Monday, September 16, 2019

Manchester United v Liverpool: When the Reds last visited while in the top two…23 years ago

SoccerNews in English Premier League 22 Feb 2019

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Liverpool’s Premier League title challenge faces a significant hurdle on Sunday when they head to Old Trafford to face Manchester United.

Such is the rarity of the Reds mounting a serious tilt for a crown they last wore in 1990, this meeting is already something of an historic moment.

The last time they visited their fierce rivals in a league match while they occupied one of the top two positions, the year was 1996 and Jurgen Klopp was a 29-year-old Mainz defender.

That match – which was started by an Eric Cantona rabona from kick-off (no, really) – saw United triumph 1-0. But who was involved?

 

MANCHESTER UNITED

Peter Schmeichel

Already a three-time champion by this point, Schmeichel was well on his way to establishing his place as arguably United’s greatest ever goalkeeper.

Gary Neville

Well before his days as club captain and pedantic TV pundit, Neville was a curtained 21-year-old making the right-back spot his own.

Ronny Johnsen

This was Johnsen’s first meeting with Liverpool since his reported £1.2million move from Besiktas. It was a sizeable fee at the time, but he proved a sound investment.

David May

The man who left Blackburn Rovers the year before their title triumph would win his second in a row with United this season.

Denis Irwin

A stalwart of the left of United’s defence, Irwin was in his prime. He needed to be, too, given the defensive cover he was getting ahead of him.

Karel Poborsky

Fresh from his starring role at Euro 96, Poborsky was another to be playing in this game for the first time. He managed 55 minutes of free-flowing elegance. And that was just the hair.

Nicky Butt

United’s current youth academy supremo was a fresh-faced 21-year-old standing in for Roy Keane. He would get used to that role.

David Beckham

The man who scored from the halfway line against Wimbledon on the opening day of the season became an even greater hero to the Stretford End by blasting in this game’s only goal.

Jordi Cruyff

A player trying to follow in his father’s incomparable footsteps, Cruyff was decent without being spectacular. He was not the best defensively but, with Irwin behind him, it mattered little.

Eric Cantona

Nobody else would take a kick-off like that. Nobody else would retire at the age of 30, after captaining the side to the title that season. But nobody else is like Cantona.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer

United’s current caretaker-manager-supreme was still three years away from ‘that’ goal against Bayern Munich. However, in this, his first season at the club, he did not disappoint.

Paul Scholes (sub)

A replacement for Poborsky, Scholes would go on to play just a few more games for United than the Czech winger. Not often on the wing, mind you.

Ryan Giggs (sub)

For wing-wizardry, look no further than Giggs, already a ‘double-double’ winner and with so much more to come. Including, eventually, a haircut.

 

LIVERPOOL

David James

The athleticism, the speed, the unfathomable desperation to sprint off his line – it was all on show here, and mostly in the opening few minutes. It did nothing to stop a pretty impressive career, mind you.

John Scales

The straight man of the Wimbledon ‘Crazy Gang’, Scales moved to Tottenham just two months after this match, having spent only two years at Liverpool.

Dominic Matteo

Matteo had spent a fruitless loan spell at Sunderland the season before, but 1996-97 proved to be much more encouraging. Apart from losing this game, of course.

Phil Babb

Babb’s importance to Liverpool seemed to be waning by this stage, but he was nonetheless a useful part of Roy Evans’ back three.

Jason McAteer

The Republic of Ireland man’s versatility made him suitable to the Evans system, even if he made few inroads in this game.

Steve McManaman

‘Macca’ brought the youthful legs that some of his midfield partners no longer had. It’s a good job he could run as well as play.

Michael Thomas

A solid presence in the centre of midfield, Thomas’ appearances began to diminish once Jamie Redknapp got over some injury problems. He remained a popular figure with the fans, though.

John Barnes

A bona-fide England great, Barnes was approaching the end of his best days by 1996. Beckham, Butt and company seemed to be running around him a little too easily at times.

Stig Inge Bjornebye

Like Ronny Johnsen, he was a relative unknown to English fans when he moved to the Premier League in 1992. Like Johnsen, he left as a real fan favourite.

Patrik Berger

Another Czech Republic star of Euro 96, Berger was a fine attacking force for Liverpool when injuries allowed, just perhaps not in this game.

Stan Collymore

Still a formidable centre-forward, this was the last season in which Collymore was close to the peak of his powers before a certain Michael Owen started getting in the way of the first team.

Jamie Redknapp (sub)

An often-underrated midfielder dealt an unfair hand by injuries, Redknapp did not get much of a chance to impress here.

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