The fixture itself has always generated more rivalry than local derbies involving Manchester City or Everton. This is the big one. The cities are suitably close to generate that locking of horns, the determination to be cock of the walk, and the procurement of silverware, always made so much sweeter if the opposing stadium is a trophy free zone.
During the Blanket protest, without ever seeing a television or listening to a radio, I would eagerly anticipate all Liverpool results, and anxiously sweat the Liverpool-Man Utd one. That determined who would gloat and who would prowl the floor of their cell, tail between legs. Despite NIO attempts to cut us off from the wider world as a strategy of isolation and deprivation, we invariably got the scores on the day of the game. Sometimes the result would come courtesy of a friendly nightguard screw patrolling the yard but invariably not working in the protest blocks during the day where the rivalry between prisoners and screws was even more sharp and rancorous than that between the supporters of either team. On other occasions they would be shouted over from H5, having been picked up on a crystal radio secreted inside the body of a blanketman.
One of the few boasts I continue to have about prison life was that I went through the entirety of my stay there without Manchester United ever winning a league title. The United fans in the blocks, of which there were many, were invariably frustrated. Charlie McKiernan used to suffer terribly although he remained in prison long enough to eventually see his beloved Man U lift the title. I managed to get out the gate just before that ignominy befell me.
Since release, all those years ago, the love of the game remains but is considerably less intense. I said to a friend lately that I support the Liverpool fans more than I support the team. When in Liverpool I always make a point of visiting the memorial at Anfield for the fans who died at Hillsborough, even if I am not in the city for a game. The last time there, it was with a Manchester United fan, Mick Browne. Can’t imagine him with a smile on his face today, more the type of sour grimace that comes with sucking lemons!
To win 5-0 at Old Trafford is no small achievement. Poor as United have been this season, Liverpool have been unsteady at the back so there was always the possibility of an upset despite my confidence that the Liverpool Reds could take the Mancunian Reds. Today's is a victory to savour, stroll in the park as it turned out to be.
I used to loathe Manchester United. Much of it was down to the jail and the incessant cat and mouse battle for bragging rights that went on there. But since taking my son to watch them play Sampdoria in the Aviva my animosity has diluted. I even like to see them do well … when not up against Liverpool. And it is hard to dislike their current manager. Today, however, I could not resist chatting to my son who is in the States, telling him the score each time a shot found the back of the net, sending him selfies of a gloating me, while my wife would tell him Dad says Hi accompanied by a photo of his da with a face so unlike the grumpy one he is more familiar with.
Today I am like a dog with two tails, and not knowing which one to wag, nevertheless content in the knowledge that You'll Never Wag Alone.
⏩ Follow on Twitter @AnthonyMcIntyre.