Opinion

Kenny Archer: Liverpool and Man Utd rivalry needn't go too far

Kenny Archer

Kenny Archer

Kenny is the deputy sports editor and a Liverpool FC fan.

Amad Diallo, left, scored a late winner as Manchester United edged an FA Cup epic
Amad Diallo scored a late winner as Manchester United edged an FA Cup epic Amad Diallo, left, scored a late winner as Manchester United edged an FA Cup epic (Martin Rickett/PA)

THE first message I sent to a WhatsApp group of friends after Sunday’s dramatic Manchester United-Liverpool FA Cup tie is something I now regret.

It wasn’t worthy of me as a supporter.

Sure, I was stunned by United’s last-gasp breakaway winner, having been mentally preparing myself for the tension of a penalty shoot-out.

Still, what was I thinking when, even before the final whistle, I typed out the following words:

‘ManU deserved that’.

Utterly unacceptable.

What was that about?!



No complaint that the clearly biased referee should definitely have sent off Manchester United captain Bruno Fernandes in the second half?

No moaning about the strange shape of the Old Trafford posts which kept out what would have been a winner from Harvey Elliott?

No pointing out that the poor Liverpool players were exhausted from so many matches recently? Still in Europe, unlike that other lot…

No suggestion that the Ides of March had somehow coincided with St Patrick’s Day?

No talk of ‘concentrating on the league’?

No clutching at that tiny straw of having fewer games now in a still packed schedule?

No pretence that my mobile phone had mysteriously stopped working (as my TV did a split-second after the final whistle) or that I’d dropped it into the Irish Sea?

No swearing?

Where was the bitterness, the moaning, the lashing out, the wailing?

Having looked deep into my dark, twisted soul, that short message was obviously a pathetic attempt at pre-empting #bantz. I’m a gracious loser, me.

In all honesty, though, it wasn’t wholly a pretence of being magnanimous.

Perhaps I’ve been a sports journalist for too long, but I’d seen Manchester United playing with great guts, first to force extra time and then to come back from behind again. Two of the goals they’d conceded had taken significant deflections, but they never gave in. The hosts, despite being second best for much of the second half, had created the better chances over the two hours.

United snatched victory in a pulsating contest
United snatched victory in a pulsating contest United snatched victory in a pulsating contest (Martin Rickett/PA)

Fandom is so much about the #bantz now.

Just over a year ago Liverpool supporters received the wonderful gift of a 7-0 hammering of Manchester United. 7-0! SEVEN! NIL!

That was a result which would echo in eternity, would be talked about for decades.

On Sunday, though, Manchester United won an actual seven-goal thriller. With a wonderfully finished counter-attack in the closing seconds of extra time.

Better still (for the Red Devils), the victory was achieved with a makeshift side, one packed with attackers, their manager having had to gamble with his selection and his formation. Only two actual defenders on the pitch and one of those, the much-maligned Harry Maguire, often pushing forward. Their skipper Bruno limping, hampered by injury.

The cherry on the top for the Red Devils fans was that the memorable victory also ended Liverpool’s hopes of achieving a trophy quadruple this season.

Funny old game.

The usual ManU-Liverpool discourse in that particular WhatsApp group revolves around the twist that one member, a Liverpool supporter, bears a remarkable resemblance to the Manchester United manager Erik ten Hag.

We pretend that he’s actually a secret double agent. It’s hilarious stuff.

He’s kept himself in a job now. Good work, our Erik. Ha ha ho ho tee hee.

Marcus Rashford (left), Scott McTominay and Harry Maguire celebrate after the full-time whistle
Marcus Rashford (left), Scott McTominay and Harry Maguire celebrate after the full-time whistle Marcus Rashford (left), Scott McTominay and Harry Maguire celebrate after the full-time whistle (Martin Rickett/PA)

The relationship between Liverpool and Manchester United supporters in Ireland is a strange one, usually involving friends and family inter-twined.

My own dad was a ManU fan. My brother is. So too my father-in-law and one brother-in-law. Plenty of colleagues – and even some friends. Well, you know the saying that ‘you can choose your friends…’

Given that context, it’s generally good-natured. There’s rivalry, of course, we love ‘our’ teams, but it rarely goes too far wrong.

The jokes we all share are in stark contrast to the antics from some followers of both sides who attended the game at Old Trafford.

Before, during, and after there was tragedy chanting, mocking the Munich, Hillsborough and even Heysel disasters.



It’s beyond belief that grown men utter such vile chants and make such derogatory gestures enacting a plane crashing or people being crushed against fences.

Worse still, they’re teaching children to act in that despicable way.

I get that the game might, ahem, mean more to match-going supporters, those who spend small fortunes on season tickets and travel, who dedicate their lives to following their teams.

There’s never very much rational debate or discussion between Liverpool and Manchester United fans, wherever they’re from.

But it doesn’t have to be so heinous, so inhuman.

It’s some consolation that it’s not as physically dangerous as it was in the past, with running battles in the streets, and darts and golf balls among the objects thrown.

Yet re-awakening the trauma of those who literally witnessed death is inexcusable.

Intoxicating substances probably play a part in the misbehaviour of some, but it still has to be in your head to come out.

I walked amongst supporters leaving Croke Park after this year’s All-Ireland Club Senior Football Final, a match won by Glen (Maghera) after an astonishing late turnaround. St Brigid’s of Roscommon had dominated much of the match only to have victory snatched away from them.

Yet there was absolutely no animosity from the fans of the losing side as they passed those in Glen colours, nor any rancour uttered about their own team. Neither was there any gloating nor grandstanding from the Glen followers.

Soccer supporters have long been separated at matches, and followers of Liverpool and Manchester United will probably never be brought together at games – but some of them really need to wise up and lighten up.