Liverpool v Manchester United is one of English football’s most bitter rivalries both on and off the pitch. To quote the brilliant Archie MacPherson who was on commentary when Celtic and Rangers fans commenced an on-pitch battle at the end of the 1980 Scottish Cup Final at Hampden Park: “You have to just admit, these two teams absolutely hate each other.”
Now of course, that rivalry has spread to the commentary box with former Liverpool and United stars accounting for what seems like 75% of the pundits on UK TV. With Sunday’s Anfield showdown on the horizon then, let’s take a look at who comes out on top when these two footballing heavyweights meet head on.
SOUNESS V KEANE
We start with a truly titanic clash between two of the hardest men ever to put on a pair of football boots. Graeme Souness was a cultured midfield player who wasn’t afraid to leave one on an opposing player during a successful career both north and south of the border. The former Scottish international is now a staple on Sky’s Super Sunday coverage and someone who usually offers clear and concise opinions when probed by David Jones. Always immaculately turned out thanks to a spell playing in Italy, Souey has only blotted his copybook once in recent times, when he quite clearly didn’t like being put in his place by former Arsenal and England ladies star Alex Scott.
Roy Keane can put the fear of god into anyone with just one stare so how former Arsenal full-back Lee Dixon sleeps at night heaven only knows. Keano’s regular Wembley appearances for ITV’s England’s coverage is pure theatre and usually far more interesting than what’s going on out on the pitch. The fact that during Keane’s time at United, Arsenal was the team that he hated more than any other makes Dixon’s and Ian Wright’s appearance in the other chairs even more entertaining. Such is Roy’s loathing of The Gunners still, on the advice of his nemesis Patrick Viera, ITV have now brought in Ashley Cole for back-up. Anchorman Mark Pougatch does a great job keeping the Irishman under control but deep down you know what Roy is really thinking.
LIVERPOOL 1-0 UNITED
REDKNAPP V SCHOLES
Just like his dad, you can’t fail but to like Jamie Redknapp. The former “Spice Boy” may not have had the most distinguished of careers in the red shirt of Liverpool, but his smouldering good looks ensured he would always go on to forge out a career in front of the camera. Always at home playing around with the latest Sky Sports gizmos, you sense that Redknapp would be able to talk solidly for 24 hours if allowed, so sometimes you have to thank the lord that Burnley v Norwich is about to kick-off. His career at Anfield will always be best remembered for those atrocious white suits in the 1996 Cup Final; thankfully, his punditry has proved that there’s more to Jamie than just bad fashion sense.
Paul Scholes never seemed like the sort of guy who would forge out a career in the media after hanging up his boots. The “Ginger Prince” is the polar opposite of Redknapp in his approach, but when he needs to be critical, he can be and the former United legend has upset many at Old Trafford with his scathing comments on the club’s current plight. He tried being a manager for 10 minutes and that didn’t work out, and is also part-owner of Salford City. As a result he’s never likely to be a regular guest on MUTV – but their loss is BT Sport’s gain and if anyone wants to have a go on set, he’s always got Rio Ferdinand in his corner.
LIVERPOOL 2-0 UNITED
CARRAGHER V NEVILLE
Twenty years ago you would never have thought that these two would even be prepared to sit in the same room as each other never mind work together, but Jamie Carragher and Gary Neville have forged a Sky double-act that’s the envy of all the other networks. Once you get used to his accent and remove the subtitles, you realise that the former Liverpool man is a keen student of the game and is even prepared to give United credit when doing co-comms on one of their matches. Carragher is now making the most of his second-chance with Sky; following his suspension after being filmed gobbing out of a car window at some United fans on the way home from Old Trafford.
Gary Neville is to football what Arthur Scargill was to coalmining. His family (that’s Gary’s not Arthur’s) throw themselves into everything they do so when Sky approached him to be their senior summariser, only a fool would have bet against Gary making a success of it. For many he has become the authoritative voice on the game and even Liverpool fans are now doing the unthinkable and warming to his dulcet Lancastrian tones. Always the shop-steward, Neville’s recent outburst following the Spurs v Chelsea game forced David Jones to nearly shit himself when his director blasted in his ear that he distances himself on behalf of Sky immediately, or risk having the plug pulled. For that, Mr Neville, we remain eternally grateful.
LIVERPOOL 2-1 UNITED
McMANAMAN V FERDINAND
Former flying winger Steve McManaman talks so much on the telly even Jamie Redknapp would like him to shut up every now and again. Why say one word when you can use 20 is Macca’s mantra so much so, that when he’s in the commentary box it’s better to watch with the sound turned down whilst listening to the match on the radio. McManaman has reportedly had the same hairstyle since he was three months old with the only difference now being that with every passing season, his hairline is getting higher and higher. Steve thrives on being a professional scouser and you can never question his enthusiasm, but just like the pink bunny on the adverts, every now and then it’s lovely to take out the Duracell batteries.
Rio Ferdinand is the only man who can get close to Souness when it comes to sartorial elegance and if only he’d stop trying to use fancy words during his analysis, he would be pushing the Scotsman and Neville for the number one TV pundit slot. Elegant as a player, Rio seems equally relaxed alongside Gary Lineker in the BT studio and on location; where he’s sure to immerse himself in the local culture and spend a fortune in some of Europe’s most expensive fashion houses. After finishing his playing career, Ferdinand has suffered personal tragedy and it’s to his immense credit that he tries to be at the top of his game every time the camera pans on him.
LIVERPOOL 2-2 UNITED