In 2009, Sir Alex Ferguson famously described Manchester United vs Liverpool as ‘the biggest club game in world football.’
And you can’t really argue with Sir Alex Ferguson, can you?
Heading into the meeting between the sides in March that year, there was a lot of pressure on the biggest club game in world football, but Liverpool weren’t really given a chance.
Perhaps rightly not, given that United had won the Premier League for the past two seasons and boasted a squad that featured Cristiano Ronaldo, Ryan Giggs, Rio Ferdinand, Wayne Rooney, Patrice Evra and Nemanja Vidic, all at the absolute peak of their powers.
Manchester United: Van der Sar, O’Shea, Ferdinand, Vidic, Evra, Ronaldo, Carrick (Giggs 74), Anderson (Scholes 73), Park (Berbatov 74), Rooney, Tevez.
Liverpool: Reina, Carragher, Skrtel, Hyypia, Aurelio, Mascherano, Lucas, Kuyt, Gerrard (El Zhar 90), Riera (Dossena 67), Torres (Babel 81).
The visitors to Old Trafford on that day? Anyone remember Albert Riera? Well yeah, he played.
It was a motley crew of Liverpool players, far enough removed that it bore no resemblance to the 2005 Champions League winners, and still years out from the resurgence that saw Brendan Rodgers take them back into the showpiece competition of European football.
But they still came up with one of the most famous results and performances in the club’s recent history, and for 90 minutes at least, they had United questioning their longstanding dominance over English football.
The hosts were lured into a false sense of security by a strong start to the game. When Pepe Reina brought down Ji-Sung Park in the box, Ronaldo stepped up to open the scoring, and Rafa Benitez must have thought he was in for a repeat of the 3-0 rout at Old Trafford a year before.
But there was a confidence in the Liverpool camp: they were riding on a high after dismantling Real Madrid during the week and there was a sense among the away fans that they were about to see another special performance when Fernando Torres forced an error from Vidic and finished beyond Edwin van der Saar.
Liverpool hadn’t won at Old Trafford since 2004, but they had a rare lead at the home of their rivals when Steven Gerrard turned the game on its head. The Anfield captain did the business from the penalty spot after a foul by Vidic, and it was all getting away from a reeling Ferguson.
But if the hairdryer treatment was out in force at half-time, God only knows what his players were in for on the final whistle. Vidic, who had been torn to bits by the magical Torres, saw red with 15 minutes remaining, and Fabio Aurelio had his most famous moment in a Liverpool shirt when he curled in the resulting free-kick.
And then for the truly iconic moment: as United pushed for a Fergie time miracle, a long, hopeful punt from Reina found Andrea Dossena, who coolly lobbed one over the despairing Van der Sar to secure Liverpool’s biggest win over their rivals since 1990.
John Motson famously said the win had ‘breathed fire into Liverpool’s title challenge.’ In reality, it was a flash in the pan; United went on to win the league for a third straight season with relative ease, and it would be 11 years before Liverpool got their hands on the trophy.
In reflection, though, does any of that even matter?
Well…a little bit, yeah. But Reds fans of a certain generation, to whom victories over Manchester United were so rare, it’s something that ranks up alongside any of the famous days and nights that have come since.