'You don't want to go out there and lie down,' says Redknapp

Click to follow

"Taking three points off Chelsea would be the final ignominy in a very poor season as it would hand the title to the other lot up the East Lancs Road. How nauseating would that be?"

The letter from Len Griffiths of Prenton to the Liverpool Echo was not unique. The sentiment is everywhere across Merseyside. With Manchester United one title away from overtaking Liverpool's record of 18 championships, Winston Churchill's saying "my enemy's enemy is my friend" suddenly applies to the boys from Stamford Bridge this afternoon.

Liverpool have been here before, in starker circumstances. In May 1995, their final League fixture was at home to Blackburn, managed by Kenny Dalglish, who rivals Bill Shankly as the Kop's most glittering icon. If Liverpool won, a Manchester United victory at West Ham would give Alex Ferguson a third successive title.

Perhaps because he was 15 years younger, Ferguson was more pointedly aggressive towards Dalglish and Blackburn than he has been towards Carlo Ancelotti and Chelsea – or indeed any other challenger he has faced since – claiming that their style of football bored him: "I couldn't be satisfied winning the Premiership like Blackburn," he said. "We always try for more than just a win."

Privately, he thought Blackburn would lose at Anfield, saying, "they had been gone for weeks and have no engine left". He had studied Dalglish's post-match interviews and detected, rightly as it turned out, that he was showing considerable strain. Dalglish resigned not long after he emulated Brian Clough and Herbert Chapman by winning the championship with two different clubs.

Taunted that Blackburn would "do a Devon Loch" and collapse in the final furlong, Dalglish fired back that he thought it was a stretch of water in Scotland. And two days before the game, to show how relaxed he was, Dalglish and his staff challenged the media to a game – dressing them in Manchester United shirts – and won 16-0.

In the middle were Liverpool, managed by Roy Evans, a product of the boot room who had known and worked closely with Dalglish since he came to Merseyside from Glasgow in 1977. Jamie Redknapp (pictured below) was intimately involved, not just because he was the last signing Dalglish had made as Liverpool manager but because his father, Harry, would be managing West Ham against United on the same afternoon.

Jamie, like Ferguson, thought Blackburn had "gone". "They were very nervous. You could see it in their faces, they were crawling over the line," he said. "Tim Sherwood summed it up when he said you felt your legs were not your own. Chelsea have a bit more experience of winning titles than that Blackburn team but they haven't won it for three years. They will be nervous.

"At West Ham in 1995 there was a deep-seated hatred of Manchester United because of the Paul Ince transfer," he added. "That guaranteed an intense atmosphere. We obviously wanted to stop Manchester United winning the title but on a day like that you had your personal pride.

"I remember thinking I would be up against Tim Sherwood, who was also in contention for playing for England, and I wanted to make sure I was better than him. You don't want to go out there and lie down, just as I know Steven Gerrard won't want Frank Lampard to dominate him on Sunday and Jamie Carragher won't want Didier Drogba all over him.

"Two to three minutes into our game with Blackburn one of our players gave the ball away and the crowd were straight into him, and I was thinking: 'I thought you lot didn't want us to win this game.' There was a lot of talk of Liverpool fans wearing Blackburn shirts but I remember looking around Anfield and the only Blackburn shirts I could see were in the away end."

Curiously, it was a Liverpool fan who had changed into a Blackburn top for the second half who told Dalglish that Manchester United had drawn at Upton Park and Blackburn, who were losing 2-1, courtesy of a gorgeous Redknapp free-kick that Dalglish felt he never received enough credit for, were champions.

And it was only then that Liverpool's players and staff made their feelings known as Neil Ruddock came into the away dressing room armed with champagne. Conspiracy theories had been disproved, as they so often are. The club that has been Ferguson's greatest ally this season, taking six points off Chelsea and losing twice to United, is the one he probably despises more than any other: Manchester City.