Rivalry: Manchester United and Liverpool should be about football not mocking death

Manchester United and Liverpool have a massive rivalry, one which stems not only from football. The shipping trade is one of the main reasons of the rivalry with Liverpool being the nearest dock and everything heading into Manchester came through that port. Liverpool started charging excessive fees and different routes were looked into with good coming through the port of Hull, on the other side of the country, being a cheaper option to that of Liverpool. Making Manchester a port, or at least linking it up with the sea dates back to 1660, but it was not until 1882 when plans were set in motion. Public support was gained, not including that of Liverpool for obvious reasons and a bill, The Manchester Ship Canal Act 1885, was passed in 1885, obviously. Work commenced on the 11th November 1887 with the first sod being cut. The shipping canal runs 36 miles, was flooded in November 1893 and opened on the 1st January 1894. Back then the project cost £15 million, which in today’s money would be more than £500 million, but money well spent to stop Liverpool from charging Manchester a premium for all imported goods. On the 21st May 1894, Queen Victoria officially opened the Manchester Shipping Canal, which had been in operation for nearly five complete months at the time.

The footballing rivalry may not be in direct connection to that of the Manchester shipping canal being constructed as every team in every game has a rival and those for Manchester United in the Premier League are currently Manchester City, Liverpool, and Everton. There are many teams which have a rivalry with United, though, many smaller local teams, but it is not often they meet in regular competition, meaning the local Premier League teams have a much hotter rivalry, which can be said for City and Liverpool, who are more hated than Everton. Liverpool were a successful team in the 1960’s, 1970’s and the 1980’s, winning their last league title in 1990, more than 26 years ago now. At the time, they were the most successful team in English football, winning 18 league titles. Liverpool has now also won seven FA Cups, eight League Cups, five European Cups (now the UEFA Champions League, three UEFA Cups (now the UEFA Europa League) and three UEFA Super Cups. Back in 1994, Liverpool fans hung a banner at Anfield during a 3-3 draw between the two teams, which said: “Au revoir Cantona and Man United. Come back when you’ve won 18”. United did just that, matching Liverpool’s 18 league titles in the 2008/09 season, extending that run to twenty league titles in the 2012/13 season, when Sir Alex Ferguson retired from the game.

A rivalry is great in football, every team has at least one rival. It is healthy to have rivals and it gives something to each team in the fact they may set out to make these massive achievements like winning league titles, domestic cups, and even European cups, but battling with a rival not only to better their league position, but to do a double over them in the league, or knock them out of domestic cups will be something that adds to the challenge. United and Liverpool have a great rivalry, but that rivalry does not just stop at football or the cities they are from, it branches into mocking the dead, which is something both sides do not like but sections of supporters resort to that like they are trying to score points. I am not saying it is something I have never done, I am not saying it is something I have done in a nasty way, more of a reaction to being on the receiving end of such idiotic things. The fact is, nobody should ever set out to go and see a football match, or even play in one, and never return home. That is a tragedy. Both Manchester United and Liverpool have released a statement this week to try and end the ugly side of the rivalry, but it will probably be unsuccessful, just like attempts to do so before. The statement said:

“Both clubs, their supporters and football fans around the world are looking forward to this historic and passionate match between two of the sport’s biggest and oldest rivals.

“There is great rivalry between our fans and we ask all supporters to be respectful and help eradicate all forms of offensive and discriminatory behaviour from the game.

“If any supporters are found to be engaged in any form of offensive or discriminatory behaviour by stewards or via CCTV then they will be immediately removed from the stadium, risk arrest, prosecution and be reported in accordance with the club’s ground regulations. 

“This is an unrivalled fixture in the Premier League calendar and we thank all fans for their continued support in this important area of the game.”

