Man United and Liverpool: The context of text

Posted by Rushian on April 30, 2004, 01:55:35 AM

I received an email last week from the editor of Zoo magazine, a recently established ‘lads mag’, who wanted to do a piece on the rivalry between Liverpool and Man United fans.  A Daily Express journalist was to give United’s perspective, with me, as a LFC columnist on the football website and regular contributor to RAWK providing related thoughts (and humbly so) of that of a Liverpudlian. 

A magazine sub-editor established the format, and subsequently we were both required to basically provide answers to a list of questions, in order to detail how we perceive the relationship.  After a ridiculous amount of editing however, the final copy that went to print unsurprisingly made for a fairly noncommittal and unremarkable read, with none of the detail implemented that would have been required to even touch the surface of the complexity of the issue.

In response to the almost banal article, I feel I must put forward what I actually said.  A man born with a far greater intellect than I once said that ‘text taken out of context is just a con’.  And while the my words were not, at least in any global manner, presented as perspectiveless rhetoric, the words attributed to me, and therefore my club, were not I feel wholly representative of my/ our position.

The following therefore was what I sent via email to the sub-editor in question.  Make of this what you will.  For this is my opinion on the matter, rather than the brief exploration afforded by the said magazine.  Responses welcome:

-----Original Message-----
From: ------
[mailto: -----------]
Sent: 13 April 2004 09:52
To: Rookwood, Joel
Subject: RE: LFC v them

Joel Rookwood
European Football Writer
‘Liverpool Red Diary’

1. Why do Liverpool hate Manchester United so much? Feel free to riff away, and don’t worry if it seems too obvious / regional.

The Liverpool-Manchester rivalry precedes football, to such an extent that there was even a debate on local television a few years ago detailing the origins of the mutual dislike, which got fairly heated to say the least.  Whilst there are some very evident social connotations though, much of the current hatred however stems purely from football.

Historically Man United are a big club, and won the European cup before us in ’68 an achievement they held gleefully over us until we won it ourselves in 1977, which we did under the guidance of the legendary Paisley.  In nine years as Liverpool manager Paisley won three European cups, one super cup, six titles and three domestic cups, and yet did not get the recognition he deserved.  But then again he was the Liverpool manager so why would he? 

Preceded by the legendary Shankly, who revolutionised Liverpool, and succeeded by Fagan who clinched the treble in his first season, Liverpool went on to become the greatest club in England.  Following this Fagan’s successor King Kenny Dalglish took over and won the double in his first season, illustrating what we all know - Liverpool unlike no other English club is a dynasty.  Liverpool have never been about one season or one manager, but instead our ethos is simple - ‘consistent success’.  We never hark on about a one-off achievements like United do with their treble of ’99.  Regularity of accomplishment has always been our philosophy.

Our record of eight trophies in eleven years in the ‘70s and ‘80s was equalled by ‘them’ under Ferguson last season.  And yet when we achieved this fete, we also won five European trophies in that time, whilst United by comparison could manage only the one final.  And yet was this isolated achievement recognised?  A swift knighthood for Ferguson following his solitary European cup, thanking him for making football interesting for non-Liverpudlians once again answers that question.  It is not United’s achievements, for they are lesser than ours, but the fact that our more impressive trophy haul has and always will be overlooked, which forms the bulk of our loathing for Man United, who just happen to be number two and the darling of the media.

But whilst we hate ‘them’, our position as Britain’s most successful club, with eighteen championships and seven European trophies means their hatred for us is far stronger.  Consequently these days our annual visits to Old Trafford are never quiet affairs, as Liverpool FC Vs games are invariably heated encounters.  But I’m sure every home supporter packed into the theatre of commercialism when Liverpool are in town, at least the fifteen thousand Mancunians who follow United instead of Man City, who understand the rivalry, hate us with a passion we don’t share.  Not at least, to anything like the same degree.

2. The rivalry’s got worse over the last decade or two. What happened? Was there a specific turning point?

With United’s recent success they think that our record of eighteen championships is in their sights now, intensifying the rivalry.  In 1992 we had won twice as many titles as our nearest rivals, who were Everton with nine.  United had won only seven, and saw no hope of ever catching us.  Our abysmal form over the last decade under Souness and Evans though, coupled with United’s resurgence has meant we are now more aware of Man United on a football level.  The Liverpool fan’s lack of faith at the current regime under Houllier has done little to relieve this tension, and as such I would not be surprised to see it worsen.  There was no specific match you could pin the intensification of the enmity upon.  United’s recent title wining streak, together with the fact that we are, despite this run, still well ahead in the trophy stakes is the reason for the current rivalry, which is unparalleled in this country and always will be.   

3. How much of it is down to the level of success enjoyed by each club? Are Liverpool fans more bitter now? Were United fans more bitter then?

In the current climate, the rivalry relates almost entirely to the level of success, simply because the honours list of the two teams is more similar than it once was.  With United having caught up to an extent, and Liverpool having not won the title since the early nineties, relations have soured somewhat from the Liverpudlian perspective.  However although it is not unreciprocated, United fans have always been more bitter towards Liverpool fans.  They have been raised as supporters of a big club, though one that is inferior to one (in particular) foe - Liverpool.  We on the other hand have won eighteen titles and four European Cups - we are there to be worried about, not the other way around. 

4. Can you see things ever changing for the better or will it get worse and worse?

There will never be good relations between fans of the two clubs, irrespective of events on and off the field.  It’s just one of those things you have to accept in life, something that has been and always will be passed on through the generations.  Other rivalries will come and go for both clubs, but as for Manchester and Liverpool, we hate them and they hate us, and this will always be the case.

5. What’s the nadir of the relationship? The worst behaviour of the United fans/the thing LFC fans have done that’s most embarrassed you.

Whilst there are several distinct dissimilarities between the two clubs, we also share many common characteristics, notably we have each experienced major disasters; the 1958 Munich air disaster in which nineteen people perished including eight members of Man United’s squad, and the 1989 Hillsborough disaster, in which 96 Liverpool fans lost their lives.  The more bitter elements of both clubs have countless songs celebrating both disasters.  Both parties express such sentiment more frequently than many would believe, and have an array of chants that neither fan base should be proud of.  Nothing could be any worse than that, and this is the type of factor that renders the Liverpool-Manchester rivalry more intense than any other in the country. 

6. Particularly amusing anecdote/joke/chant?

Even with our famous witty vocal support, we do much of our talking (at least the printable, tasteful sort) through our world famous banners.  The ‘Don’t bomb Iraq nuke Manchester’ flag and the ‘Hillman is a Scouser’ banner (the latter in relation to the Mancunican-slaying character from Coronation St), displayed at the league cup final last year, were but two examples of typical Scouse humour, which is bettered by none.  Our banner ‘Forever in our shadow’ is another, which says it all.  We have won more trophies than United, and whatever is said between fans of the two sides, it is always only a matter of time before the conversation relates back to the contents of the respective trophy cabinets.  It is a football rivalry after all.

7. Mancunians and Scousers get on otherwise though, right?

With the cities situated just thirty miles apart, and yet the inhabitants of both clearly displaying very different attitudes on life, the social connotations are always evident in the rivalry.  Liverpudlians are immediately recognisable due to their distinct accent and dress sense, especially to Mancunians who can smell a Scouser a mile off.  Consequently any trip to Manchester, even a simple shopping excursion could well prove problematic.  I go there twice a year, Man United away and Man City away - and that’s my lot.

© Joel Rookwood 2004

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