A new chapter in one of the most esteemed rivalries in world football was written in this week’s Europa league round of 16 tie.
When Manchester United and Liverpool clash it tends to be an interesting one, as this rivalry is considered one of the most ferocious and historic not only in English football but within world football. Even with both clubs current trials and tribulations this rivalry still attracts a vast and varied viewing audience.
Following the first leg, Manchester United fans had voiced their criticism towards the performance of Louis Van Gal’s side. Meanwhile Liverpool were praised by fans and pundits alike for the job they did at Anfield which stood them in good shape going into the final and decisive leg at Old Trafford. In order for LVG’s team stage a comeback and progress, they needed to overcome a two-goal deficit. This highlighted how crucial the first goal would be in this game, as if it went Liverpool’s way, many would assume the tie is all but done. However as we will see later, United managed to make the game an interesting one for a neutral.
From the start, the atmosphere inside Old Trafford was one of open hostility, with many anti-Scouse and anti-Manchester chants being exchanged by the fans from both teams.
On the pitch the early pressure was all Manchester United in terms of possession, however in the first 15 minutes, the Liverpool defence remained resilient and looked solid. On the 20 minute mark, Jesse Lingard forced a quick reaction save from Mignolet who just managed to tip his header out and ver the crossbar. The resulting corner was not properly cleared by Dejan Lovern, allowing Mata to regain possession and fire just wide of the post. United created another chance three minutes later when Rashford and Martial combined, with the latter’s shot flying just over the bar.
Liverpool’s first decent chance of the game came when Coutinho fired a shot from close range but De Gea was equal to it and managed to keep Klopp’s side out.
Sadly some unsavoury songs from some of sections of the home fans were disrupting the electric atmosphere inside Old Trafford, as both sets of fans tried to motivate their teams on, acting as the 12th man for their respective teams.
Firmino then tested De Gea with a drive from outside the box which bobbled just in front of the Manchester United shot-stopper who managed to make the save.
Then moments later up the other end, Liverpool full-back Clyne brought down Martial for a Penalty which the Frenchman confidently slotted away. Daniel Sturridge, tried to force a reply when his curling free kick which went over the wall and crashed against the post.
The noise generated from both sets of fans made the place created a cauldron-like atmosphere inside Old Trafford. The spitefulness of the affair could be felt all around the ground.
On the pitch, Coutinho and Henderson combined well giving Liverpool a good chance to score, but Henderson fired it above the bar straight into the Stretford end, much to the delight and jeers of the Manchester United faithful.
Liverpool eventually got their equaliser on the stroke of half-time courtesy of a delicate chip from Coutinho, who waited for the Manchester United goalkeeper to commit himself, making it 1-1 in the dying moments of the first half.
This scoreline left Manchester United needing three in the second half to save their European campaign this season. The Scousers buoyed by their late equaliser, continued to create a phenomenal atmosphere throughout half-time which silenced the majority of the 75,000 person crowd.
Chances were very few and far between in the opening 10 minutes, with Manchester United seeing the ball but failing to create any real threats as the Liverpool defence held firm. Just before the hour mark, Marcus Rashford shot just wide of the upright, this was United’s first real chance of the half and it seemed to reinvigorate the United faithful who immediately got back behind their team.
Moments later Carrick managed to play a sublime cross to the head of Fellaini but the Belgium international headed straight into the arms of Mignolet. Fellaini was also greeted with another chance later on in the half but like the previous he failed to convert, and blasted the ball into the Stretford end, and was greeted with some sarcastic cheers from the home fans.
Liverpool also managed to carve out a chance for themselves when Emre Can played in Coutinho, nutmegging Blind in the process, but Coutinho’s shot fell into the arms of the Spanish goalkeeper. De Gea was forced into action again moments later as Coutinho forced into a fine leaping save to push the ball over the crossbar. He was then forced into action from the resulting corner which was a goalmouth melee however the referees ‘s assistant had already raised the flag for offside.
With four minutes of normal time remaining Manchester United had a credible shout for a penalty turned down as the ball appeared to strike the arm of James Milner, Valencia was particularly incensed and was confronting the extra official behind the goal.
As the match drew to a close, some Manchester United fans were leaving, whilst Liverpool fans continued to celebrate and enjoy this party like atmosphere within the away end. the hostility in the game appeared to be depleting somewhat as there were very few audible offensive chance from either side. This was until a number of Liverpool fans were discovered in the home end by the unfurling of a banner within the United end, prompting violent clashes and anger, which led fans ripping out and throwing spare seats. This was not the way in which Liverpool football club would have envisaged the headlines on the day after a historic victory over their north-west rivals in their first ever European encounter however these violent clashes seek to undermine the tie which produced some great footballing moments over the two legs but also produced some truly vile chanting about
This was not the way in which Liverpool football club would have envisaged the headlines on the day after a historic victory over their north-west rivals in their first ever European encounter. However, these violent clashes seek to undermine the tie which produced some great footballing moments over the two legs, but also produced some truly vile chanting about non-football related matters. Uefa have acted quickly applying a number of charges, against both clubs with more to follow on those charges in the coming weeks.