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The rivalry between two of English football’s giants is fuelled in part by the close proximity of the two major cities they represent. But the main ingredient for the rivalry is the level of success achieved by United and Liverpool, success accrued domestically, in Europe and worldwide.
But in terms of titles won, who edges the rivalry between English football’s two most successful clubs? Let’s take a look at Manchester United v Liverpool in trophies. Note – We’re counting top-flight titles only here (not second division)…
Manchester United v Liverpool in trophies – which English rival has won more titles?
Manchester United – in trophies
Domestic League Titles
Manchester United won their first top-flight title way back in 1908. They went on to win the title again a few years later in 1911 – before a 41-year wait for the next.
That came in 1952 during the Matt Busby era. The legendary manager would clinch the title a further four times in his reign – twice before and twice after the devastating Munich air disaster that killed eight of their squad members (and 23 people in total).
But the Red Devils struggled in the post-Busby era. They were relegated to the Second Division where they soon claimed that title (for a second time in their history) in 1975. Two Second Division titles is all well and good, but the club would not compete for titles at the top table until a certain Alex Ferguson turned up in Manchester.
Ferguson took charge in 1986 and it took him four years to get his hands on his first trophy (FA Cup in 1990), and seven to win his first top-flight title. United were crowned champions in the first season of the newly branded Premiership (later the Premier League) in 1993.
They followed that up with success again the next season; indeed Fergie’s side dominated the early years of the league, lifting the title in eight of the first 11 seasons.
They went on to claim a further five titles which leaves United with a record-breaking tally of 20 top-flight successes, surpassing Liverpool’s old record of 18.
Since the departure of the legendary Scot in 2013 United have struggled to live up to the club’s massive expectations. Louis van Gaal delivered the FA Cup in 2016, but current manager Jose Mourinho has the task of rebuilding a depleted squad in an attempt to return the club to their former glories.
Manchester United share the record for the most FA Cup wins with Arsenal. They have 12 final wins under their belt in total.
It’s a different story in the League Cup, though, where they have lifted the trophy five times.
They also hold the record in the Charity/Community Shield. United have lifted the big shield in the traditional pre-season curtain raiser 17 times. They have shared it with their opponents a further four times, back in the day when the game could be settled as a draw, making it 21 in total.
European Competitions (and Worldwide)
Alex Ferguson would often say that his main regret as Manchester United manager was that they did not do more on the European stage. For all their reputation as one of the world’s truly giant clubs, their record of three triumphs in the European Cup (or Champions League, as it’s known now) pales in comparison to the likes of Real Madrid, with 11.
Fergie’s Red Devils did, however, pull off one of the most amazing football comebacks in 1999. Injury time goals from Teddy Sheringham and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer sealed a memorable Champions League win over Bayern Munich in Barcelona. That year they were not only crowned champions of Europe but secured a historic treble.
United were the first English team to win the European Cup, in 1968. They also won the Champions League in 2008 – spearheaded by Wayne Rooney, Carlos Tevez and their talismanic world player of the year Cristiano Ronaldo.
Their other European successes included one European Cup Winners’ Cup win back in 1991. That was quickly followed by a UEFA Super Cup victory.
United have also enjoyed success on 2 occasions in worldwide competitions having lifted the Intercontinental Cup in 1999 against Palmeiras, and the Fifa Club World Cup in 2008.
List of honours:
20 First Division/Premier League titles
3 European Cups/Champions Leagues
12 FA Cups
5 League Cups
1 European Cup Winners’ Cup
1 UEFA Super Cup
1 Intercontinental Cup
1 FIFA Club World Cup
21 Charity/Community Shields (17 outright, 4 shared)
MANCHESTER UNITED TOTAL TROPHIES WON: 65
Liverpool FC – in trophies
Domestic League Titles
Although they haven’t enjoyed a great deal of trophy success in the last 25 years or so, Liverpool still have plenty of historic victories to their name.
The Reds enjoyed a dominant spell in domestic football in the 1970s through to the end of the 80s under the guidance of Bill Shankly, Bob Paisley and continued by his assistant Joe Fagan. Despite still being a major player in English football, however, Liverpool haven’t won a league title for over 25 years, since 1990.
Liverpool’s haul of 18 top flight successes had long stood as the record in England until Manchester United and Sir Alex Ferguson got the better of it in 2011. They took a further step ahead in 2013. In fact, when Liverpool last won the title their rivals United had only seven league titles to their name. Such has been the reversal of fortunes for the the two clubs since the Ferguson era.
Liverpool first won the title in 1901. Their most successful period came in the 1970s and 1980s – between 1976 and 1986 the Reds won eight league championships. On top of Liverpool’s 18 First Division titles they also have four Second Division titles.
Liverpool hold the record in the League Cup with 8 triumphs; three more than the next best pair of Chelsea and Aston Villa. The League Cup is also Liverpool’s most recent trophy win, having lifted it in 2012.
They’ve also been successful in the FA Cup on 7 occasions. That leaves them as the joint-fourth most successful side in the tournament, along with Chelsea and Aston Villa, one win behind Spurs but five behind United and Arsenal. They’ve also not tasted success in the grand old competition for over a decade.
They also have the distinction of winning the inaugural – and only – Football League Super Cup back in 1986; a competition that ran once and was disbanded a year later.
European Competitions (and Worldwide)
Liverpool still hold the honour of being the most successful English club in Europe, which is something for the Kop faithful to be proud of. They won the European Cup 4 times in a 7-year spell between 1977 and 1984.
Their fifth and final triumph came just over a decade ago in a fantastic match in Istanbul. Finding themselves 3-0 down to AC Milan at half time they produced a second-half miracle to take the game to extra time. They eventually won on penalties, largely thanks to the heroics of keeper Jerzy Dudek. “The Miracle of Istanbul” is another classic Champions League final that will live long in the memory.
Unlike Manchester United, they do have success in the Uefa Cup (now the Europa League). They have lifted the trophy on 3 occasions, twice in the seventies and more recently in 2001. That saw them go on to lift the European Super Cup the following season against Champions League winners Bayern Munich.
That was their second success in the Super Cup having already lifted it in 1977. They would go on to lift it again in 2005, meaning they have won it 3 times in total.
List of honours:
18 First Division titles
5 European Cups/Champions League
7 FA Cups
8 League Cups
1 Football League Super Cup
3 UEFA Cups
3 UEFA Super Cups
15 Charity/Community Shields (10 outright, 5 shared)
LIVERPOOL TOTAL TROPHIES WON: 60
TROPHIES TOTAL: MANCHESTER UNITED 65-60 LIVERPOOL
Manchester United shade the rivalry in terms of trophies. But it’s close. Indeed, if you count second division titles it is down to 67-64 in United’s favour. Who knows how different the story would have been had Ferguson stayed on even longer, or perhaps if Graeme Souness never pitched up in the Anfield dugout.
Now it’s up to Jurgen Klopp and Jose Mourinho to try and write the next major chapter in each club’s history books.
Words: Gary Stringer | Main image design credit: Colin Illingworth