How Manchester City and Liverpool’s rivalry became English football’s fiercest fixture

Manchester City v Liverpool has become the main spectacle of the Premier League, and in recent years it has seen its fair share of controversy.

Offensive chants Barbs press conference. Missiles launched against buses. A police investigation. The list goes on.

The two clubs lock horns again on Thursday, in the latest episode of a newly established rivalry.

But how did we get here?

How did the rivalry begin?

The animosity between the fans of both clubs has been a theme for the vast majority of the last decade.

Perhaps the first sign of the budding rivalry between Liverpool and Manchester City came back in 2014 when the two clubs first battled for the Premier League title.

They met at Anfield on April 13 that year and a brilliant finish from Philippe Coutinho saw Liverpool take a huge step towards a first league triumph in nearly 25 years.

Coutinho delivered what should have been a decisive blow in April 2014 (Photo: Alex Livesey/Getty Images)

As a small number of Manchester City fans left the ground after the game, their minibus was attacked and the window smashed. Those on board alleged that it was people wearing Liverpool shirts who caused the damage.

In the end, it was the fans inside the bus who had the last laugh as Manchester City pipped their north-west rivals to the league title.

However, targeting buses would remain a key issue going forward.

Another flash point

During the 2017/18 season, the two teams met in the Champions League at the quarter-final stage.

When Manchester City’s players and staff arrived at Anfield, they were met with a particularly hostile atmosphere. A series of missiles were fired at the visitors’ bus causing significant damage and resulting in a €20,000 fine from UEFA.

Jurgen Klopp was quick to condemn the behavior of the fans involved, but the damage had already been done, physically and emotionally.

There was no punishment for the perpetrators as far as Merseyside Police was concerned, a result which Manchester City felt was “disappointed” at the time.

Fortunately, the second leg of the same tie went off without too much trouble, but there was still a lot more to come from both sets of fans.

Songs of Hillsborough

Before last season’s FA Cup semi-final, Manchester City were politely asked to observe a minute’s silence for the 33rd anniversary of the Hillsborough disaster, which claimed the lives of 97 fans in 1989. However, it was interrupted by offensive chants.

A section of Manchester City fans observed a minute’s silence during the FA Cup semi-final in April (Photo: Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)

Speaking after the game, a club spokesman said they were “extremely disappointed” by the behavior of the fans.

They also launched an investigation in April after two supporters were recorded appearing to jeer at the disaster during the 2-2 league draw.

Those chants resurfaced earlier this season when the two clubs met at Anfield in October. Five minutes into the thrilling match, fans in the away section could be heard chanting in reference to the Hillsborough disaster.

What else happened in that game in October?

This incident was far from the only controversy of the party.

Despite only having one goal, it was considered one of the most exciting Premier League games in recent times. A calm finish from Mohamed Salah decided the match which was played amid a ferocious atmosphere.


Some touching on the touchline only added fuel to the fire as Klopp was shown a red card for his behaviour, for which he later claimed full responsibility. He unleashed a barrage of abuse straight at assistant referee Gary Beswick, leaving Anthony Taylor with little option but to dismiss him.

Before that, Pep Guardiola had played a part in angering the home fans as he lashed out at those in the main stand after being outraged to see Phil Foden’s goal ruled out.

Guardiola claimed after the game that he had been the target of coins from Liverpool fans in that section of the stadium. He then joked: “People tried but they didn’t touch me. Maybe next time they’ll be better.”

Klopp, speaking after spending the final stages in the stands, publicly apologized while the club and FA investigated the incident. Liverpool could not find conclusive evidence and were therefore unable to punish any fans.

Then, the day after the match, City claimed that their bus had been attacked again, claiming that an object smashed the windscreen of their vehicle.

Merseyside Police were again involved, with a complaint lodged on Tuesday. However, no one has been arrested or charged in relation to the alleged incident.

There were also allegations of criminal damage to City fans, with footage of broken graffiti and vandalized toilets at the end.

After the game, City sensationally claimed that comments made by Klopp about the financial disparity between the two clubs in his pre-match press conference on Friday were responsible for the heightened atmosphere at Anfield, even considered “borderline xenophobic” and “racist”. ‘.

These suggestions were denied by Liverpool. No one from Manchester City made the allegation publicly.

What has been done to improve relations with fans?

There are understandably concerns that further problems could arise when the two sides meet before Christmas in the Carabao Cup.

For this reason, senior officials from both clubs held a meeting last month to improve relations between fans, The Athletic reports.


Representatives of the two clubs’ supporter networks – City Matters and Liverpool’s Supporters Board – attended the same meeting and acknowledged that only a small proportion of supporters have caused the problems.

As a result of this union, both clubs took the decision to write to their supporters to “address the behaviour” that has led to the recent unpleasant scenes.

The joint letter was signed by the CEOs of the two clubs: Ferran Soriano at Manchester City and Billy Hogan at Liverpool. It read: “We are writing to you today on behalf of Manchester City and Liverpool ahead of our Carabao Cup match at the Etihad Stadium later this week.

“As with any meeting between our clubs, it promises to be a fantastic spectacle of football and we’re sure you’re all counting down to kick-off.

“The passion and enthusiasm we see from our fans when we play each other, at the Etihad Stadium or at Anfield, is part of what makes games between our clubs so special, and we know you are committed to creating an environment stadium where everyone is welcomed, accepted and has a fantastic match experience.

“Unfortunately, from recent meetings between our clubs, we also know that a minority of fans are responsible for behavior and actions that have no place in our game.

“We are therefore writing to ask for your full support in tackling this behavior and ensuring that the good names of our clubs are preserved. You can help us by reporting any incidents via the options at the end from this email.”

You can read the rest of the message from the two CEOs here.

What have Klopp and Guardiola said about the rivalry?

After the FA Cup semi-final, and the subsequent visit of Manchester United, Klopp addressed the chants about Hillsborough from rival clubs.

“I never expect perfection, but I always think that in general the fans will be a force for good because they almost always are what they are,” said the Liverpool manager. “That’s why I’m incredibly disappointed that we’ve been hearing more and more songs about the Hillsborough disaster lately.

“Really? Is the death of 97 people in a tragedy now something to be laughed at? How did this happen?

“We have staff at the club who lost loved ones at Hillsborough. There are supporters in the crowd at all our games who lost friends or family or survived the tragedy. They have been through more than enough.

“No one should think it’s okay to make them suffer more because it’s not.

“I know there’s going to be someone who’s going to say, ‘But what about this and that?’ So I’ll make it very clear: if you’re going to a football game to sing about people losing their lives, you really shouldn’t bother coming . Football doesn’t want that and football doesn’t need it.”


Klopp and Guardiola have shared a very strange relationship over the past six years (Photo: Michael Regan/Getty Images)

Guardiola, speaking after the defeat in October, has apologized for the chants that emanated from the outside.

I didn’t hear the chants, if it happened I’m very sorry,” he said. “It doesn’t represent who we are as a team or a club if this happens, but don’t worry, we can behave perfectly and learn from our mistakes without any problem.”

He was then asked about the relationship between the two clubs being toxic, to which he replied: “I don’t think so. For our part, I’m pretty sure.”

(Top photo: Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)

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