Manchester United & The Breaking Of Liverpool’s Record

22 By Ian  |   The Ball  |   May 16, 2009  |     8

By three o’clock this afternoon, it is likely that Manchester United will be the Premier League champions again. A point from their lunchtime kick-off against Arsenal today will be enough to ensure that the title returns to Old Trafford and, while there will be a small amount of amusement to be taken from studying whether Arsene Wenger will be able to witness of all of this with any grace (conventional wisdom says no, but the smart money is on a lot of smiling through gritted teeth), for those of us of a certain age, it will be the end of an era because if or when Manchester United win this year’s Premier League, they will tie Liverpool’s record of eighteen championship wins.

That Liverpool were the most successful club side in the history of English football has been A Truth Universally Acknowledged for most of my lifetime. Supporters can argue for hours and hours over who is “better”, but you can’t really argue with statistics, and statistics are all that Liverpool supporters have had to fall back on over the last sixteen years or so. When the Premier League started in 1992, Liverpool’s record seemed unassailable. True enough, they had stumbled over the previous couple of seasons, but they had eighteen title wins to Manchester United’s seven, but few people would have anticipated the utter domination that United would go on to achieve at the time.

During this period, the one thing that Liverpool supporters had to fall back upon was their record. Those eighteen wins, they supposed, would never be beaten. In the constant droning arguments in pubs, on internet forums and at matches, it was the only counter-argument that they had to the bare fact that Manchester United have had the best team for much of the last decade and a half. With today’s matches, half of that record is likely to fall. The other half – Liverpool’s five European Cup wins – is also in considerably more danger than it was a couple of years ago. United are now up to three European Cup wins and will start the match against Barcelona in Rome later this month as the favourites to win that, too. It’s not beyond the realms of possibility that this time next year Manchester United could stand at the cusp of breaking Liverpool’s record in England and equalling it in Europe.

The old argument that most rivals have more in common than they do apart has, ironically, become more and more true as Manchester United have continued to grind out title win after title win. Most outsiders, though, merely see two colossal clubs in red shirts, both of which have had their brushes with tragedy. When they look at each, they only see the differences between them, when they have far more in common with each other than they do with supporters of the overwhelming majority of other clubs. What must it be like to expect championships and major trophies as a birthright, or to be able to disregard the FA Cup or League Cup as inconveniences blocking the way to greater glory? It’s an experience that is completely alien to the supporters of most clubs. None of this, however, will be taken into account at three o’clock this afternoon, presuming that Arsenal don’t spring a surprise and drag it out to the last day of the season.

What, though, can Liverpool do to stop them? In the short term, it’s difficult say that anything that they can do. They’ve only lost two league matches this season, after all. Liverpool’s best hope is that Manchester United falter. There are two reasons to suspect that they might. The first is financial – the debt from the leveraged buyout of the club remains an albatross around its neck and they could run into difficulties if they stumble in any way. Long term supremacy is far from assured.

In the shorter term, the sole crumb of comfort for Liverpool supporters is that Alex Ferguson will have to retire at some point, and Manchester United’s next managerial appointment will probably be the most important in their history. Should they get it wrong, they might find themselves slipping back towards the world that most of the rest of the game inhabits. The higher the stakes and the bigger the egos, the easier it is for discord to fester in the dressing room and on the training ground. Part of the key to Ferguson’s success has been iron discipline and knowing the right time to offload players that might disrupt the harmony of the dressing room.

Manchester United could, of course, yet blow it. Should they lose to Arsenal today and Liverpool – as expected – beat West Bromwich Albion, they will have to go the The KC Stadium next week to play a Hull City side likely to be fighting for its Premier League life. Stranger things have happened. This, however, remains an unlikely scenario, especially to anyone that saw Arsenal’s capitulation to Chelsea last weekend. It seems likely that Liverpool supporters will have to get used to the understanding that their days of statistical superiority are coming to end. If they can manage to maintain parity from here on, they will have achieved something quite extraordinary in itself.



Ian began writing Twohundredpercent in May 2006. He lives in Brighton. He has also written for, amongst others, Pitch Invasion, FC Business Magazine, The Score, When Saturday Comes, Stand Against Modern Football and The Football Supporter. Ian was the first winner of the Socrates Award For Not Being Dead Yet at the 2010 NOPA awards for football bloggers.

  • May 16, 2009 at 1:17 pm


    One thing they dont have in common however is that Manchester United possess some of the most fickle fans in English football and Liverpool are known for argueably the best fans in the world. In summary many of the united support are glory supporting woodworkers. The emptyness of the prawn palace against liverpool showed that.

