“Gary Neville is a red, is a red, is a red. Gary Neville is a red, he hates scousers.”

If you are a frequenter of social media you might have caught sight of the Sky Sports presenter exiting Turf Moor following Manchester United's 1-0 win over Burnley in which he hummed along to his infamous song. It was long a terrace favourite at Old Trafford during Neville's time as a player and he was indulging in some gentle badinage ahead of a game at Anfield that will pit United – top of the Premier League in January for the first time since Sir Alex Ferguson left the club – against the champions Liverpool tomorrow.

It spoke to a city rivalry that has become entrenched in English football; while the animus is rooted in the Industrial Revolution of the late 19th century, on the pitch, it is a more modern invention that has steadily intensified since 1977 when United denied Liverpool a treble by beating then 2-1 in that year's FA Cup final. In the years that have followed, both sets of fans have claimed pre-eminence over the other as trophies have stacked up. There has been a more depressing element, too, with songs about the Heysel, Hillsborough and Munich disasters sung at matches between the two.

The extent of the hatred between the clubs can be found in the lack of transfer dealings between the two. Michael Owen and Paul Ince are the only two in the Premier League era to have worn the shirts of both clubs and you have to go back more than 50 years to find the last instance of a player leaving one club directly for the other, when Phil Chisnall swapped Old Trafford for Anfield in 1964.

The first Scot to make the reverse trip was Tom Miller when he joined United from Liverpool in 1920. It was hardly on a par with modern-day transfer sensations such as Maurice Johnston signing for Rangers or Luis Figo swapping Barcelona for Real Madrid. The clubs were not involved in the kind of febrile rivalry that prompted Neville's wind-up post on Twitter on Tuesday evening.

So who was Miller? A trawl of newspapers of the day and online archives throws up little in the way of concrete information.

Of course, the bare facts are there: Miller was born in Motherwell in 1890 and was one of four brothers who all played for Hamilton Academical. He featured for a number of Scottish clubs – including Larkhall United – before making the move to Accies, whereupon he attracted the interest of Liverpool manager Tom Watson and a £400 transfer took him south to Merseyside in February 1912.

One article in the Athletic News informed readers that Miller measured a shade under 5ft 9ins and weighed 11st 5llb – if those dimensions suggest he was of fairly stocky build, sepia images of Miller from the era seem to confirm it. Yet, he was quick, a trait he improved following his move to Liverpool, sufficient enough to warrant a positional change. Where he had been an inside forward in his earliest days, he was a centre-forward by the time Liverpool lost the FA Cup final of 1914 to Burnley. His story was seemingly unremarkable – indeed, in that same Athletic News article, the biggest revelation was that Miller's favourite pastime was a game of quoits in summer.

If that spoke to the nature of journalism in Edwardian Britain – heavily concentrated on hard news and slim on colour – there was a massive story waiting around the corner that would tarnish Miller's reputation, bring a lifetime ban from the game and end with redemption on the battlefields of France.

The Good Friday match in April 1915 between Manchester United and Liverpool has been well documented such is its notoriety and remains one of the most blatant examples of match-fixing in British football.

In the build up, players from both sides had met in The Dog and Partridge pub in Manchester. Huddled in a corner, seated away from the throng of regulars were alleged to have been the United trio Enoch West, Arthur Whalley and Sandy Turnbull, a Scot from Hurlford, who had won two league titles with United – and an FA Cup six years earlier; also said to have been present was Jack Sheldon, now of Liverpool but previously a winger at United.

A flurry of bets on relegation-threatened United to win 2-0 against Liverpool – in mid-table but certainly not out of trouble themselves – were placed prior to kick off.

From the outset it appeared Liverpool had no intention of winning and Gordon Anderson scored twice in each half as United strolled to victory. The standard of play after half-time was so awful that a report in the Sporting Chronicle read: “it was too poor to describe”.

Our man Miller, though, received plaudits for his performance along with Elisha Scott, the Liverpool goalkeeper, and Anderson the goalscorer.

But the praise belied a more sinister truth. It was said that when Liverpool forward Fred Pagnam hit the bar in the first half, he was apparently berated by his team-mates. Patrick O'Connell, the United centre-half, took a penalty that was 'yards wide' and the referee John Sharpe concluded that it was “the most extraordinary match I have ever officiated in”. At half-time, there was a row in the United dressing room between the conspirators, their disgusted manager Jack Robson and those who had refused to participate in the fix.

The English Football Association soon launched an inquiry and interviewed each of the players involved. It took until December for their judgment to be passed down.

Miller's name rarely appeared in the newspapers of the day during this time other than to speculate on moves back to Scotland and, with the First World War raging, the next mention of him came in early December when it was confirmed that he had enlisted with the Glasgow Highlanders. All that would change soon enough.

On December 23, the verdict came down and the following day's Manchester Courier carried a report that read: “The allegation of “squaring” the match carried with it a charge of conspiracy by some of the players, and as a result of [a] long and searching investigation we are satisfied that a number of them were party to an arrangement to do so, and to join together to obtain money by betting on the actual result of the match. We are satisfied that the allegations have been proved against the following: Liverpool: Jack Sheldon, Robert Pursell, Tom Miller, Thomas Fairfoull [sic]. Manchester United: Alex Turnbull, Arthur Whalley, Enoch “Knocker” West, and William Cook (Chester). They are therefore permanently suspended from taking any part in football or football management.”

Little documentary evidence of any internal club proceedings exists but what is known is that when Miller, Fairfoul from West Calder and his other two Liverpool team-mates returned from the war as heroes, their bans were overturned in recognition of their service, though Fairfoul was, by now, 39 and chose to retire.

In Miller's first season back at the club he scored 13 goals in 25 games. The following year his goal ratio plummeted whereupon he was sold to United in September 1920 for the not inconsiderable sum of £2000. At United, he played under Robson, the United manager who had been so incensed by the actions of his players in the Good Friday game, proving that any ill-feeling had since passed. He struggled to replicate his Liverpool form, though. He was older now and the privations of life in the trenches had taken their toll. Nevertheless, he won his second and third Scotland caps during his time at the club, scoring seven goals in 25 games before leaving for Hearts after just one season.