Scouse-Mancunian Relations Investigated
The Liverpool v Manchester United game takes place in a few weeks and is widely tipped to be the real title decider. A victory and people will well and truly believe that the title is coming back to Old Trafford. For the latest return to Mancunia I have decided to look at Liverpool Football Club and why exactly they are hated by us. Is this a feeling that extends further than Manchester United fans? Neighbours and rivals Everton must despise Liverpool more than we do? Well, the answer is a resounding NO. The dislike of Liverpool does provide a common bond with the scousers dressed in blue, but even they bow out to us.
Liverpool Football Club are a club that seems to have based its entire history on finding a way around the rules that govern our national sport. An influential source at the Republik of Mancunia, agrees. “They are media darlings”. It has got to such an extent now that, now former chairman Rick Parry was always bordering on proud when they would announce each bend of the rules. Let us go back to 2004-2005, Everton play out of their skin for the majority of the season and proudly occupied a Champions League spot throughout. Week after week manager David Moyes had to answer questions about how long he thought their run would last, when they would run out of gas and fall to a more expected position in the league table. Everyone seemed to miss the point that their form was fast becoming a great season, not merely a great start. Usually on Merseyside, Everton fell below Liverpool in the pecking order, yet when the derby game would come along Everton more often than not would look hungrier than their rivals because their focus would be on that one game and ensuring that the pride of Merseyside wore blue. In ‘that’ season the role was reversed and it was Liverpool who looked hungrier in the derby, obsessed with beating their rival and climbing above them in the final standings was all that mattered. To Everton’s great credit, that did not happen. Liverpool FC would once again find another way to rain on their neighbours parade. They went and won the European Champions’ League, and set in motion the question of all questions. Who should qualify for the competition the following season? The debate rumbled on. To the reds it was obvious – Everton should step aside and allow Liverpool to defend their trophy, this was a possibility according to UEFA. Despite their consistent, strong season there was a huge chance that they would be asked to move aside for their more illustrious neighbours from across the park. Not for the first time, Everton faced the prospect of being kept out of Europe by Liverpool FC. It seemed that the obvious route was lost on them. As the winners of the Champions’ League Liverpool became the representative of UEFA and not of England. Therefore Everton could have been allowed in as one of England’s teams and Liverpool could be there also. Everyone would have been happy. If the same situation had arisen in Italy you cannot see that they would have had much difficulty in allowing a rule change. In this case they did. At the end of the day it didn’t help Everton one bit, they were out of Europe quickly due in part to decisions made by a referee who quickly re-retired after the Spanish leg of the game against the yellow submarines of Spain – Villarreal.
Fast forward to more modern times and the arrival of West Ham’s Javier Mascherano. Quickly upon arrival on Merseyside the player announced it was a dream move and that he was happy to have signed for the ‘red devils’. That transfer ends yet another chapter in which Liverpool have once again flown in the face of the rules. Rules state that a player cannot represent three clubs during a specific time frame. A player can sign for three but cannot play for three. Liverpool did not worry about this when they signed this player from West Ham United, instead they sought to gain the transfer as an exception to the rule. On which grounds, no-one knows.
Purely because they are Liverpool, perhaps. “Bearing in mind the ridiculous complexity of the deal that saw him arrive in London this player continues to inspire media speculation”, a point well made by a member of the West Ham faithful. “There will need to be complete clarity about the details, the deal has always been shrouded in secrecy and fans would love to know just what made it impossible for him to stay at West Ham and yet possible for him to go to Anfield”.
Football fans are notoriously regimented in their support for one team and one team only. That seems to be a Northern thing in my experience. London fans proudly support England, for example, and I have been asked why I wasn’t watching Liverpool in Europe on the occasions when Man United were out. “Because it’s Liverpool? Why the heck would I?’ would be my response, “but they are representing England, your country’ they would argue. Bollocks to that, I’m afraid. There is something inside that, childish as it may be, prevents me from watching them in Europe. There is something even bigger that stops me offering any of their fans the slightest pat on the back for their Champions League victory. The self confessed ‘greatest European final ever’ was, in my opinion, nothing of the sort. To score three goals to draw level in 45 minutes and take the game to penalties, that is greater than our night at the Camp Nou in 1999? I think not. To WIN the game with two minutes remaining definitely has to be better than levelling the game in 45 minutes. Their neighbours have their own take on the European Cup victory of their rivals. “were it not for the winning of the European Cup (er, I accept that this does make him (Benitez) rather exempt from the sack for another year or two), then the rotund revolution would, itself, now be in danger of coming off the rails.
