It would be quite an understatement to say that Manchester United and Liverpool fans have not exactly been bosom buddies over the years but that has not always been the case when it comes to their respective club’s managers. Granted, former Liverpool boss Rafa Benitez and Sir Alex Ferguson have had their share of differences in the last few seasons but current Anfield manager Roy Hodgson and Ferguson both acknowledge that they have long enjoyed sharing a glass of wine during their close friendship.
The sadly departed Bill Shankly and Sir Matt Busby were also known to have had huge respect for each other and had a strong relationship during their many years in charge of the two clubs. Liverpool legend Kenny Dalglish has now revealed how he went in to bat for Sir Alex in those difficult early days at Old Trafford in his new book My Liverpool Home: Then and Now.
“Ferguson and I have had the odd disagreement down the years” he admits “but I stood up for him when he first came south from Aberdeen. At one North-west football writers’ dinner in Manchester, Fergie didn’t turn up because he was getting pilloried in the press. So I made a wee speech, trying to correct the wrong impression the media had of our relationship.”
‘You have Fergie and me in a conflict’ I said ‘I’m in competition with him, I want to beat him, but I don’t have a problem with Fergie. He hasn’t got a problem with me, so you are inventing the problem. And another wee thing, you are presumptuous in your critical thinking about him as a manager. Fergie’s a good manager and you need to take a rain check on that. Give him time.’
“It wasn’t the greatest speech” he confesses “but I wanted to explain my relationship and respect for Ferguson. United’s old physio Jimmy McGregor was at the dinner and came up to me later on. ‘I’m sure the Gaffer will appreciate that support, he needs it’ Jimmy said to which Dalglish simply replied “Jimmy, it’s only the truth.”
“Given how well United have done since then under Fergie” he continued “I probably should have kept my mouth shut but his success is no surprise to me. Ferguson’s got the work ethic, toughness, ability and knowledge and he’s built United the way he wants it. When I look across at Old Trafford, it’s like the old days with Liverpool, bringing in two or three class acts every year.”
Despite the undisputed fact that Dalglish is an Anfield legend, he will also go down in football folklore as being a bit of a class act himself.
How close did Manchester United come to shooting itself in the foot back in the 80’s?