by a deflection off Beckham, and then Liverpool held firm until four minutes from full-time - El-Hadji Diouf turning in his best performance in a red shirt. Then, on the counter, Dietmar Hamann broke away to feed Owen, who killed things off for their second League Cup triumph in three years.

Liverpool 3-1 Manchester United, 2001
The 2001-02 season is the only campaign to date that has seen Liverpool finish above United in the Premier League era. This result at Anfield was absolutely crucial to the Reds achieving that feat. At the time they were flying high under Houllier, having won the UEFA Cup, FA Cup and League Cup the previous season. They also had a stranglehold over United in head-to-heads, winning the last three.

Key to the Reds' success was Owen, arguably the best striker in England at that time and soon-to-be-confirmed as the European Footballer of the Year. A wonderful curling effort from Owen put Liverpool in front, but the iconic goal of the game was to arrive seven minutes later. John Arne Riise, little known to the Merseyside public at the time, crashed his left foot through an indirect free-kick, unleashing a rocket that visibly seemed to take off as it ripped into the top corner of Fabien Barthez's net.

United were the champions though and a trademark comeback seemed on the cards when Beckham halved the deficit. However, on this occasion he was upstaged by England colleague Owen, who capitalised on a Barthez error to head home Liverpool's third, securing a victory that helped the Reds finish above their rivals by three points at the end of the season.

Fernando Torres gave Nemanja Vidic a nightmare at Old Trafford © Getty Images

Manchester United 1-4 Liverpool, 2009
If ever a result deserved to win a league title for Liverpool, it was arguably this one. Seven points behind United at a make-or-break stage in the season, the Reds travelled to Old Trafford knowing nothing other than victory would keep their title dreams alive. What followed after an early Cristiano Ronaldo penalty for the Red Devils, was breathtaking.

Nemanja Vidic, heavily tipped to win the Player of the Season award at the heart of United's defence, blew his chances in one panicky moment of indecision as he allowed Fernando Torres to run clear for 1-1. Then Torres turned provider to play Gerrard in behind Patrice Evra, who gave away a penalty, converted by Gerrard for 2-1.

Vidic then capped a forgettable day by bringing down Gerrard as last man to earn a red card, and Fabio Aurelio's pinpoint free-kick extended the visitors' advantage. By the time the much maligned Andrea Dossena lobbed Edwin van der Sar for the fourth it was just embarrassing for Sir Alex Ferguson's men. An inspired Liverpool side went on to momentarily hit top spot but they eventually lost out by four points.

Liverpool 2-2 Manchester United, 1999
Sheer refusal to lose often leads to incredible comebacks when it comes to Liverpool v United, and in 1999 the Merseysiders had a man on their side who used to play for United. Paul Ince was given the type of opportunity he relished to hurt his former club's title chances, and it was almost scripted that he did exactly that with a rare goal.

Liverpool, fielding such 'stars' as Phil Babb, Oyvind Leonhardsen, Rigobert Song and Dominic Matteo, fell two behind when Dwight Yorke and Denis Irwin put the visitors two up. However, the referee first awarded a dubious penalty - converted by Redknapp - and then sent off Irwin for kicking the ball away. Liverpool poured forward for the winner, and Ince powered into the box in the 88th minute to stab home an equaliser, before booting the advertising boards in an outpouring of passion in front of the Kop.

Liverpool 3-3 Manchester United, 1994
This list would never have been complete without the inclusion of the greatest comeback to have been staged between the two sides, when Liverpool rallied from 3-0 down to draw 3-3 at Anfield. United arrived in a position of utter dominance over the Merseysiders, 21 points ahead in the league as Graeme Souness led the Reds towards their worst domestic season for over 15 years.

When Steve Bruce rose to head United ahead and then Giggs sent a delicious chip over goalkeeper Bruce Grobbelaar, Liverpool were heading for humiliation. A glorious Irwin free-kick only added to the Anfield gloom as the likes of Neil Ruddock and Julian Dicks were made to look completely out of their depth.

However, wearing the famous No. 7 Liverpool jersey Nigel Clough had one of the only nights when he actually looked comfortable in it, driving a long-ranger in off a post to give his side hope. By half-time the deficit was cut to 3-2 as Clough again strode forward, wrong-footing Peter Schmeichel to raise the volume of the Kop. Liverpool poured forward for 34 minutes of a frustrating second half, but in the 79th they finally found their equaliser, Ruddock powering a header past Schmeichel to secure a draw that felt like a victory to those in Red.

United had the last laugh, though, going on to win the league title by a comfortable margin as Liverpool finished eighth.

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Ben Blackmore Close
Ben Blackmore is deputy editor of ESPN.co.uk