Sabtu, 28 Januari 2023


London - Sometime around November 1959 Bill Shankly who became coach at Huddersfield was visited by two officials from Liverpool. A conversation ensued that went something like this:

"Aren't you interested in being a coach at England's best club?" asked one of the two Liverpool officials.

"Why? Has Matt Busby resigned?" Shankly asked back.

We know what Shankly has in mind, because Matt Busby is in the process of becoming the legendary Manchester United coach and the club is dominating the world of English football. Meanwhile, Liverpool at that time were quite happy to sit in the middle of the second division of the old version of the Premier League.

This is just an illustration that actually the most fierce competition between the two teams has not been too long ago. If you count since Shankly held Liverpool in 1959, the fierce competition between MU and Liverpool has only lasted 50 years. Far younger than the fierce rivalries between Liverpool and Everton that had existed 50 years earlier, or Manchester United and Manchester City, or Arsenal and Tottenham since the 1930s, and Chelsea and Fulham or Burnley and Blackburn.

Shankly admired both United and the club's players, but at the same time had a burning desire to shake up the British football hierarchy. Bringing Liverpool back to the top of English football. It was he who actually sparked the fierce competition between the two English giants.

Shankly, whose achievements were mediocre before taking over at Liverpool, in just five years brought Liverpool from a mid-table club in the second division to win the first division, eliminating MU and -- more importantly, actually -- one city's arch-rival and the defending champion, Everton. Two years later in 1966 he repeated the feat. In 1965 he led Liverpool to win the FA Cup for the first time.

Shankly did not bring Liverpool to win the first division again until 1973. However, in the process of Liverpool's revival he instilled extraordinary confidence that Liverpool did not lose big to other clubs. That playing for Liverpool is an honor. And even if Liverpool do not become champions, it is very important to beat those who are considered to be the biggest and most successful, at any cost, playing it out as if life and death depended on that game.

Shankly deliberately made MU a target. Especially when they in 1968 became the first English club to win the Champions Cup. Maybe MU at that time considered itself the most successful club, but when they met Liverpool they knew that reputation meant nothing. The match will play out like an all-out battle.

It is the "will" of history that in the 1970s MU and Liverpool exchanged positions. When the revolution started by Shankly was continued by Bob Paisley and then Joe Fagan – Shankly's two assistant coaches – making Liverpool not only the king of England but also Europe, MU's fate slumped and even got relegated to the second division in 1975. But the feud between the two clubs already established and not slacken to say nothing but even more fierce. Liverpool are turning out to be the most successful club in England but they know playing Manchester United is a different matter. MU will become the real “Red Devils” and Liverpool must be on constant alert.

Since the mid-60s, MU's fight against Liverpool has become one of the fiercest and most awaited matches by the British public, as if separated from the context of the entire league competition. Both clubs seem determined, if they don't become champions then what is more important for MU is to beat Liverpool, and vice versa.

The two clubs mutually measure their achievements from what has been achieved by both. Do you remember when Alex Ferguson first came to MU more than 20 years ago? When asked by journalists one of his main targets to become a coach at Old Trafford, Ferguson without hesitation replied: "Kick Liverpool from the top of the English football hierarchy."

Like Shankly at Liverpool, Ferguson made a revolution at MU. The difference is, Ferguson not only started a revolution but also kept the revolution from dying out. He is still the coach today. He kept his promise to kick Liverpool from the top of the English football hierarchy. Don't know for how long.

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