Sir Alex Ferguson, speaking ahead of United’s home tie with Liverpool on Sunday, relishes this fixture more than any other. It’s certainly tossed up some great games during his tenure as United manager.
January 1994 – Liverpool 3 United 3
What a game. On-form United started the match in thrilling fashion, and looked as if they were on their way to embarrassing a Liverpool side recently dethroned from their position at the top of English football. Steve Bruce nodded in Cantona’s cross, Ryan Giggs beat Grobelaar with a glorious chip, and a brilliant Denis Irwin free kick put United 3-0 up. All within 24 minutes.
Things were looking grim for Liverpool; but Nigel Clough pulled two back before half-time, the first a rocket from 30 yards, the second a cool finish following some poor United defending. The game kept up its frantic nature in the second half, with both Schmeichel and Grobelaar forced into making some great saves. Schmeichel was beaten, however, with a little over 10 minutes remaining, by Neil Ruddock’s header. Disappointment for United, but the game remains a true modern classic.
December 2002 – Liverpool 1 United 2
This one is a painful memory for Liverpool fans, and a brutal reminder of life before Pepe Reina. Diego Forlan had been heavily criticized for a lack of goals since his summer move, but it was Liverpool’s Jerzy Dudek who was the laughing stock after this one. In the second half, the ball was headed back to him by Jamie Carragher: Dudek somehow managed to let the ball slip between his legs, and Forlan nipped in to score. Some two minutes later, Dudek was at fault for Forlan’s second, when he palmed a powerful shot into the net. Sami Hyypia pulled back a late goal for Liverpool, but Fabien Barthez (hardly immune to costly errors himself) taught Dudek a lesson in goalkeeping with a wonderful save from Dietmar Hamann.
March 2009 – United 1 Liverpool 4
Nemanja Vidic’s darkest hour. He always seems to have an awful time up against Torres, but this one was particularly bad. United, who were top of the league, took the lead in the first half through a Ronaldo penalty. Everything that followed, however, simply wasn’t in Ferguson’s script. Vidic made a mistake to let Torres in on goal, who raced away to equalise; Gerrard then gave Liverpool the lead with a penalty just before half time. United completely fell to pieces late in the second half, when Vidic was sent off following a foul on Gerrard; Fabio Aurelio curled home the resulting free kick. A rare Andrea Dossena goal rounded off a miserable day for United.
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