On This Weekend – 19th March 1995
With Liverpool in the League Cup final, Sunday 19th March 4pm was a chance for the Reds to make a mark against a title chasing Man Utd side. The previous game in this season had been a 3-2 loss to a Ron Atkinson led Coventry City, thus Roy Evans’ side had a chance to shape the rest of their season and that of the title challengers.
Coming into this game, Liverpool had two games in hand on Newcastle and Man Utd above them, and three games in hand on Blackburn Rovers, who were head of the table. Further to this, Liverpool were only 6 points behind third, but a dispiriting 15 points behind Man Utd and 19 behind Blackburn . This game gave the Reds a chance to secure European football once more at Anfield. Although, in the 1990’s, there weren’t four places for the Champions League, there was just the one. Yet, everyone expected Liverpool to qualify for Europe through the other two main European competitions, the UEFA Cup and the European Cup Winners Cup, now both defunct.
These observations can be deemed not to matter, especially as the side Liverpool were playing at Anfield that day was Man Utd. The mutual loathing of both sides, both sets of fans and Alex Ferguson’s stated desire to ‘knock Liverpool off their perch’, meant that it could hardly be called a match, but more like a war.
Ferguson’s side of this vintage was not quite the football-playing team of the later 90’s, but a hardened team of older pros, a smattering of youth and a desire to win. The Utd side contained Steve Bruce, Schmeichael, Keane, Ince, Mark Hughes and Ryan Giggs. Liverpool contained such luminaries of Ian Rush, John Barnes, Steve McManaman, Jamie Redknapp, Robbie Fowler and the rather innocuous Neil Ruddock. It should be remembered that this was the year before the ‘spice boys’ final of 1996, with the white suits and the rather tired misappropriations that those suits bought.
Liverpool over-ran the Keane and Ince midfield axis
In the match, Liverpool over-ran the Keane and Ince midfield axis. The pace of a young McManaman, the eager running of an even younger Robbie Fowler and the slick passing of Jamie Redknapp had Man Utd chasing shadows for the first half. Redknapp crowned his display with a well taken goal from the left-hand corner of Man Utd’s penalty box, only his 5th goal of the season. Fowler could and should have made it two, but a brilliant reflex save by Schmeichael denied him in a one-on-one. Finally, with five minutes left on the clock, McManaman’s shot on goal was deflected passed the Utd goalkeeper and Liverpool finished the game two-nil, but still trailing in the league leaders Blackburn Rovers by 19 points.
Although this is not history repeating, it is worth noting the analogous nature of this fixture above and today’s clash with Man City. Both teams are fighting for a Champions League position, both sides are looking for a result that would leave them clear of Arsenal and Man Utd in fifth and sixth place respectively. There is vim and vigour of both managers to suggest that neither would be truly content with finishing the season third and fourth. It is about catching what, at the moment, seems like an unassailable Chelsea lead at the top of the league.
Written by Colin Duffy