Rivalry? Hatred? – Liverpool FC and Manchester United
Just when was it that rivalry turned into hatred between the two most successful football teams in England?
The gulf between the two clubs is much wider and longer than 30 or so miles of the East Lancs Road that physically separates Anfield and Old Trafford. To be precise, that gulf exists between the fans and not so much the owners, directors and players of both clubs.
I am not sure I could have written that last sentence when SAF was still manager of ManU. He stoked the passion of the fans on both sides with his now infamous statement that he intended to “knock Liverpool off their f***ing perch”!
I became prompted to write this post in the wake of last night’s second leg clash between the two clubs in the Europa League. I woke up this morning and was delighted to read that Liverpool had secured passage into the last eight with a 1-1 draw at Old Trafford. Yet, my joy was short lived when I read this headline and the article –
Fighting broke out at Old Trafford as Liverpool fans celebrated their side’s win over Manchester United .
Police had to step in after a number of Liverpool supporters in the home section hung a flag over the balcony above the away supporters.
Tensions were already high ahead of tonight’s 1-1 draw, which saw Liverpool go through 3-1 on aggregate.
ECHO LFC reporter James Pearce said: “Around half a dozen Liverpool fans sat in the United end unfurled a LFC banner and United fans around them reacted angrily.
“Punches were thrown before the police and stewards stepped in to restore calm.
“As the fighting was taking place a number of Liverpool fans in the lower tier chanted ‘Munich’ – a reference to the 1958 disaster.
“The game had earlier been blighted by chants from the United supporters about the Hillsborough tragedy.”
I find it sickening to read of these antics. Both sets of fans involved in the violence and the offensive chanting should be identified and banned from football grounds for life. I have no time for them. What is more important, they do not deserve to belong to the worldwide society of fans who love the beautiful game. They are like a syphilitic whore – looking the part on the outside but sick on the inside!
Yes, I include the offending Liverpool fans in my criticism. I may have followed Liverpool FC for the past 60 years but I am not blinded to past offending. Heysel will always remain a guilt ridden stain on the conscience of all true Liverpool fans. Some may blame the inadequate policing in Brussels that day for the tragedy. Others will point to the dilapidated state of the stadium. None of these factors can ever excuse a small minority of Liverpool supporters attacking the Juventus fans on that fateful day. Of course, there were some Juve fans bent on violence too. It doesn’t excuse the mob who rampaged and caused the deaths.
There is a tendency on Merseyside to blame someone else. “Who me?” is a question often heard in Liverpool. It is a protest of innocence even if caught red-handed doing something wrong! It is not really a question but an inbuilt reaction to being detected or accused of something unpalatable. There will be Scousers who bridle at that but having been brought up in Huyton, and lived there and in Kirkby and Crosby for 20 years plus, I believe I am qualified to pass comment.
Rivalry Existed But Not Hatred
There was a time when a rivalry existed between the clubs but not hatred. One of Manchester United’s greatest managers, Matt Busby, played for Liverpool during the WW2 years.
There has always been a rivalry between these two cities. Liverpool faced toward America and had the docks back in the 19th and 20th Centuries. The city prospered because of its location and port. So what did Manchester do? They built the Manchester Ship Canal in the mid-1890’s. This enabled larger ships to sail to the heart of Manchester with their cargoes of cotton for use in the Lancashire cotton industry.
I was a kid at school in Huyton in 1958, the year of the Munich Air Disaster. This the same school as later attended by one of Liverpool’s greatest players in modern times, Steven Gerrard. I still recall the shock at hearing the news of this disaster when the whole school was sent home early by the headmaster.
A few months later my father took me to Turf Moor, Burnley to watch a hastily patched-up ManU take on Burnley. It was a tribute to the team – a gesture by my father. He was not a fan of Manchester United, just a fan of football.
I worked at Stretford, Manchester as a rookie police officer in the late 1960’s. Policing at the Old Trafford matches was a source of overtime for me. In those days the grounds were not stewarded like they are now. It was the police that lined the perimeter of the pitch.
Ignorant, uneducated people the world over will always have a target to abuse, a target to hate. There is no rhyme or reason to it. It is born out of sheer ignorance. One such person decided to vent his spleen at Old Trafford. His spleen was vented toward me and Ronnie Tute. Ronnie was a Scouser and a Police Sergeant. We were both sat together in uniform on the perimeter of the Old Trafford pitch during play.
“Mr. Ignorant ManU fan” behind us in the crowd was audible and yelling obscene stuff. Some of his fellow supporters complained to Ronnie about the foul language. Ronnie then addressed the offending fan and warned him about his profanity. Anyone with an ounce of sense would have desisted. Mr. Ignorant yelled, “The copper is a fucking Scouser! I fucking hate all Scouse cunts!”
Mr. Ignorant did not see the remainder of the game.
I have a passion for Liverpool Football Club. Above all else, I have a passion for the game of football.
In the 1960’s I took in some big games at Old Trafford. They had a great team with great players – Law, Best and Charlton were just three of them. I even went to Goodison Park to watch the Double-winning Spurs team of the early 60’s.
Does any of that make me less of a Liverpool fan? I don’t think so.
So, just when was it that rivalry turned into hatred?
For me, the answer lies in the 1960’s. Liverpool were establishing themselves as a force in English football under Bill Shankly. Football related violence had started to rear its ugly head. Stabbings started to become a regular occurrence following clashes between the Reds of Liverpool and the Red Devils of Manchester.
The cycle of football violence had started. Heysel and the Hillsborough disaster were milestones along the way.
There is no doubt that it is safer now than ever before to attend an English Premier League match. But, it is high time for all offensive chanting to be eliminated.
It is also high time that idiots were prevented from attending games.
Any person, young or old, who chants and sings ditties about Hillsborough or Munich needs to be sorted out.
Ronnie Tute would have sorted them out!