Manchester United 2
Rooney (47), (50)
It was cold day on the pitch and there was certainly no warmth among the players, the managers in their post match comments and the fan’s chants.
It is a sad, not to mention strange, indictment of football these days that, instead of the game, pundits on Sky and then Match of the Day, were analysing and re running slow motion footage of a pre match handshake. I was praying for someone to say “look this is silly let’s concentrate on Rooney’s goals”, but they didn’t. If racism wasn’t the stain running through this sorry mess it would be laughable however, despite this sense of proportion needs to be maintained much of the coverage over “handshake gate” has been hysterical and pompous.
Prior to the match I assumed the question would be “will Patrice Evra offer to shake Luis Suarez’s hand” and not whether the Uruguayan would accept it. The fact Suarez chose not to when, and this is important, he had indicated that he would, is surprising and as much as it is foolish.
No doubt many, will view Suarez’s gesture (or lack of it) as childish and unnecessary just as others will see it as something else – a “wronged” player defiantly and blindly standing up the over whelming climate of opinion? Us against the world eh? Right on man, let’s sing Depeche Mode! Personally I don’t care, if you feel strongly about it why should you shake someone’s hand? However, such is the knee jerk, simplified way things are seen these days a handshake would have gone some way to putting things to bed – that’s it now, put it in a box, file it away we can now talk about Whitney Houston. However, this grisly issue lumbers on making things worse with every clumsy ham-fisted movement it makes..
It is true that Saturday was the perfect opportunity for Suarez to draw a line under all the recent shenanigans but foolishly and with scant regard for his club and his manager who, rightly or wrongly, has supported him all the way, he didn’t take it. It is disappointing for those who want to move on and it’s not something that will help Suarez’s rehabilitation.
Yesterday Suarez issued an apology, he has done the right thing, but has the damage been done? I think most people have made up their minds about Suarez as a person now and no apology will change that. The handshake is a small irrelevance it is a “bit part” of an issue that has wider significance, racism in football and, bringing it nearer to home, the reputation of Liverpool Football Club. There is nothing bigger despite what Suarez might have you believe and that is why yesterday’s statements, from player and club, are welcome. The only question that needs to be asked is “what took you so long?”
I hope Kenny’s post match emotional outburst was bourn of frustration at the defeat. He clearly seemed not to know what had happened at the handshake stage. Once he knew he apologised for acting in the way he did. Kenny may defend his players in public come what may but surely deep down he must have felt let down? What also remains unexplained is that he, after the appeal, and Suarez, via Twitter after the game, have hinted, “that all is not what it seems”. OK then, fine, well let’s have it out in the open! What are you hiding? It’s become too serious now to cryptically hold things back assuming there is someone to hold back?
As for Fergie’s post match comments, no one can disagree with what he said about racism. As for his assertion that Suarez is a “disgrace” and shouldn’t play for Liverpool well Sir that is none of your business, it is Liverpool Football Club’s business. However the Mancs statement yesterday, in response to our apologies hit the right note
“Manchester United thanks Liverpool for the apologies issued following Saturday’s game. Everyone at Old Trafford wants to move on from this. The history of our two great clubs is one of success and rivalry unparalleled in British football. That should be the focus in the future of all those who love the clubs.”
Hear, hear and I trust that is the end of the matter?
Anyway enough. Always keep them guessing they say which is what Kenny did with his line up to the extent that Fergie admitted it had taken him by surprise. Carroll was dropped to bench, a surprise perhaps given the run around he gave de Gea a few weeks ago? Elsewhere Henderson replaced Adam, Downing took over from Bellamy and Kelly made way for Enrique.
As expected The Mancs began by taking the game to us Rafael and Rooney had chances however we held up well. The one danger moment was when Scholes was allowed to produce a point blank header from six yards out that thankfully went straight to Reina, did he know anything about it? At the other end our efforts were limited, Johnson’s shot went just past de Gea’s post and then Skrtel fired over the cross bar from a corner. Suarez’s “impact” was limited to just that, on Ferdinand in the first minute and a challenge towards to end of the half were he felt the centre half had felled him as he was the last man on goal. It was difficult one to call which saw the referee assuming that the Manc defender had got a touch on the ball.
We finished the game fairly comfortably having ridden the early Mancs pressure and were slowly beginning to apply some of our own if not terms of chances but certainly possession. Apparently at half time there were fisticuffs, handbags and slaps in the tunnel oh dear no tea or TV and early to bed!
Perhaps this wasn’t the thing to happen? Having kept things at 0-0 we needed to start the second half in a focused way. As it was it seemed to galvanise The Mancs. Giggs sent over a corner which, after a flick on, found Rooney who got in front of Glen Johnson and scored. Minutes later Valencia fed the same player after dispossessing Spearing. Rooney was allowed to get away by Glen Johnson and run untracked and unchallenged to score his second. Glen Johnson and the art of defence I’m banging my head against a brick wall! Rooney nearly got his hat trick but flicked it just wide with the outside of his foot.
A few minutes of madness had undone al the good work. Kenny made some changes going for bust – Carroll and Bellamy came on for Spearing and Downing who had a truly awful game? It nearly worked another goal we’d be back in it however, initially we seemed unable to “up” ourselves to the challenge and bedside the Mancs wouldn’t let us being negatively content to keep us back, let us pass across the pitch in a rather forlorn way whilst attacking whenever the opportunity presented itself. However, just as the game appeared to be petering out Kenny played his last card bringing on Adam. His free kick came at an awkward height for Ferdinand, it bounced off his thigh and before he could recover to clear, guess who nipped in. However despite another chance for Suarez, a header that was just offside, we couldn’t build on it
At the end of the game Evra dented his credibility and any sympathy by childishly and provocatively cavorting in front of the Mancs fans and then Suarez. Sigh… you can put it down to passion if you want but aren’t footballers complete arseh*les at times, the whole sodding lot of them. I think I’ll start watching sheep dog trials!
Manchester United: De Gea , Evra, Ferdinand, Evans, Rafael, Giggs, Carrick, Scholes, Valencia, Rooney, Welbeck Substitutes: Amos, Fabio, Park Ji-sung, Cleverley, Pogba, Berbatov, Hernandez
Liverpool: Reina, Johnson, Jose Enrique, Agger, Skrtel, Gerrard, Henderson, Kuyt (Adam – 75′ ), Downing (Bellamy – 61′ ), Spearing (Carroll – 61′ ), Suarez Substitutes: Doni, Carragher, Kelly, Adam, Shelvey, Carroll, Bellamy