Date:Friday March 21 2008
Rafa Benitez never beat Sir Alex Ferguson in the league. That's a fact and no matter how Liverpool try to dress it up in banners boasting about their Champions League win, it must rile them. That single FA Cup victory is surely not enough... So how it happened?
2004-05: Manchester United 2 Liverpool 1
Possibly the last really open game between the two bitter rivals. Rafa Benitez was new to English football and was in for a treat as United went for the jugular from the very first minute, boosted by the return of Rio Ferdinand who served his eight-months ban for missing a drugs test.
But it was an indication of times to come as ultimately it was the defenders who won the game. Mikael Silvestre gave United the lead only to be pegged back by an unfortunate own goal from John O'Shea. However, up went Silvestre and yet again, Liverpool had no answer to him - his brace secured a richly deserved victory for the man of Old Trafford.
2004-05: Liverpool 0 Manchester United 1
As an Everton player transferred to Manchester United, Wayne Rooney could expect a hostile reception at Anfield. He got that: he was hit by a mobile phone hurtled in from the stands but he answered in style, lashing in a powerful yet not too accurate effort that nevertheless beat Reina to sneak in at the near post and Rooney ran out to silence the Kop with his celebrations. Roy Keane then hit the bar with a magnificent effort but there were no more goals as United held on to what seemed a vital victory.
2005-06: Manchester United 1 Liverpool 0
After a total non-event in the Anfield game earlier that season (Van Nistelrooy hitting the post was the only real highlight and of course Roy Keane played his last game for United there) everyone expected a better game.
An injury-hit United were slightly outplayed by Liverpool who could not convert their chances into goals and when Fergie sent in Saha in the second half we became the better team. Still, it looked like ending in a stalemate but then Giggs whipped in a free-kick from the left and Ferdinand rose to head home - in the 90th minute, in front of the Stretford End. Wonderful stuff - and we'll never forget Gary Neville celebrating in front of the Scousers!
2006-07: Manchester United 2 Liverpool 0
United arrived to this game being on top and playing as well as ever. Liverpool were already far off the pace in October and their travel sickness boded well for the United faithful who expected another victory against the dippers.
Paul Scholes, playing his 500th game for United, gave United the lead with an untidy yet still marvellous goal - and it was nothing more than what his and the team's display deserved. Rio Ferdinand sealed the win with a magnificent effort, bringing down the ball in the box and lashing it into the far corner. It was all too easy and we started to believe that we could indeed win the title.
2006-07: Liverpool 0 Manchester United 1
And after this March afternoon, we looked certain to win it. Liverpool, boosted by their efficient performance that got the better of Barcelona at the Nou Camp, were clearly the better team during the game, especially in the second half when Craig Bellamy and Peter Crouch missed gilt-edged chances to give them the lead and probably the three points.
Things got worse when Saha was denied a penalty after clearly fouled by Agger in the box and Scholes was sent off for throwing a punch towards Xabi Alonso. But then came the big moment: Ronaldo's swerving low free-kick was parried by Reina but O'Shea was lurking around and fired home from close range to trigger scenes of jubilation from the travelling Red army. And he realised Gary Neville's dream in the process!
2007-08: Liverpool 0 Manchester United 1
And of course there is this season's corresponding fixture. It was similar yet different to last season's game at Anfield: this time we did not hang on praying for the final whistle and riding our luck but gave a marvellously composed defensive performance that limited Liverpool to hopeless long-range efforts. An opportunistic piece of finishing from Carlos Tevez gave us the lead and though Rooney missed a golden opportunity to settle the contest, we held on for three points - and wrecked Liverpool's title dreams once again.
So there you are, Fergie's six wins over Benitez. What can we expect this Sunday? I'd say that another ugly, tight game settled by a single goal - maybe Rio could step up again?
Date:Friday March 21 2008
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