At the risk of sounding like a bitter and biased United fan following our loss at Anfield, here are my thoughts:
So, yet another Liverpool vs Manchester United game and yet another humbling defeat for the Red Devils at the hands of their arch rivals. Ho hum. As a United fan there is starting to be a sense of dread mingled in with my customary excitement as this fixture looms large on the horizon.
Yet again that man Torres was the scourge of the tentative pair of Ferdinand and Vidic. Such a torrid time did he give them that, yet again, Vidic couldn’t bear to stay on the pitch till the end, such was his humiliation. But, just as Liverpool’s sweeping counter-attacks put an end to a rather limp United response, YET AGAIN in the immediate aftermath do we see press coverage getting mindlessly swept along in the all-consuming red tide of rejuvenated hope.
Articles and headlines sporting comments like: ‘Manchester United struggling to adapt to life without Cristiano Ronaldo’, ‘Benitez is a guru once more’, and ‘red Manchester are a rudderless as well as a Ronaldo-less force’ have come all too-quickly in the wake of this game. This exact same reaction happened last season, following the 4-1 mauling Liverpool inflicted on United at Old Trafford. And we all know the events that followed that thrashing. Man United were crowned champions of England.
Now, I’m not trying to downplay the ugly performances from United in these games by any means. The Liverpool team have deserved these moments of glory, thanks to their spirited and determined displays on these occasions. These defeats are immensely painful for us United fans, especially this year, as I stood distraught in a bar full to the brim with Canadian Liverpool fans, that erupted in ecstasy as Ngog put the final nail in United’s coffin. We were disappointing, no doubt about it. I buried my face in my coat and left as inconspicuously as I could.
What I’m asking for here is some perspective. Missing Ronaldo? On the evidence of this one game? Let’s not forget he was present in the last two embarrassing displays United put in against Liverpool. Top of the league before this weekend in our notoriously weakest part of the season doesn’t make this much of a crisis in my eyes. The day Liverpool beat us when they start the game ABOVE us in the table is the day I get worried about what these results mean.
In terms of the game itself, I thought it was highly enthralling from beginning to end. A pretty even first half with plenty of toil but few clear cut chances left both sets of fans with much to hope for from the 2nd half. Neither side were playing as well as they could do, though Liverpool had certainly improved on recent matches. Then, after Torres classily eluded the daydreaming duo of Ferdinand and Vidic in the 64th minute, it was United who were asked to raise their game. And they irritatingly didn’t, making Liverpool’s performance look better than it actually was. I know that sounds incredibly biased but United, after Torres’ goal, were poor. It wasn’t very hard to beat us. And yet, despite this, a very crucial moment came when Jamie Carragher clumsily hauled down a goalbound Michael Owen to receive only a yellow card. Had Ferdinand done this to Torres earlier in a very similar situation, as he ran away from him to score, would he too have got yellow? Pointless speculation of course. Vidic indeed did get a yellow , albeit a second one, later on for rugby tackling Kuyt as the last man. This should have been a straight red too. The referee was at least consistent in his flouting of the referee’s rulebook.
These are bitter gripes of course. United lost, our performance deserved it, and we move on. United remain four points clear of Liverpool and two points adrift of Chelsea. At this stage of the season, for prospective title challengers, all that matters is to be within touching distance of the top. All is very much to play for.
One last thing. Then this biased whinge is over. Promise. Fernando Torres has been quoted since Sunday saying this result proves Liverpool can beat anyone. He’s right, but we knew this already. Liverpool can indeed beat anyone. They have often proved this, as their recent Champions League successes testify. It’s beating anyone and everyone consistently enough to win the league that has been their problem. That’s why they’re always below United when this fixture comes around and why it’s always a must-win game for them. Alan Hansen, in the Telegraph, got it spot on. It’s how Liverpool build on this uplifting win that is key. Well done Liverpool, you got a much needed, hard earned 3 points. But can you get enough of these to actually be above United the next time you shame us? If you are, come March next year, I will be one fretful United fan.