This is it. Of all the games in the Premier League, Liverpool vs Manchester United stands out. It always has. As players, we know what it means to fans to win those games.
I scored some very important goals for both teams in this fixture, and always seemed to play well. In the 1993/94 season when I was at United we did the Premier League and FA Cup double for the first time. Towards the end of the season on March 30 we faced Liverpool at Anfield and I scored the winner just before half-time – a header from a corner. A rare sight indeed!
On the other side of the coin, the game that gets brought up most is the 2-2 draw at Anfield when I was playing for Liverpool. I was always looking forward to that game being a former United player, and it was a massive game in May 1999 with United aiming for the treble. Dwight Yorke and Denis Irwin put United ahead, before Jamie Redknapp scored a penalty to pull one back. Irwin got sent off with about 15 minutes to go and we were chasing an equaliser. I gambled, running into the box and fortunately the ball just broke to me. I was able to slot it past Peter Schmeichel and I went bananas in front of the Kop. Absolutely ballistic!
However, the most memorable game I was involved in was the 3-3 draw at Anfield in 1994 with United. We went 3-0 up and were cruising. Steve Bruce scored with a header, Ryan Giggs scored an outrageous chip over the goalkeeper and Denis Irwin added a third. That is the best 90 minutes I’ve ever seen a Manchester United team play without winning. We had chance after chance and still couldn’t hold on. Nigel Clough got two back before half time and Neil Ruddock scored with about 10 minutes left to play. It was an enthralling game to be in.
Of course I got tagged as being a traitor or ‘Judas’ from some fans, but you can live with that and it was never anything too malicious. I had six great years at Manchester United, and I gave the fans everything. They were always awesome to me. I didn’t always play great but I’d bleed and sweat and put everything into the game for them. When I left United it wasn’t my decision. I was about to negotiate a four-year contract and sort a testimonial out, but it was down to Sir Alex Ferguson and the board and they wanted to sell me to Inter Milan. I was devastated to leave.
I didn’t think twice about going to Liverpool. They are a great club, just like Man Utd, and as a player I was never going to turn down that chance just because I was frightened of what United fans would think of me. I was actually more worried about what the Liverpool fans would think, but the Kop were unbelievable. They took me straight into their hearts. It helped that I got an equaliser in my first Merseyside Derby at Anfield of course!
Going into Monday night’s clash Liverpool are a stronger outfit than United. Jose Mourinho still doesn’t seem to know his best XI. He’s chopping and changing, and when you do that it brings inconsistency as you can see with some of the results domestically and in Europe. United have far more work to do to get to the level Liverpool are currently at. Jurgen Klopp has had more than a year there now, he’s has had time to get his team set-up and playing the style he wants. The way they press high up the park is impressive, but it takes time to get your team doing that week in and week out. Now they’re creating plenty of chances and there’s goals coming from all over the park. Liverpool play on the front foot, and if they get ahead, United won’t be able to claw them back.
It doesn’t matter how bad United are, or how bad they have been, this is the biggest game of the season. They will be going to Anfield expecting to win the game, no matter what the form book says, but Liverpool have a settled team firing on all cylinders, and they’ve proved already this season they can beat the top teams.