Opinion: Ten of the best Manchester United vs Liverpool encounters of all time

Breaking down the 10 best meetings, out of a fine selection, between these two great rivals.

Opinion: Ten of the best Manchester United vs Liverpool encounters of all time
Juan Mata's brace at Anfield will not soon be forgotten. (Photo credit: Alex Livesey/Getty Images)

On Monday night, English football’s two famous teams will renew unpleasantries when Jose Mourinho’s Manchester United travel to Anfield for a date with Jurgen Klopp’s rampant Liverpool team. While Monday’s encounter has not received the same amount of press granted to September’s Manchester Derby, in some ways the impending match should be even more highly anticipated.

Liverpool finally look as if they’re playing Klopp’s brand of football, and road wins already over Chelsea and Arsenal have some on Merseyside dreaming of a title challenge come the business end of the season. Meanwhile, Mourinho’s men have been significantly more difficult to pin down; they were excellent against Leicester and for spells against Stoke, but decidedly mediocre against City and Watford. When these two meet under the lights in front of the Kop on Monday, expect fireworks to ensue.

To whet your appetite, this writer has compiled a list of the 10 best games between these two great rivals over the last 40 years.

United 2, Liverpool 1 1977 FA Cup Final

In the 1970s and 80s, it wasn’t always easy supporting United. The club found itself mired in the second division for a season and only won one major trophy. Liverpool’s complete and utter domination of European football only made things more difficult for those of a Mancunian persuasion. However, that one major trophy, and the circumstances surrounding it, made up for much of the decade’s distress.

Liverpool walked out at Wembley having already clinched the First Division title and with the European Cup Final against Borussia Monchengladbach in just four days’ time. The opportunity for an unprecedented treble was on the cards, if they could only beat Tommy Docherty’s men. Sadly for Bob Paisley’s side, United had other ideas.

A scoreless first half played out with neither team able to conjure much offensively. However, the game soon sprang into life after halftime when three goals were scored within the space of five minutes. Stuart Pearson struck for United before Jimmy Case volleyed home to equalize. However, United had the last laugh when a Lou Macari strike deflected off Jimmy Greenhoff and in to rob the Scousers of their chance at a treble, though they duly went on to beat Gladbach.

 

United 2, Liverpool 1 1985 FA Cup Semifinal Replay

Liverpool entered the 1984-85 season on a high after winning the First Division title alongside the European and Milk Cups. However, ’85 would not prove as rosy, thanks to their greatest rivals. The Reds were pipped to the title by Merseyside rivals Everton, and were denied a chance to win the FA Cup by United, who knocked them out in a semifinal replay.

Ron Atkinson’s men were on a mission that spring day at Maine Road, and goals from Mark Hughes and Brian Robson were enough to set up an FA Cup Final trip. Once there, United duly beat Everton on a Norman Whiteside strike to earn their first major trophy in eight years.

 

Liverpool 2, United 0 1992 First Division

In the spring of 1992, then plain-Alex Ferguson’s men were chasing a first league title in 25 years. They found themselves locked in a struggle with Howard Wilkinson’s Leeds team, and needed maximum points against Liverpool in this late-April encounter. However, Liverpool roused themselves for a sterling performance as goals from Mark Walters and Ian Rush helped give Leeds the title.

 

Liverpool 3, United 3 1994 Premier League

There are few more difficult venues to play in England than at Anfield, and there are even fewer where it is more difficult to defend a lead. United discovered this fact on a winter’s day in 1994 when they contrived to throw away a three-goal lead and waltz out with just a point.

Playing in front of a frenzied atmosphere, which will forever be remembered for the home supporters that came bearing a sign which said, “Come back when you’ve won 18,Denis Irwin, Steve Bruce and Ryan Giggs managed to put the visitors 3-0 up inside of 24 minutes. However, Liverpool produced a spirited fight back in one of the first truly great games of the Premier League era. A double from Nigel Clough and a Neil Ruddock header were enough to bring them back and salvage a point.

