A Liverpool Fans' Reluctant Admiration For Manchester United

I felt dirty writing it and expect a shellacking, but take the blinkers off and you'll have to agree with some of what I've said - afterall, Liverpool vs Manchester United is one hell of a rivalry
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I felt dirty writing it and expect a shellacking, but take the blinkers off and you'll have to agree with some of what I've said - afterall, Liverpool vs Manchester United is one hell of a rivalry

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Calm down

Before you head straight to the comments section and attempt to eviscerate me with exclamation marks, text speak, questions of my parentage, sexuality and a veritable profanisaurus, I only ask you to hear me out. This is the first in a series of articles on the subject of having a grudging respect for your clubs bitterest rival, so I'm sticking my head above the parapet. For me, Everton are Liverpool's bitterest rival, but I have no grudging respect for them. Pity perhaps for the Bluenoses who hate us so, but not respect. Well, maybe a little bit for Moyes, but that is a different story. No, I have had, for a long time, a grudging respect for that lot down the road, Taggart's army, Manchester United, a team that in my lifetime has included braggarts, Beckham and, ahem, Bebe.

I'll start by saying that I hope Manchester United never win another trophy. That Rooney succumbs to gout, Fergie's nose swells to the size of a blood orange and impairs his vision and Ashley Young descends into a left-wing nightmare of Neil Young proportions. All ragged jeans, conceptual runs to nowhere and primal wailing about his environment. Now I have that off my chest, I should move onto the respect. Why as much as Manchester United and their supporters have enraged me, I have a guilty admiration.

For a start it has nothing to do with money. That Manchester United is constantly in the top 2 of the annual Deloitte and Touche rich list means nothing to me. Well done to the marketeers, I suppose, but I'm no student of business and decimal points and balance sheets hold little interest when held up against dinked passes and bicycle kicks. It is not even about success, you can't ignore the amount they have won in the last 20 years but, even if they have knocked us off our perch, I'm more worried about how we counteract that than what they do next.

Then there was Cantona, a genius who played the game with the insouciant air of the tubby pub player who could've been someone but succumbed to the fags and pies

My admiration for Manchester United all comes down to one thing; football. For as much as I'm a Liverpool fan who cares only about what happens to us, it would be hard to ignore the football that United have at times played over the past two decades. They, of course, have had their swollen rump handed to them on a plate by Barcelona in the last three seasons but it is Fergie’s commitment to playing with wingers and the 10/9 front pairing that has constantly caught my eye and, when our chips have been covered in urine, had me punching myself in the face and wishing we could play like that. I've never punched the air though, these things have limits.

Then there was Cantona, a genius who played the game with the insouciant air of the tubby pub player who could've been someone but succumbed to the fags and pies, a man who did what we all would've done (except I'd have punched him) when he went for that Palace moron and also the footballer who sent me on a three-day bender of destruction after we lost the 1996 FA Cup final. Graeme Souness turned him down, apparently, because of team harmony. The same Graeme Souness who once allegedly clotheslined Don Hutchinson in training.

Yorke and Cole, two men I would gladly strip to the waist outside a boozer and tackle (didn’t Souness actually do that?), gelled together to become one of the most fluid front pairings of modern times. The fact that they used to call each other when they left for training and put the same CD on so they would arrive, music blaring, at exactly the same time still makes me want to go all Begbie, but the simple yet effective stepover – give and go routine they used to score bucketloads was blindingly effective.

And what about Keane and Scholes, a pair of midfielders I would have given my right knacker to play like

And what about Keane and Scholes, a pair of midfielders I would have given my right kn*cker to play like, one a combative monster who drove the team forward time and time again, the other a ginger enigma, unable to tackle or run properly who had feet like hands and could score every goal in the book.

Then there are the wingers. Beckham, Kanchelskis, Giggs and Ronaldo  were/are cracking players (I refuse to wax about Nani). Beckham gets a lot of hammer, and rightly so, but there was one goal of his, a lobbed half-volley with his instep over David James (at West Ham) that had me applauding his technique. For what it’s worth I think of Giggs as an average winger who struggled to cross the ball and who is a better player in his dotage than he ever was in his salad days.

Last comes Fergie, a man who is so Marmite he’s responsible for a severe outbreak of thrush everytime he speaks, a manager who has incensed large parts of the country with his ‘Fergie time’ and ‘mind games’ but, and this hurts, a dyed in the wool football man who has been obsessed with attacking football since watching Real Madrid batter Eintracht Frankfurt in 1960 and has strived to get his teams playing that way. I wish Kenny had stayed with us for 20 years, maybe then I wouldn’t have to say all of this, but Fergie has been brilliant.

And for all you Manchester United supporters, who I’ve argued with in pubs, nearly come to blows with after a heavy drop and battled with in comments boxes; fair play to you. You care about United first, sod England and, even though you are a little too obsessed with us, I suppose you deserve respect for being there in the good times and the bad, unlike Chelsea head glory hunters.

Last comes Fergie, a man who is so Marmite he’s responsible for a severe outbreak of thrush everytime he speaks

As for Liverpool fans, I understand you thinking I’m a right biff. But listen, I love Fowler more than anyone, Dalglish is what my dreams are made of, I’d take Riise over Evra and would fight anyone who claims Rio is even half the player of Sami Hyypia. But I also like watching good football, and I’m happy to take the blinkers off and admit, with teeth breaking against each other, that Manchester United have been very good at it.

That, of course, is all history now. They’ve got 19 we’ve got 5. They’ve spent loads of money, so have we. They’ve got a red nosed Scot in charge, we’ve got a Scottish god in charge. Come 12:45 this afternoon, I’ll be screaming red murder and giving them some hefty invective, but for now, as a fan of football, I’m prepared to admit to this grudging respect.

Now if someone could pass me the soap, I’ll wash my mouth out and swallow the bar whole. It’s the least I can do...

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