  • May 16, 2009 at 3:11 pm

    lfc forever

    man u have won the title only because they have the funds to do it they call chelsea and the other clubs for spending big money on players but they are one of the worst clubs for doing such that so they have bought the prem again look at the underhand way they got tevez and berbatov basically bullying there owners to sell while liverpool work on a budget manu can go and buy any player they wish they are not on a level playing field as the other clubs are.

  • May 16, 2009 at 3:31 pm

    What a hit son

    .Manchester United & The Breaking Of Liverpool’s Record

    And what record did they break ffs none what so ever all they have done is equal our record no more no less when they actually win it 1 more time they can say they have broken it btw TEVEZ in a propa red shirt next season LFC forever JFT96 YNWA

  • May 16, 2009 at 3:36 pm


    You didn’t read any more than the title of this piece, did you?

  • May 16, 2009 at 4:22 pm


    Yea, stats are a funny thing. For all the talk about Liverpool fans only being able to resort to stats during the horrible 90s (there’s some truth in that), it seems that Man U are already in that position this season. They’re clearly second best in terms of their play, being not-very-inpsiring every week, and the two comprehensive losses when they’ve gone head to head with Liverpool just prove the point. Yet at the end of the day by a combination of grit and luck, they’ve managed to eke out the results and have a trophy to brag about. That statistic is all that matters and it’s really all they can talk about this season. While Liverpool fans are left to rue a season where we unfortunately didn’t get to play United every week – that would have been a blast.

  • May 16, 2009 at 4:35 pm

    What a hit son

    then your title should read the possiblity of

  • May 16, 2009 at 4:50 pm


    Oh, right. I see.

    Had you read the second and third last paragraphs that I wrote, you may have noted that they were about exactly the title of the post. I understand why you’re upset today. Taking out on me isn’t really going to help, though.

    Also, a short message to anybody else reading this. Abusive comments will be deleted. Simple as that, really. If you can’t keep it civil, there are plenty of other sites on the net where I dare say the authors will put up with as much swearing and abuse as you care to throw at them. To be honest, throwing abuse at a neutral writer only makes you look a bit silly.

  • May 16, 2009 at 5:29 pm

    lfc forever

    being a liverpool yes i am dissapointed about not winning the prem but what is annoying is the fact that no manu fan or player can say well done liverpool for making it such a good race that is what is dissapointing they can never show respect when it is due so dont expect any liverpool fan to say well done because a man u fan wouldnt theydont know how to respect others even your players openly come out and say they hate liverpool so what do you expect when a player says that what an example that is setting.

  • May 16, 2009 at 5:57 pm

    What a hit son

    respect from man ure doubt that did u see shrek berate the linesman not once but twice today and nothing happend what happend to the fa respect campaign does that not include man ure

  • May 16, 2009 at 6:10 pm


    oh shut up dippers, united are the best team in the world, this is the third title in a row, not jus some fluke out of nowhere. liverpool have spent plenty over the last few years, just hasn’t been spent well. Rafa should have spent on a few real quality players instead of loads of below average squad players(Babel, Benayoun, Kuyt, Degen, Keane, Pennant, Lucas, Riera, Degen, Ngog…….point proven.) Since rafa took over, rafa has shown no aptitude for the transfer market, apart from torres, whom, anyone could see, was a great player. rafa gives out that fergie spends 20-30 mil on players, maybe you should take a leaf out of fergie’s book rafa!!!!!!

  • May 16, 2009 at 6:25 pm

    lfc forever

    jezzo9 that is just the sort of thing i was talking about no respect how does your team expect respect when they have fans like u your players say they hate liverpool and that manager of yous even said he would like to see liverpol relegated arrogance at the highest level no well done liverpool for pushing all the way i dont think there is a humble bone in the whole man u squad.

  • May 16, 2009 at 6:35 pm

    lfc forever

    and why is it that liverpool buy plsyers like ngog babel riera degen pennant lucas because manu just come along with 20mil plus to buy all the other players so no other team can buy them and when fergie sells a player he dictates what team he can go to if he doesnt want a player anymore let that player go were he wants to go to.

  • May 16, 2009 at 6:36 pm


    I’m not even a united fan, i’m a neutral in this argument, i’m just stating the truth. Rafa is making excuses, and if ye are happy enough to accept his excuses, when again he has failed to deliver, then you will continue to finish seasons trophyless. If he would put his hands up and say “i got my tactics wrong, was over-catious, lacked balls, spent badly”, but ive learned my lesson, you might have a chance. But not while he continue’s with if’s and butts.

