I remember our 2-2 draw at Liverpool in 1992, in the first year of the Premier League. We got ourselves back into it through Sparkie. Clayton Blackmore found Mark Hughes on an angle, and he just volleyed over Bruce Grobellaar. Because the Stretford End was down and under construction, we were missing our home support.
We missed the fans, but the games at Anfield were more intense. The crowd in those days was still more local in Liverpool than it was at Old Trafford. The trip to Liverpool was unpleasant, and some of the things we had to put up with as players were vile.
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The fans were never complimentary about you. I was hated as Mancunian, never mind as a Londonder. There was serious, serious hate. City are getting that a little bit now because they are competition, but it was worse for us.
How some fans would conduct themselves around their kids was incredible. On the coach, seeing them around us, I couldn’t understand it. Every so often I forget myself around my own kids, who are 21 and 23, and I might say the odd swear word. But they would say it in front of much younger children, and I’d be angry if I ever saw someone do that near me. I can’t believe what I used to see.
The kids would grow up to hate United, and they wouldn’t know why. The rivalry wasn’t about football, it was rooted in people’s livelihoods from decades ago.
Manchester United v Liverpool, 1993
Image credit: Getty Images
In March 1993, United went to Anfield on the way to the league title and won 2-1. It’s always been difficult winning there, even when we were much the better side. The game more often than not isn’t about league positions, it’s about what it meant to the local players, and the fans in the ground. Winning there on the way to the title made such a difference - it added more fuel to the fire between us. To Liverpool, it was an embarrassment for them. The one thing they never wanted to do in a game was lose to us at Anfield.
They had hardmen there, in Julian Dicks and Neil Ruddock. Dicks was a seriously good player, and he was unlucky not to settle there. But for Ruddock, he came with a reputation and couldn’t back it up because he didn’t have the talent. If you wanted to carry on like that, you had to prove yourself. If you look at his career, it wasn’t great.
Although going to Liverpool and not getting beaten was the most important thing, the 3-3 in January 1994 is the one that always comes up. I’m always waiting for people to mention it. It’s the one that sticks with me, and with fans. Forget about the wins, it’s always that one. The saving grace was that we won the league.
Liverpool v Manchester United, 1994
Image credit: Getty Images
We went three-nil up so quickly but conceded twice to a Nigel Clough brace before half-time. Mentally, that made a difference for Liverpool, and then they were kicking into the Kop. A few of us might have started to feel negative, as good as we looked in that black kit. We couldn't get across the line.
To play against Liverpool in a Manchester United shirt is incredible. I’d played against them with Fulham and QPR, but I was still ignorant and naive about just what it meant for Mancunians. To play those games and win one of them was as big as it ever got. To take more points off them than they take off you is a good feeling. You realise how much it means when you live in Manchester. People who live in the city, even those who can’t get tickets to the games, it still meant so much to them. So if United lose on Sunday, they will be in mourning.
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