 

United 1, Liverpool 0 1996 FA Cup Final

This match is remembered for so many things. Steve McManaman, Jamie Redknapp and the rest of the Spice Boys showing up wearing gaudy white suits which Sir Alex Ferguson maintains made his team talk for him. A pretty boring match. And, of course, the late, great intervention from Eric Cantona to win the game late on. The King was already beloved by the masses at Old Trafford, but for many, this is their favorite moment of him.

 

United 2, Liverpool 1 1999 FA Cup Final 4th Round

The single greatest season in Manchester United history could have been so different had Liverpool managed to hold onto their lead at Old Trafford in late January. United entered the game, unsurprisingly, as one of the favorites to win the league come the end of the season. However, no one knew just how special that May would prove to be. For many of the players in that team, coming from behind so late on against Liverpool was what convinced them they could go on to do anything that season.

In fact, it seems thoroughly unsurprising that United were able to score twice in stoppage time against Bayern Munich at the Nou Camp given that Dwight Yorke and Ole Gunnar Solksjaer had already struck twice in this game’s final two minutes to knock Liverpool out of the FA Cup. There was undoubtedly something special about that time, and that fateful day against Liverpool was one of the first times it was on show for all to see.

 

United 1, Liverpool 0 2007 Premier League

The match which will forever be remembered for John O’Shea’s 90th minute winner and it catalyzed a surge in the second half of the season which sent United on to yet another Premier League title. United traveled to Anfield with Liverpool matching them stride for stride in the race for the title, and the home side looked odds on to score for long stretches of the game.

However, United rode their luck and managed to keep a clean sheet. In stoppage time, the visitors were given a dangerous free kick on the edge of the box. Cristiano Ronaldo stepped up to take, and whipped a strike into the box. It was deflected and pinged around the area before falling to the feet of O'Shea, who rifled the ball into the roof of the net. United went on to win the title by six points over second-place Chelsea with Liverpool finishing 21 points adrift in third.

 

Liverpool 4, United 1 2009 Premier League

Quite possibly Liverpool's finest recent day in this great rivalry came in the spring of 2009. They waltzed into Old Trafford and ran circles around around the Champions, sending the traveling support into raptures. 

Although a Cristiano Ronaldo penalty put United a goal up early on, goals from Fernando Torres and Steven Gerrard put the visitors a goal to the good before the break. Fabio Aurelio made it 3-1 after Nemanja Vidic was sent off, and Andrew Dossena lobbed Edwin Van Der Sar in stoppage time to complete the rout. While the day was one Liverpool will not soon forget, United had the last laugh, going on to win the title.

 

Liverpool 3, United 0 2014 Premier League

Liverpool came closer than they have to winning the Premier League in an awfully long time in 2014. While United found themselves struggling under David Moyes, Liverpool were rampant under Brendan Rodgers. Daniel Sturridge, Luis Suarez, and Raheem Sterling formed one of the finest attacking trios in the land, and they ran riot over United at Old Trafford.

Steven Gerrard scored twice from the spot before missing a third to save United a few blushes. However, it didn't stop Vidic from getting sent off or Suarez from making it 3-0 with less than 10 minutes remaining. The 3-0 scoreline flattered United; Liverpool were on a completely different level. 

 

United 2, Liverpool 1 2015 Premier League

United loved this game much like Liverpool loved the previous one on this list. Under Louis van Gaal, United's attack suddenly found itself flourishing; they completely outplayed their hosts in the first half, and were very unlucky to only be up 1-0. Within seconds of the restart, Gerrard, who had only been subbed on at the interval, got himself sent off in his final United-Liverpool fixture for stomping on Ander Herrera.

Soon after, Juan Mata completed his brace with a brilliant side volley. Those who had made the short trip down to Merseyside sang themselves hoarse about Gerrard's mistakes for the rest of the afternoon, and not even a late strike for the hosts could put them off.

 

Monday evening's tilt is between two very evenly matched sides, and it's hard to pick a winner heading in. Hopefully, it'll give us a brilliant game, one which will be included in future lists like this one.