  • May 16, 2009 at 6:47 pm


    As a neutral supporter, I’m continually astounded that Liverpool have been in the title race at all in recent times, they’ve been playing a pedestrian brand of defensive football with a squad of largely indistinguishable average players looking to two or three outstanding players to bail them out.

  • May 16, 2009 at 6:50 pm

    lfc forever

    sorry jezo9 by the way you were talking you were a manu fan but it still comes down to money and the fact that manu can go and buy any player they want were as liverpool cant they have to sell to buy yes rafa has made some bad buys and made some bad decisions but we r with him and he has just signed a new contract so he is there 4 another 5 years so as a neutral you should understand that it took fergie 5 years a manu before he won anything and he was almost sacked b4 the fa cup win.

  • May 16, 2009 at 6:51 pm


    my thoughts exactly Neil

  • May 16, 2009 at 7:01 pm


    I understand you feel you have to stand by rafa, but when everybody thinks like that,rafa get’s away with falling short, and i think he always will. This year was the best chance rafa will get, you prob think man u and fergie the most hated in england, when really it’s rafa, everybody has lost respect for him. He’s become a public joke with some ov his rants this year, and he just sickens people now. liverpool fans should really be shouting, “this isn’t good enough”, especially when he can’t even admit where he’s gon wrong to try and fix things. Standby for more of the same.

  • May 16, 2009 at 10:48 pm


    Sometimes it baffles me how the most free-scoring team in the league can at the same time be described as the most boring. Sure we haven’t eked out enough 1-0s when we’re playing below par to win the league, that continues to be Man U’s forte. And if a top player is out we can’t replace him with someone just as expensive from the bench. So, not enough wins and shallow squad, fair enough. Even horrendous defending at times would be a legitimate accusation, like letting Arsenal get four goals from their only four shots of the game. But boring? Surely not!

    Of course I’m a Liverpool fan so I’m biased. But I’ve seen enough matches to make a judgement. Man U this season has generally played decently for 20 mins, grabbed a goal or two, and then stumbled along very averagely till the final whistle. And you have to admit it gets them the necessary results. But for a neutral that’s exciting to watch? Really?

  • May 16, 2009 at 10:58 pm


    Also, I’m constantly surprised at how much is made of Liverpool’s reliance on a two or three good players. Most teams are like that, take out the stars and the rest don’t look half as good anymore. And this includes the top teams like Man U and Chelsea too. If you look at the stats, Liverpool’s record without Gerrard and Torres is much better than Man U’s without Ronaldo and Rooney. So, who’s more reliant on two or three star players? I don’t know why Liverpool is constantly singled out for special treatment in this respect. Perhaps it’s the media.

  • May 17, 2009 at 11:40 am

    Gervillian Swike

    I shouldn’t bite…really I shouldn’t…but this argument that United have bought the title, and how it’s not fair on the plucky underdogs from Liverpool, who were presumably made up of local lads turning up for the price of a pie and the pride of the community – I suppose they won Torres in a raffle, instead of what I heard, which was that Liverpool managed to find £27million for the privilege of paying his massive wages.

    The Premier League is a meritocracy, where some teams are better placed than others, but where you still have to use the resources eleven against eleven every game. If you really want a level playing field, let’s have a salary cap and a player split like in the US, and we’ll see all the clubs in the Premiership have the same chance. Better still, let’s split the money between all the league clubs, and stop a couple going to the wall because it’s been creamed off by the fat cats at the top – one of the fattest of all being Liverpool, whose manager is moaning about another club having a few more pennies than his.

    No, United bought the title, Liverpool bought second place, that’s the only statistic that really matters. And it’s hardly been a stumble over the line, United had won 18 of their last 20 premiership games before yesterday. Instead of moaning about the unfairness of it all, perhaps Benitez should try diverting his energies into seeing how he can try and overtake United next season.

  • May 18, 2009 at 6:06 am


    Arsenal fan, so I’m not really neutral, but both these clubs, and Chelsea, and Arsenal, and Tottenham, all spend what they can to win. Can someone list how much each spent on transfers in the past two years so we can actually compare?

    Liverpool found 20m pretty quickly when they wanted Keane and Rafa thought it was fine to sell him for an 8m loss, so any boohooing about not having enough money is a little misplaced.

  • May 18, 2009 at 11:03 am


    Im a Liverpool follower and would like to say well done to Man U.

    No matter how much money each team has it’s the points that matter and big money can still buy you duffers. As much as i hate to say it, Fergie has an exceptional record of building a squad and being able to bring through and purchase quality players who want to win every game.

    Liverpool have had a great year and if they can carry this form into next season they could certainly put some pressure on united again.

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