This season Liverpool continue to consider themselves part of the race for the league title. The Everton take on Benitez once again makes humorous reading if you are a United fan, yet you cannot disagree;
“The bloke has spent brewsters, and continues to do so, on a rather hit and miss transfer policy at best. Who scouted Josemi and Kromkamp, for example? Why bring Robbie Fowler back for four goals a season?”
These three sets of fans will never ever see the same point of view, and while the Everton fans may have heightened emotions when it comes to one Croxteth boy by the name of Wayne Rooney, the hatred of the red side of Merseyside provides one point on which we can all agree. There is no way Manchester United fans will ever see eye to eye with their scouse red counterparts; no amount of handshaking between the rival fans on the pitch at Old Trafford will ever change that. Apart from a nice picture, it leaves no other impact. The feeling goes well beyond the scousers stealing ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ as their own anthem, despite it first being sung in the dark days following the Munich disaster, to bring United fans together. Some of it cannot be defended, but who said football was reasonable? If football was reasonable we’d be as bland as the London clubs and immediately forget club loyalties when England play. We would accept the sight of David Beckham kissing Steven Gerrard as the latter scores for the national team, and we would gloss over the fact that Stephen Gerrard was once caught on camera in a cup final appearance at The Millennium Stadium calling the official a ‘manc bastard’ as he gave a decision United’s way. Stephen Gerrard and Jamie Carragher, as despised as they are in United fan communities, can on one hand be applauded for never forgetting club loyalties (no really, stop laughing, Stevie G was really happy his Chelsea move didn’t happen). That’s about as much praise as I can heap on that boy, that’s enough of that.
Some of the feeling between the two sets of supporters can be easily defended, however. On February 18 2006 , during a 1-0 defeat by Liverpool at Anfield in the FA Cup, Alan broke his leg and dislocated his ankle while attempting to block a free-kick from Liverpool’s John Arne Riise, an injury described by Sir Alex Ferguson as “one of the worst I’ve seen”. The ambulance carrying the player was then attacked as it attempted to leave. This is yet more justification for the ‘media darlings’ tag applied. “Had United fans ambushed an ambulance with a Liverpool player in, we’d be strung up for it. It’s swept under the carpet when Liverpool do it. Just like when they trashed our ground in their FA Cup game against Chelsea last season when they wrote “Munich 58” and “Harold Shipman is our God” all over our ground.” says the Republik of Mancunia supremo.
Red News, United fanzine commented on the apparent switch in the treatment of Liverpool fans for this incident “after initially attacking Liverpool fans for throwing turds and coins and piss on United fans in the tier below, now (the media was) giving them glowing reports because they wrote one letter to Smith and though many did applaud Smith off the pitch, many also sang that twisted variation of the Riise song at him.” (Red News, February 2006).
One particular Liverpool fan offers up a case for the defence. The FA Cup game against Chelsea, in his view it was as simple as “some among us decided to re-arrange some of the plumbing in the toilets. I really don’t think there was that much involved but it got a good airing in the press and on TV. Some manc steward took pictures. How fortunate he had a camera with him eh?”His view of the rivalry is straight down the middle and he is in no doubt who is to blame – United fans. “We know they hate us – they sing about it every game they play.”
A fair amount of the blame, in this Liverpool fan’s eyes goes to Sir Alex Ferguson: “All this shit has gone on for many years but Ferguson with his “knock Liverpool of their fucking perch” quote made it OK for every Neanderthal knuckle-dragger manc to hate and abuse Liverpool fans – as far as united were concerned it seemed that the club itself was leading the way in Scouse-hating and bashing.
