Manchester United 1
Ask anyone my age who their favourite Liverpool player is/was and I’d wager that most would say Kenny Dalglish. Roll forward twenty years or so and ask the same question to fans who are twenty years younger and Steven Gerrard would probably lead the way.
So when Kenny took over in January of this year there was a certain fascination over how the two icons of different generations would gel. Sadly, and not through their own fault, they’ve circling each other like two wallflowers at a disco who were meant to be together but seem unable to hit it off!
Firstly it got off to an inauspicious start with Gerrard’s sending off in Kenny’s first game, then secondly Gerrard picked up an injury which meant we’d not see him until recently. Then there was today. Gerrard’s comeback and his first full ninety minutes which was punctuated by a goal. What’s the common denominator? When all these events happened we were playing The Mancs.
Until Hernandez jumped up and nodded past Reina it looked as if the circle was to be squared. The talisman had returned to join his elder but, as ever, nothing is always perfect on football and no doubt quite a few match reports drafted to trot the line I’ve just taken in the first few paragraphs of this piece were hastily rewritten after The Mexican struck?
Despite this, and a lost opportunity to gain ground, this was a performance we should take encouragement from. The Mancs came with damage limitation in mind which is not surprising given that their last three visits to Anfield that have all ended in defeat. However, although cold hearted statisticians and others will say they gained a point, and that we lost two, there was more to it.
Kenny needed to drop someone to make way for Gerrard and the unlucky person was not Charlie Adam, as many would have presumed, but Andy Carroll which was perhaps something of a surprise given his strike at Goodison two weeks ago? The Mancs started with Rooney on the bench which said loads about their strength in depth but also lots about the loose cannon they have on their books, England’s “shame” was our gain?
The game kicked off and anyone who had been watching a Liverpool v Mancs encounter for the first time could be forgiven for thinking “what is the fuss about”. I can’t recall any major chances for the first twenty minutes as both sides simply knocked the ball around almost as if they had a pre match agreement to “leave off for a bit” whilst they acclimatised themselves to the conditions. All we saw was Jones’ header into the side netting and Gerrard’s tantalising, inviting cross that none of our players in the box could connect with.
The lack of any major incident took the sting out of the game and, as a result, the crowd. Perhaps this was playing into the Mancs hands however it was us that slowly began to wake up in the sun. The first opportunity fell to Suarez who seized on the loose ball after Adam’s shot had bounced off Evans. The Mancs defender recovered but then fell for Suarez’s dink and turn however our man couldn’t find a route past De Gea and ended up firing not his midriff. After that we kept wheedling away. There were good runs from Downing and Skrtel, on the other side Fletcher and Park had good shooting opportunities which ended up causing more trouble to the corner flag than Pepe!
In the second half Reina had to do his first bit of real work and deal with Young’s free kick however we soon settled and continued to chip away at the Mancs defence. There appeared to be a certain penalty ignored after Evans handled from Kuyt’s header. Then Suarez was unlucky not to get on the end of Adam’s free kick and Gerrard waltzed through the Mancs defence and tested De Gea with a low shot. This was typical of the passage of play with Gerrard, Kuyt Suarez and Downing on the wing keeping the Mancs penned back as they tried to find a way through. Eventually we got our just desserts.
It came after Ferdinand upended Adam on the edge of the area (should he have been sent off?). Perhaps the Scot felt the resulting free kick was an ideal opportunity for him to have an attempt at goal however Gerrard pulled “rank”, stepped up, saw Giggs pull out early (not for the first time!) and passed the ball through the gap into the De Gea’s bottom left hand corner. It was a just goal for the team, as we had bossed most of the play, and for Gerrard whose performance had shown no signs of the long lay off he’d had.
The Mancs responded by bringing on Rooney however it was Welbeck’s header that helped over Nani’s corner to find Hernandez who had easily wriggled free from Skrtel. At 1-1 perhaps the momentum would be with the equalising side however we rallied admirably. Straight from the kick off Downing sent over a great cross that Kuyt connected with perfectly, unfortunately De Gea’s response was up to it. The resulting corner saw the Mancs all at sea but again they managed to hold out then Skrtel, in a good position to atone for letting Hernandez off the leash, produced a typical centre half’s effort, firing high into The Kop! De Gea wasn’t finished keeping out Henderson’s dipping volley and then foiling the same player again, this time it was a header from Downing’s cross.
After the game Fergie bemoaned the “soft” free kick that lead to our goal and Kenny said we deserved three points. Predictable responses but who would have it any other way? Steven Gerrard perhaps? However, despite Hernandez’s intervention, he and Liverpool have just cause to be pleased?
Liverpool: Reina, Jose Enrique, Carragher, Kelly, Skrtel, Gerrard, Downing, Lucas (Henderson 57), Adam, Suarez, Kuyt, Substitutes: Doni, Agger, Robinson, Henderson, Spearing, Carroll, Bellamy
Manchester Utd: De Gea, Evra, Jones (Hernandez 76), Ferdinand, Evans, Smalling, Giggs, Park Ji-Sung (Rooney 69), Young (Nani 69), Fletcher, Welbeck Substitutes: Lindegaard, Anderson, Carrick, Nani, Valencia, Rooney, Hernandez