Both the Hillsborough and the Munich Air Disaster seem to be mocked by either set of fans. The Munich Air Disaster goes back to the 6th February 1958 when Manchester United were returning from Belgrade after a European Cup match against Red Star Belgrade which ended in a 3-3 draw, 5-4 on aggregate as United won 2-1 at Old Trafford. United stopped in Munich-Rein airport on the way home to refuel, but the weather turned, it started to snow and visibility and everything else were a challenge. It ended with United’s plane, an Airspeed AS-57 Ambassador operated by British European Airways crashing off the runway and into a building around the airport’s perimeter. The crash resulted in 20 people being killed instantly, one died on the way to the hospital, the pilot dies three weeks later and Duncan Edwards, injured in the crash died 15 days later. The crash took the lives of Manchester United players Geoff Bent, Roger Byrne, Eddie Colman, Duncan Edwards, Mark Jones, David Pegg, Tommy Taylor, and Liam “Billy” Whelan. Sir Matt Busby was also injured in the crash and twice received his last rites, but miraculously survived and managed United once against after his recovery, now with something to aim for, make Manchester United successful again, and he did. The Munich Air Disaster devastated Manchester United, but Liverpool, a rival, offered the club players, which shows that rivalry is a good thing, but not something that divides teams in times like this. United rose from the ashes like a phoenix from the flames, something which has been used to bring the best out of players over the years based on the fact you can never tell what tomorrow will bring.

Liverpool has suffered their own tragedy, the Hillsborough disaster on the 15th April 1989 which happened before an FA Cup semi-final match between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest, which was played at Sheffield Wednesday’s Hillsborough stadium. 96 Liverpool supporters lost their lives on that fateful day. Justice has now been granted to the city of Liverpool and things can finally be restored, at least as much as they can for the families of the 96 supporters, 94 of those on the day. 766 people were injured, which makes it the worst tragedy in British sporting history, one not to be mocked as death should never be mocked, or thrown in jest. A crush happened inside two central pens within the stadium based on the fact too many supporters were entering them. I remember the scenes on Grandstand, which was a sporting program shown on the BBC during that era which talked about sporting results every Saturday afternoon. I was ten and did not fully understand the horror before my eyes, which was known in the hours and days afterward. Tragedies are something that devastates all of those involved. The families of the victims, those who were injured, those who were not injured, those who saw everything happen, and those that have only read about it. Tragedies are there to be remembered, used to change things and never to be mocked. The rivalry between Manchester United and Liverpool is a healthy thing, but being that football is being played, perhaps the rivalry should be based on that and nothing else.

Manchester United have won twenty league titles to Liverpool’s 18. Liverpool won the European Cup five times, United’s only three. These are things which hot up the rivalry without hurting feelings. There is immense pride between the two teams, pride which should remain. The rivalry should still remain but never venture into the mocking of deaths. Mocking teams for their success or even the lack of means a lot at the end of the day. United knocked Liverpool off their perch under Sir Alex Ferguson. Liverpool tried to take one league title back, getting close to winning the league but a Steven Gerrard slip against Chelsea saw that chance come to an end, which was something which devastated the Liverpool fans, who many had already bought their Premier League champions T-Shirts at the time, but also saw United fans happily mocking their rivals failure to better their league title tally, which has lasted the entire length of United’s most successful period, which was led by Sir Alex Ferguson.

Between Manchester United and Liverpool, a total of 38 top-flight league titles have been shared, along with 19 FA Cups, 12 League Cups, 36 FA Community Shields, eight European Cups/UEFA Champions Leagues, three UEFA Cups/UEFA Europa Leagues, four UEFA Super Cups, one European Cup Winner’s Cup, one Intercontinental Cup and one FIFA Club World Cup. A total of 123 major trophies – the most successful teams in England. That makes the rivalry a lot stronger. Both teams want to beat their rivals. Manchester United have won all four Premier League matches over the last two seasons, which makes them look the favourites heading into this match at Anfield on Monday, but Liverpool’s current form changes that to make them the favourites. One thing is for sure, both teams will be wanting to head into the match and take all three points, along with the bragging rights involved with winning the match against a rival team. By 10pm on Monday, we will know the winner of the first Liverpool/Manchester United derby of the season. I for one hope it is my team, Manchester United who take the bragging rights and all three points from the match.

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