There is no way back from this rivalry, a few may keep it friendly, but for some it is merely a chance to kick off, he suggests: “it doesn’t matter anymore that there is a game being played. If a group of Liverpool fans meet a group of united anywhere it’s cue for trouble.” The Liverpool fan’s conclusion is damning for United fans and the manager. “For this, I blame united. Ferguson is, was and always will be, obsessed with us. Hates us. He and the likes of Neville have stirred this situation to a level it need not have got to and there is no going back”.
The fact is that Manchester United fans and Liverpool fans don’t like each other when it comes to football, this is just the way it is and you cannot explain it on either side of the divide. In November 2001, Liverpool beat Manchester United to go to second in the league, four points ahead of United. The late radio God that is John Peel echoed a familiar sentiment at this time. For for Peel, simply beating United is everything. “The results of the last four times we’ve played them has given me almost more joy than anything since the birth of my children,” he stated. To suggest that Everton fans share that hatred is incorrect according to one Liverpudlian. “Take away football matters, most of it is geographical. It goes back further, way back when. Everton fans share a little of this but at the end of the day they too are scousers and will unite against Mancunians. A lot of the local rivalry”, continued the Liverpool fan, “was eased during the Hillsborough disaster when the whole of Liverpool came together.” One Evertonian I interviewed about this mirrored these sentiments, declaring ‘no problem’ with Liverpool and instead offering a view on Everton’s relationship with United. “Manchester United suffer from Everton fans by association with Wayne Rooney. Most of it is directed at him. The hatred is not the same as that between Liverpool and Manchester United.” The subject even switched to the players we have transferred to Everton, surely this must bridge the divide? No is again the answer to that. “Andrei Kanchelskis was absolutely brilliant for Everton. But even the fact that Tim Howard and Phil Neville have made their way to Goodison, it will never repair the damage done by Rooney’s departure in the eyes of their fans. That rivalry is a story for another day, if it is ever written, for that one is a sideshow to the real war between Scousers and Mancs.
I started this to rid myself of the RoM writers block that had taken over. Me and one of my best mates sat there and recounted every single occasion Liverpool had bent the rules to get the right result, and I thought that a red rant about Liverpool fans was on its way. The more I read into this, the more I changed my focus to the questions you read now and the more I came to the conclusion that there is no answer to the rivalry. It is there, like it or not. As a Manc in exile on Merseyside it seems that there are good scousers and bad scousers. Those that want to bash your brains in and those that will disagree over football matters but still manage to treat you like a human being. Liverpool fans are impossible to talk football with, Everton fans share some of the dislike of the red scousers so you can have a decent chat with them. On the other hand, my Dad and I had our car attacked by Everton fans as we waited in the disabled car park to get out of Old Trafford after one particular Everton game. So there you have it, no real conclusion, no making sense of it. Just as good and bad as each other and never likely to see eye to eye over anything. They hate our ‘without killing anyone we won it two times’ chant, we hate their constant ‘Who’s that dying on the runway’.
Rest assured, United fans, that I have not gone soft on Scousers to such a far extent that I recommend holding hands and singing ‘All You Need Is Love’. This is just an acknowledgement that the fire is there, and to a certain extent it always should be. Whoever said that rivalries were reasonable.
I couldn’t think of another way to end this piece, the opus that it has become, so instead I test my Spanish skills with a message for all the Catalans soon to support Barcelona in their ties against Liverpool. As it is written in the first language of the Liverpool dressing room it should be understandable to messrs Alonso, Reina, Garcia and Co.
Solo para este partido contra el Liverpool, apoyo con toda mi alma la causa culé. A ver si Ronaldinho et al eliminan al Liverpool con un baño.
Bona sort al Barcelona! Barça, Barça, Baaaaaaarça!
Firm handshake to Alex Dunford (who read this), Greg Hunt (who didn’t but still helped!), Scott and Barney.
Special thanks to the following sites – West Ham Fans Site, “When Skies Are Grey” ; BBC Sport; Red News; Red Cafe.net