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Video: Armchair Reporter: Manchester United v Liverpool rivalry condensed into 10-minute programme at the scrake of dawn

Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson
Kevin Farrell

IT’S amazing the weird places you find yourself in about 6am on a Sunday morning these days.

Rummaging in darkness like Bear Grylls on a seal’s placenta full of Skittles for a swig of Gaviscon to kill off a stubborn Ribeye was where it was at for this high roller at the scrake of dawn yesterday.

As a few noisy birds landed on my window sill to chitter about what the big guy was going to watch for 10 minutes before collapsing (hopefully still breathing) as that slab of cow died a slow second death, ITV4 won the battle for my barely open eyes.

A 10-minute whistle-stop filler titled Football Rivalries; Manchester United v Liverpool was clearly made and scheduled for the double-action-heartburn-remedy brigade out there.

There was little time to waste in condensing an age-old football rivalry into 600 seconds minus two commercial breaks.

And so we were parachuted into the 1977 FA Cup final with the late, great Brian Moore almost wetting his beige Farahs –albeit gracefully – at the prospect.

“We’ve got a marvellous day here for our final at Wembley, marvellous sunshine and the Junior Parachute Company giving a marvellous gymnastics display before what promises to be one of the greatest finals in Wembley history,” Moore marvelled like only Moore could.

Nobody seemed to die or require the lone St John’s Ambulance man despite a group of nutjobs jumping higher than the Twin Towers on mini-trampolines scattered around the centre circle.

Tommy Doc’s United and Bob Paisley’s Liverpool then removed their retro tracksuit tops, 40 years before retro gear became fashionable, to go toe-to-toe in what was always the season’s highlight.

Half-a-million fans or so – every last one waving their ma’s red bedsheet – had been shoehorned into Wembley for the occasion. Stuart Pearson and Lou Macari goals sandwiched Jimmy Case’s thunderbolt equaliser to secure bragging rights as the Red Devils denied the Reds a treble.

“Did you enjoy your cup final?” the interviewer asked Jimmy Nicholl.

“Oye, I enjoyed it alright,” ‘nornironed’ Jimmy Nic (left) as he slugged at a pint bottle of real cow’s milk – Spumante, Powerade and Gaviscon all yet to be invented.

The next instalment was the 1979 FA Cup semi-final at a Maine Road mudbath, Brian Moore still alive and excited beyond belief that Liverpool would be wearing an all-yellow strip for the first time in their history.

Kenny Dalglish opened the scoring with a blaze of skill that would make Messi huff before Joe Jordan pulled out a stolen trampoline from his top gums and banged a header in from around the top of the Kippax Stand.

Terry McDermott then tripped over either his or Graeme Souness’s lip fur on the way to shanking a penalty before Brian (or was it Jimmy?) Greenhoff restored United’s lead.

A cherubic Alan Hansen equalised from two yards before a caption told us United won the replay 1-0 prior to losing the final that year to Alan Sunderland’s prolific perm.

A 2-2 draw in the 1985 FA Cup semi-final followed before Mark Hughes and Bryan Robson goals won the replay and denied Liverpool a chance to beat Everton in the final a year before, er, Liverpool beat Everton in the final.

Ron Atkinson celebrated the win on camera with a china cup full of ‘tea’ apparently.

“Yeah, I love a nice cuppa tea, Elton. Brilliant, smashing, yeah, especially after a performance like that,” big Ron told Elton Welsby, albeit clearly busting his big trunks to join Norm, Bryan and Paul in the upstairs lounge pronto.

A 4-0 league win for Liverpool at Anfield followed before the programme ended it all in 1992 with United having to win at Anfield to deny Leeds United the title.

“How can we be on air since two o’clock and not mention Ian Rush has never ever scored against Man United, the only first division club he hasn’t scored against?” Elton asked a ‘lively’ looking Denis Law.

Alas, an Ian Rush goal and a Mark Walters clincher later and we were all lying on Leslie Ash’s sofa with a giggling Lee Chapman, Eric Cantona, David Batty and Tony Dorigo.

‘Magnifique Eric” said Elton from the studio.

“Magnifique yeah, you speak French?” asked Eric in English.

“Non, non, non!” said Elton, now clearly scundered to a hundred.

The last word went to a fuming Scottish bloke called Alex Ferguson who looked like he was choking to death on two Yorkshire puddings and a large hair-drier after a bash at Leslie’s Botox stash.

“It’s such a difficult and hard league to win that anyone who makes a mistake gets punished,” he moaned as the credits started to roll.

It was quite a few years before ‘Fergie Time’ would become by far the most important thing English football has ever seen.




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