Footnote for the BBC and Sky
The Busby Babes never played against Liverpool, mainly because the Scousers were in Division Two. Similarly, the rags endured such a yoyo existence in the 1920s and 1930s that the teams rarely met.
However, they do share a pre war distinction: the 1915 Bribery Scandal, when United avoided relegation with a “Fixed” 2-0 victory.
Shankly and Busby were big mates, so throughout the 60s and 70s the United-Liverpool fixture was fairly low key, when compared with the nastiness of United-Leeds, or even the Manchester Derby itself. which regularly boasted a higher crowd, and certainly a more vicious atmosphere.
During the 1972-73 season, the Old Trafford attendance was 8,000 higher against City than the visit of Shankly’s ultimate Champions. Remarkably, even the Sheffield United fixture attracted 4,000 more spectators than Keegan and Toshack.
Both cities can boast a rich musical heritage, but any talk of a contentious football rivalry originating from the Manchester Ship Canal replacing the River Mersey as a strategic port of commerce, can be answered in two words: utter bollocks.
No, if you’re looking for the real reasons, then rewind to the Summer of 1981, when the Football League ruled that clubs no longer had to share gate receipts, and in doing so, effectively told the provincial smaller clubs to kiss its arse.
Almost overnight, Ipswich and Nottingham Forest ceased to be realistic contenders, and funnily enough, I don’t recall any Manchester United or Liverpool directors complaining about Financial Fair Play,
In contrast, the major beneficiaries were the big city teams with the larger fanbase, and for a variety of reasons, two clubs in particular enjoyed the biggest advantage, with their fixtures attracting the biggest advertising revenue
In the short term, Liverpool continued to dominate, but United grew stronger, and aided by stadium expansion, increased TV deals, and clever manipulation of the Far East market, their arrival at the summit, coincided with the birth of the Premier League.
The only problem for Team Sky was that whilst United’s success was based on concrete foundations, their East Lancs rivals had grown complacent with outdated modes of Boot Room methodology.
Similarly, the BBC were embarrassingly desperate for Liverpool to succeed, because despite their huge collection of trophies, they were starting to resemble 90 year old Huddersfield Town fans, pining for the days of Herbert Chapman.
Other clubs arrived, so the last throw of the dice was to convince the post truth footballing world that United-Liverpool has always been the key fixture in the sporting calendar.
Keep repeating and repeating, until one day, nobody bothers to question why Liverpool have never won the Premier League, or why United’s success is remarkably lopsided.
Anyway, I believe it finished 0-0 again.
Can’t wait for the next time.