Manchester United 1
Ronaldo 23 pen.
Torres 28, Gerrard 44 pen, Aurelio 77, Dossena 90
The majority of football fans in this country will probably consider this arrogant bulls**t but sometimes when you support one of the so called top four teams it’s often easy to lose a sense of reality. In terms of expectations you look at the game from a different angle compared to other clubs.
Each year as the club gets bigger, or achieves more, the bar is set higher. Champions League qualification all of sudden is the bare minimum, but you need, and hope, for more? For us it’s regaining the league title. However, occasionally football has a nice habit of turning all this nonsense on it’s head and reminding you of why you first got into the game.
It sounds narrow minded, parochial, short sighted and smacks of limited ambition but after Saturday’s game my season is complete. Sorry, I can’t help the way I feel. I can’t be sure but I suspect that even if we win the title against all odds and or beat the Mancs in the Champions League Final the joy I felt on Saturday lunchtime will not be matched this season! For all the clubs ambition nothing can match giving your greatest enemies a severe and thoroughly deserved tonking and in their own back yard in front of their own fans who had, lets face it, come to gloat and see their heroes administer our last Premiership rites ! I shouldn’t really pay The Mancs the backhanded complement of being so happy but it is the nature of this emphatic victory against this background that makes it so sweet and exceptional.
I’m especially pleased for Rafa who has taken a lot of needless personal stick over “the rant”. Comments from Fergie and some of his players over the last week have belied there so called experienced professionalism serving only to galvanise us. Alan Hanson on MotD was spot on when he said that you should say nothing in the run up to games of this type as it only serves to give your opponents something to get their teeth into. Rio, Wayne et al “school boy errors”, go to the back of the class!
The day began badly but then went rapidly uphill. Alonso failed to recover from the knock he picked up on Tuesday so Lucas filled in. Arbeloa inured himself in the warm up thankfully Sami, his replacement, has seen it all before. Riera replaced Babel.
As usual we had the full “range” of the Mancs fans pitiful attempts to taunt us. Here they are European no, “world champions” and with a rich history yet we still get the usual “chav chants” from the terraces. Rather than show the world their might and depth of support as we did on Tuesday with flags etc we get spiteful, banners, t shirts and chants that belittle Rafa and the team rather than herald their own. Plenty of trophies and plenty of success but no originality and, above all, no class!
To the game and I don’t know what it is about Old Trafford that seems to get to Jose Reina. He had a bad one last season and he didn’t look like banishing the memories by bringing Park down. Was it a penalty? Reina did touch Park but was trying to avoid him. Cleary the Korean’s body is made from tissue paper and chicken wire given the easiness of how he went down. Pretty boy just evaded Reina’s hand with the kick.
A deserved start? I’m not so sure but clearly it was a situation that we could have done without. However it was not to last long. Skrtel’s long punt was left by Vidic who, with one of the worlds top strikers baring down on him, clearly thought he was good enough to bring it down and play his way out of trouble rather than apply percentages and lamp it away. Torres stuck out a leg, got his nose in front, and threaded it between Van Der Saar and his right post. The move was a precursor to the nightmare Vidic was to have. Torres gave him a torrid time and was unlucky after his strike not to win a penalty when the centre back halted his progress with an outstretched arm.
United had their moments with Reina spilling, and just grabbing, a Ronaldo free kick and Carrick blazing over however, we didn’t look uncomfortably and were able to string passes together and move up the field much easily than we did no our last visit. Torres and Gerrard were a formidable axis and when the former sent the latter racing through against Evra there was only one winner. Yes Mancs fans, Gerrard was “going down” and your player did it! The kick beat Van Der Saar and the celebration kiss to camera said more to millions of viewers than seventy thousand taunts could ever do.
In the second half one expected the Mancs to come at us and although Rooney and Tevez went close, we weren’t unduly troubled. Then came a key moment. Fergie, the master tactician, made three substitutions, shortly after Vidic attempted to indulge Gerrard in a bout of three falls and a submission and was rightly told to walk. Aurelio has a reputation for being a great free kick taker however, since he joined us one can only assume, if his previous attempts have been anything to go by, that he left his “set piece boots” in Valencia. Not so this time his effort cleared the wall and left Van Der Saar static, leaden and flat footed. Home and dry and Fergie, having shot his bolt with his three subs, unable to respond!
After that Gerrard rubbed it in by skying an open goal from Babel’s back heel. It seems that maligned full backs are undergoing some sort of amnesty or renaissance. We’ve Eboue scoring for fun at The Emirates and now Dossena who got on the end of Reina long kick to perfectly lob Van Der Saar to put more the icing on the icing that had already been added to the icing on the cake!
After the game Fergie disingenuously said
“It is a hard one to take because I thought we were the better team and the score does not reflect that.”
And I thought Comic Relief, or more appropriately Red Nose Day, was the day before!
Yet one doesn’t want to go too overboard. What goes around comes around and one cannot help but feel that our involvement with the Mancs is far from over this season if not in the Premiership then certainly in the Champions League? Nonetheless we should enjoy the result. It was a wonderful, wonderful way to cap a great week. It’s always good the beat the Mancs whatever the circumstances. Comparing the feeling on Tuesday to that on Saturday underlines just how important it is.
The Mancs may respond and go on. However the joy is not because we might be clinging on in the Championship race, it is simply because of the result and the result alone, and, as long as these two clubs continue to have a rivalry of this nature, it always will be that, whatever the context.
Man Utd: Van der Sar, O’Shea, Ferdinand, Vidic, Evra, Ronaldo, Carrick (Giggs 74), Anderson (Scholes 73), Park (Berbatov 74), Rooney, Tevez.
Subs Not Used: Foster, Nani, Evans, Fletcher.
Liverpool: Reina, Carragher, Skrtel, Hyypia, Aurelio, Mascherano, Lucas, Kuyt, Gerrard (El Zhar 90), Riera (Dossena 67), Torres (Babel 81).