Manchester United and Liverpool has to be one of the biggest rivalries in world football.

Constant bickering in pubs the length of the country over who is the greatest with United fans pointing to their recent overhaul of Liverpool’s magical 18 league titles and the merseyside club’s fans holding up their five European Cups as their constant retort.

But aside from the rivalry which occasionally gets out of hand, there have been times when the two clubs have been drawn together by friendships and tragedies.

For example, such was their friendship that when Liverpool legend Bill Shankly passed away, United’s Sir Matt Busby was so upset that he refused to take any telephone calls from people asking him for a reaction. Busby of course played for Liverpool during his career.

In 1959, when then Liverpool chairman Tom Williams asked Shankly, "How would you like to manage the best club in the country?", Shankly replied by saying, "Why, is Matt Busby packing it up?"

Of course both clubs have had their own tragedies, with United suffering the Munich air disaster and Liverpool Hillsborough and Heysel. Some fans have delighted in taunting each other over the others sad losses, but true fans know the hurt that is shared and respect the line that should never be crossed when it comes to banter.

There have been times when the clubs have not hesitated in offering help to each other in times of distress. After United’s squad was depleted by Munich, Liverpool were one of the clubs who offered to loan them players.

Kenny Dalglish wrote in his mirror newspaper column, "When Hillsborough happened back in 1989, Sir Alex Ferguson was straight on the phone to offer his help in any way he could. People out there have have different opinions about him. Some love him, some hate him, but when something terrible happens, Alex is one of the first asking what he can do."

There have been compliments too, after Rafael Benitez’s amazing win over AC Milan in Istanbul in 2005 he said: "I remember Sir Alex sent me a letter of congratulation when we won the Champions League, praising the tactical changes we made at half-time."

Jamie Carragher, naming his all time eleven best players, picked Roy Keane ahead of team mate Steven Gerrard, saying: "Talking of Roy Keane, he has so much drive, he can get forward into the box to score vital goals, and he can also put his foot in."

Over the years there have been unsavoury incidents, but true football fans of both clubs know where the boundaries of decency lie, and that at the end of the day, it’s only a game, and without each other’s greatest rivals perhaps that game would be a little duller.


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