Manchester United 2
Rooney (pen) 12, Park 60
To lose against the Mancs is always disappointing however the overriding feeling after this game is one of frustration. After a great start we seemed to fade away as the clock ticked down. Tiredness after Thursday and Monday or just having no answers to The Mancs once they finally got going? Off with a bang then a splutter and eventual fading away to what seemed like resignation. Torres and Benayoun between them missed the chance of a last gasp equaliser a situation that summed up the game for us. It was there for the taking but for some reason we contrived to pass on it.
Manchester United and the self styled Theatre of Dreams – the club have a history comparable to ours and one might think that for a game like this they might celebrate it in song or via the flags and banners as The Kop do so brilliantly and articulately. However what do we get? “Manchester United beach ball appreciation society”, with a picture of red devil spearing a beach ball with his fork and another red devil with a Liver bird on his! Class stuff, oh how my sides split at such an original inspiring cleverly thought out and passé banner! And people often say that the fans don’t deserve the club they get? My son with some dried up felt tips and sheet of A4 could have done better!
To the game and Rafa bought back Maxi and dropped Babel, too much of a luxury or a gamble for such a game? Gerrard stated up front with Torres while Kuyt was in midfield.
Any nerves that the Mancs might have had about Torres and the 4-1 win certainly weren’t soothed by the opening five minutes. Before anyone could get settled Torres’ neat back heel set up Gerrard. Ferdinand was left standing as Gerrard rampaged forward, he then fed Kuyt on the right who sent in a superb pinpoint cross. All Torres, who was totally unmarked, had to do was jump make contact to guide it past Van Der Saar. Having seen the goal in more detail I have to say it was magnificent effort. Torres seemed to hang in the air is if he was on a wire and the height he got not to mention the run he made to out manoeuvre Neville was terrific.
Sadly before The Mancs could contemplate this Valencia was up ended by Mascherano. Was it inside or outside? The tussle certainly started outside but the player, deliberately or otherwise, went down inside. A difficult position but referee Webb was too proud to consult his linesman. Ultimately it was a poor decision which no doubt Fergie, as devotee to these things will agree with after the game! No so if the papers today are anything to go by, some things never change and Fergie’s grip on reality is certainly one of them? This is the second time Webb has screwed up concerning us remember Gallas clearly bringing Gerrard down at Anfield. You owe us one Howard?
Rooney’s spot kick was superbly saved by Reina however the ball was spinning and instead of going wide it fell kindly and the same player netted the rebound. A little bit of nonsense ensured beforehand as Torres, who seemed to be letting things get to him, scuffed the penalty spot (he was lucky not to be punished) before Rooney took it. This caused Fergie and Rafa, via the fourth official, to have words, all run of the mill Liverpool v Mancs stuff!
So early kills exchanged however after than the game calmed down. Despite the penalty we had begun positively getting forward using the flanks and Lucas chugging further forward like he did against Lille. The midfield probably had the better of it in terms of movement and possession and at the back we were fairly disciplined limiting United to few long range efforts, which were easily dealt with by Reina, and not letting them feed Rooney.
The second half was a different affair with Mancs more prominent. With an hour gone we seemed to have stalled and didn’t look like building on the first half. Perhaps it was time for Rafa to do something, to try and pep us up? However, before we could consider this Fletcher outwitted Insua, crossed to Park who made no mistake running in late with a diving header with Johnson not picking it up. Straight after Torres and Gerrard combined. However, this time the Mancs defence was wise to it this time snaffling out Torres’ mistimed attempt to control the ball when perhaps he should have taken it first time? After that it all kicked off a little with Rat Face on Maxi and then Kuyt on Fletcher. Neville had sent most of game walking around trying to look “hard” but all it served to do was to make him look like he had a particularly bad dose of piles!
Rafa bought on Aquilani and then Babel to try and change things, Gerrard dropped back into a deeper role. However, the effect was minimal as United responded by getting more and more men behind the ball. Benayoun was then wheeled on for the final eight minutes and with, Torres fluffed, the chance to equalise with a weak header.
It was a limp end to an excellent start. The last chance in this game and, in terms of the Champions League, the beginnings of the last post? Perhaps not but if this is so then this will probably have to be our last defeat of the season?
The Mancs: Van der Sar, Neville, Evra, Ferdinand, Vidic, Park (Scholes 87), Carrick, Nani (Giggs 79), Fletcher, Valencia, Rooney Substitutes: Kuszczak, Rafael Da Silva, Evans, Giggs, Scholes, Berbatov, Obertan
Liverpool: Reina, Johnson, Agger, Insua, Carragher, Gerrard, Maxi (Babel 76), Mascherano, Lucas (Benayoun 83), Torres, Kuyt (Aquilani 73), Substitutes: Cavalieri, Kyrgiakos, Kelly, Aquilani, Benayoun, Babel, Ngog