27 years ago, Liverpool wrecked Manchester United’s chances of winning their first league title for 25 years when a 2-0 win for the Merseyside club ensured Leeds United would be crowned champions of England.
This weekend, the Red Devils finally have their chance of gaining revenge knowing that a win at Old Trafford against their bitter rivals, will see Manchester City grab the upper hand in the current title race.
Of course, this fixture is the one most eagerly awaited by both sets of supporters and down the years, some of football’s most volatile characters have taken part in it.
Let’s now take a look then, at some of the hardest b**tards ever to pull on a Liverpool or Manchester United jersey.
When Bill Shankley took over at Liverpool in the late 1950’s, he was keen to add some much-needed brutality to his starting XI. In Tommy Smith, he had the ready-made prototype and the local lad was soon lining up in the first-team with some of his boyhood heroes.
Smith didn’t know the meaning of the word pain and would spend large parts of his 16 years at Anfield, taking pain-killing injections which would cripple him in later life. His intimidation tactics were the stuff of legend and many a speedy winger was told that if he tried anything flash, it would probably be his last involvement in the game.
If Leeds United hardman Norman Hunter earned the nickname “Bite yer Legs” due to his overzealous approach to the game, then Smith was more like chop them off with a chainsaw and stuff them back down your throat.
Even when he made his Manchester United debut at 16, the big Northern Irishman looked like a player who would take no s**t off anyone.
His Scouse-busting achievements are folklore at Old Trafford and “Big Norm”, who is still a cult hero to older Stretford Enders, carried out instructions for those who live by the sword must die by the sword, to absolute perfection.
His 1988 entry off the subs bench to decapitate Liverpool midfielder Steve McMahon (see below) still comes with an x-rated certificate for those who are brave enough to take a look on YouTube.
A style icon off the field, but an animal on it; Souness arrived at Anfield in 1978, scored on his debut against United before going on to win five league championships and three European Cups with Liverpool.
He bossed their midfield for six years before heading to the lawless world of Serie A, where even seasoned nutters like Claudio Gentile were scared to face up to him. Souness was sent-off on his debut as player-manager at Rangers and even a heart by-pass operation in the early 90’s whilst in-charge of Liverpool did nothing to calm him down.
A few years later, he caused civil unrest in Istanbul when he stuck a Galatasaray flag in the centre circle of city rivals Fenerbahce after a Turkish Cup Final victory.
When Ron Atkinson took over at United in 1981, he went back to his former club West Brom to firstly break the British transfer record to bring Bryan Robson to Old Trafford, before heading back to the Black Country to sign another midfield hardman, Remi Moses.
The Manchester-born Moses played over 150 times for United in an eight-year spell at the club and in that time, he left an indelible mark on many an opponents’ leg. He also had an amazing engine which enabled him to run and run, something that was incredible considering he was an honorary member of the Manchester United drinking club during his time at the Theatre of Dreams.
An England Under-21 international, Moses never made the step up to full international honours, but considering that the national team boss at the time was Ron Greenwood, a man who was more at home using condiments to get his tactics across to his players, Moses was never really in with a chance.
Until Whiteside’s intervention (see above) Steve McMahon considered himself to be the hardest man in football.
The Liverpool born midfielder actually started his career at Everton before heading to Anfield via Villa Park, in 1985. The rest of Europe breathed a huge sigh of relief when British clubs were banned following the tragic events at Heysel and the main reason was that no one had to suffer the consequences of having the temerity to go toe to toe with the man from Halewood.
McMahon was loathed by United fans and the player didn’t help himself when he left Anfield to join Manchester City in 1991 which was once again celebrated all over Europe, because after British clubs were allowed back in, McMahon’s City team were more concerned about relegation to Division Two than having to renew their passports for trips to the continent.