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Oct 23, 2009

Liverpool v Man United: Six of the best

Always the first game both sets of fans search for when the fixture list is announced, there have been some tasty clashes in the Premier League era between the two most successful clubs in English football history. Here are six of the most memorable battles.

1. Liverpool 3-3 Manchester United - January 4, 1994

In the inaugural Premier League campaign, United lifted their first league title for 26 years, with the gulf in class between themselves and Liverpool - previously the most dominant football force in England - clear for all to see. United continued their irrepressible form into the second campaign but the Anfield club dug deep in this encounter.

While Sir Alex's side were growing into an unstoppable force, Liverpool boss Graeme Souness was failing to recreate the success he enjoyed as a player on Merseyside.

United romped into a three goal lead inside 24 minutes with goals from Steve Bruce, Ryan Giggs and a curling Dennis Irwin free-kick; emphatically underlining their superiority in front of a shell-shocked Anfield crowd. But Liverpool roared back in astonishing fashion as two goals from the often-ridiculed Nigel Clough - including a spectacular 25-yard effort - reduced the deficit before half-time. And then, 11 minutes from time, Neil 'Razor' Ruddock leapt to head home an unlikely equaliser to complete a remarkable comeback.

2. Manchester United 2-2 Liverpool - October 1, 1995

This was a game that will forever be associated with the triumphant return of Eric Cantona after his eight month suspension for the infamous 'kung-fu' kick on a Crystal Palace fan. Cantona would go on to be the driving force as United won the double in the 1995-96 campaign but in his first game back it appeared he would be upstaged by a young Scouse striker by the name of Robbie Fowler.

The 20-year-old Fowler bagged a stunning brace, smashing an unstoppable effort past Peter Schmeichel to cancel out Nicky Butt's opener, before cheekily chipping the Danish keeper with his unfavoured right-foot to give Liverpool the lead.

Step forward monsieur Cantona. After eight-months in exile, there was only ever one candidate to take the penalty when Ryan Giggs was hauled down by Jamie Redknapp. Cantona cooly slotted home and proceeded to climb the pole beside the goal as the Stretford End welcomed back their hero. The enigmatic Frenchman would score again against Liverpool that season, volleying home an 85th minute winner to seal an FA Cup final triumph for Sir Alex's side.

3. Manchester United 0-1 Liverpool - December 17, 2000

Danny Murphy's solitary goal provided an important breakthrough for Liverpool who had not won at Old Trafford for ten years. It was also the first of four consecutive victories over United, which included another Danny Murphy winner the following season.

Gerard Houllier was beginning to put his stamp on the side and the victory over rivals United, as well as a 2-0 win in the reverse fixture at Anfield, were highlights of an impressive trophy-laden season for the Merseyside club.

Murphy curled in a magnificent free-kick just before half-time to seal the victory for Liverpool and substitute Luke Chadwick was sent-off in the 89th minute to compound United's misery.

Houllier's side would go on to claim a triple crown of UEFA Cup, FA Cup and League Cup silverware at the end of the season, while United romped home to a third successive Premier League title, finishing ten points ahead of second-placed Arsenal.

4. Manchester United 4-0 Liverpool - April 5, 2003

United had been outdone by Arsenal's double-winning side in the 2001-02 campaign but the Red Devils were on course to regain the title when they took on rivals Liverpool, looking for revenge over the Merseysiders for the 2-0 Carling Cup final defeat two months earlier.

Sami Hyypia's fifth minute sending-off for bringing down Ruud van Nistelrooy set the tone for the afternoon, as the Dutchman dusted himself down and netted the resulting spot-kick. He added another from 12-yards before Ryan Giggs and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer completed a resounding victory.

It was United's most comprehensive win over Liverpool in half a decade and Houllier's side finished the season fifth after losing out on a Champions League place to Chelsea on the final day, while United clinched a 15th Premier League title with a game to spare.

5. Liverpool 0-1 Manchester United - March 3, 2007

Having watched on for three seasons as first Arsenal and then Chelsea (twice) lifted the Premier League title, United were determined to regain the trophy in the 2006-07 campaign. After escaping with a Cristiano Ronaldo-inspired 2-1 victory over Fulham the previous week, United laboured for 90 minutes at Anfield and had Paul Scholes sent off after the ginger maestro threw a punch at Xabi Alonso.

Benitez's side did everything but score and were punished for their profligacy in injury time when John O'Shea popped up at the back post to hammer home the winner, after Jose Reina spilled Ronaldo's free-kick. The Irishman looked as surprised as anyone as he put the ball in the back of the net and Sir Alex's side stole what would prove to be a crucial three points as they reclaimed the title two months later.

6. Manchester United 1-4 Liverpool - March 14, 2009

The build-up to the game had focused on the possibility of United effectively putting the championship to bed with a victory as the champions held a seven-point lead over their title-rivals (having won 11 consecutive league games and conceded just twice in fifteen league outings).

But despite going 1-0 down to a Cristiano Ronaldo penalty, Liverpool bounced back to record an astonishing 4-1 win to breathe life back into the title race, with Fernando Torres running the previously unflappable Nemanja Vidic ragged for 76 minutes until the Serbian was sent off for bringing down Steven Gerrard.

Gerrard had netted a penalty equaliser and Torres sprinted beyond Vidic to put Liverpool 2-1 up before half-time. After Vidic was given his marching orders, Fabio Aurelio scored the resulting free-kick, with Andreas Dossena completing the rout - the perennial benchwarmer lobbing the ball over Edwin van der Sar to further embarrass United and hand Sir Alex's side their heaviest home defeat since losing by the same 4-1 scoreline to QPR in 1992.

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