Liverpool were struggling in the final throes of the turbulent reign of Graeme Souness. Manchester United were the reigning champions, runaway leaders, on the brink of winning the double and were about to change the landscape of English football for the next two decades.
Their era of dominance was still in its infancy and little did we know then what was in store for both clubs over the next twenty years. Despite our struggles during that period it was still expected Liverpool would win the title sooner rather than later. We're still waiting.
The standing Kop was in its last few months so what better reason to create a hostile intimidating atmosphere than the visit of the Champions; a club who we had mocked mercilessly for the lack of aleague title over a 26 year period and who had only recently ended that hoodoo. Champions they may have been, but we couldn't have them coming here and lording it over us could we. No, they'd have to earn the right to come here and have it their own way.
The atmosphere was one we would get used to again on a regular basis in the Champions League many years later (on a seated Kop no less), but back then for an impressionable 16 year old like myself it felt like something unique to be on the Kop that night. There were flares being lit before kick-off which added to the atmosphere and made it more spine-tingling as people queued up for a couple of hours to be on the Kop for this game. The game was billed as a Flag Night for the fans which was a follow on to a Flag Day from a game the previous May when we beat Spurs 6-2. There were several more of these Flag Days before the end of the season as whilst we were no longer a great side by any stretch, the fans who frequented the Kop were going to enjoy their final games standing on the famous terrace no matter how average the team was at that point.
The 42,795 in the ground were treated to an absolute classic with quality goals from both sides, great saves, chances and an atmosphere that crackled right from the start. It nearly paid dividends straight away with the usually prolific Fowler almost scoring in the opening seconds only to blaze over the bar at the Kop end.
United were much better than us at that time though and made their superiority count once they settled down after those early frantic minutes. They ran riot with goals from Steve Bruce, Ryan Giggs and a stupendous free-kick from Dennis Irwin putting them 3-0 up after 24 minutes. All three goals came in a stunning fifteen minute period. I know it's a cliché but you could have genuinely heard a pin drop at that point on the Kop. Cantona was pulling the strings for United and we couldn't get near him and when it went to 3-0 I was just hoping we could keep the score down at that point.
A minute later we had hope and the Kop found their voices again when Nigel Clough hit a tremendous first time shot from thirty yards out into the bottom corner. We reduced the lead to one goal in the 38th minute when Clough again pounced onto a loose ball and drilled a shot into the corner from the edge of the box. The former Nottingham Forest man had been seriously underwhelming after a sensational start to his Liverpool career, and this was undoubtedly his finest hour in a Liverpool shirt.
The equaliser came in the 79th minute from Neil Ruddock, who powered an unstoppable header from a pinpoint Bjornebye cross past Schmeichel. It was just rewards for showing the pride and commitment which had been missing for large parts of a forgettable couple of seasons and it made us believe that there was still life in us yet.
United were clearly a superior team to us that year but it wouldn't have been right for the last Liverpool v Manchester United game in front of a standing Kop to have ended with us suffering such a heavy defeat against them. It looked very likely to go that way after 24 minutes, but it was to the players' credit - and perhaps even more so the fans - that it didn't happen and some pride was salvaged.
Grobbelaar; Jones, Wright, Ruddock, Dicks; McManaman (