Manchester United 2
Rafael (51), Van Persie (pen) (81)
So it seemed to go off OK? Suarez and Evra finally shook hands, the Mancs fans applauded and kept quiet in the right places (Fergie did everything he could to ensure that were in that frame of mind so hats off to him). The flowers were laid and the mosaics’ were effective, The Mancs sang over you’ll Never Walk Alone which was OK although it would have been nice they’d joined in. All emotional stuff sadly there was only two things missing, justice and a win. The former will take some time to achieve but the latter, on the basis of this performance, will surely come soon?
BR named the same side as he did for Sunderland two weeks ago which meant that Sahin remained on the bench and Jonjo Shelvey, deservedly after his performance in Berne this week, kept his place. After six minutes the first blows were exchanged. Giggs fired over and then a mix up involving Sterling and Suarez saw it hacked away by the Mancs but not in a convincing way. We followed up with two more. A corner from Shelvey which saw players blocking off the Mancs defence to create space for Gerrard to run into and shoot. It worked well but his shot was one of those which looked like a goal but turned out to be side netting. Then Borini, after a good through ball from Suarez, didn’t get the right touch and his shot, from a wide angle, was easily dealt with.
These were the highlights of a good but unproductive half hour. It would have easy to allow for the pre match events to get to us however, we kept the ball, forced plenty of corners, pushed on the Mancs who as a result were bereft of space and seemed content to just clear their lines. As ever the nagging doubt was that we hadn’t scored and The Mancs wouldn’t allow themselves to play so badly for so long? Then as always seems to happen when things are looked promising, we shot ourselves in the foot.
This time it was Shelvey seeing red for a rash tackle on Johnny Evans. Shelvey made contact however, Evans also went in two footed – a case for equal punishment? Perhaps, given the occasion, two yellow cards? No so, it was an honest tackle with no malicious intent however, in this day and age you are asking for it if you go in like Shelvey. Our man took his frustration out on Fergie as he left the pitch, quite why I’ve no idea.
We finished the half as we started. Suarez, having gone down under Ferdinand’s slight nudge to the back of his head, fired a free kick that was easily collected by Lindegaard. In the second half BR put his faith in youth bringing on Suso on for Borini. The second half would surly be a big test for us as the game unravelled. Would the extra Mancs man, for all our dominance, tell? Not so, with the second half still wet behind he ears Suso’s cross was cleared by Ferdinand as far as Johnson who was tackled by Scholes however the ball fell to Gerrard in the area. He was unmarked, you don’t do that to the captain and expect to get away with it, his shot was true.
So the dilemma was to carry on or sit back and defend our lead? Before we had time to weigh this up The Mancs were level. Rafael’s bending, shot off the post, gave Reina absolutely no chance. It had been coming, the Mancs’ inertia wouldn’t last forever. Nonetheless we seemed undeterred and kept having a go. Suarez, after doing well to create space for himself, forced Lindegaard to work hard to keep out his shot. Suarez then worked some more trickery before feeding Suso who shot just over. Before this Suarez was upended by Johnny Evans. Contact was definitely made however, as before, perhaps the referee if there was any doubt in his mind thought of Suarez’s growing reputation for milking challenges in the area and went with The Mancs?
A good start however time to aim the gun at our foot again! Whenever there is an opposition goal Glen Johnson is not far away and today was no exception although it is debatable whether he was fully to blame this time. Susa’s lose ball enabled Valencia to break. Johnson was also involved and in an attempt to stop him and, in trying to get back and recover, dived in behind the Mancs player and bought him down. Was it necessary? Would Reina have got it? Why was Johnson so far up the pitch in the first place? Perhaps the latter is unfair as during the incident he collided with Agger, the Dane came off worst. The delay, while Agger was attended to, didn’t phase Van Persie’s spot kick although Reina did get a touch on it.
Despite this we had done enough to suggest that was still a chance for an equaliser. Johnson nearly made amends with a good cross which Kelly nodded just wide before joining Agger injured. This with Shelvey’s ban, is a potential worry for BR. He won’t be pleased with the loss but he and we should take heart from a performance with ten men. It was a win the Mancs barely deserved we had the majority of the play and chances even with ten men. It’s a worry that we’ve made our worst start since Jamie Carragher was a lad (!) however, the signs of improvement are there and with this game we end a particularly tricky set of fixtures.
So it went off OK?. Well not quite after the game we heard the “always the victims” chant together with “murderers” from the Mancs fans who had been kept behind. Why after the good behaviour at the start of the match? Apparently two Liverpool fans invaded the pitch and goaded the Mancs end with the arms out wide aeroplane, Munich gesture. Anyone who though this sort of stuff would be killed off forever after today is naive. This fixture will always be a tinderbox it might drive the chants further underground however, as in life, there is always a small minority who are quiet simply beyond the pale. No one after all their efforts, on and off the pitch should allow this to taint a day, if not a result, to remember?
Liverpool: Reina Booked, Johnson, Agger (Carragher – 80′ ), Kelly, Skrtel, Gerrard, Allen, Sterling (Henderson – 66′ ), Shelvey Dismissed, Suarez, Borini (Jesus Fernandez Saez – 46′ ) Substitutes: Jones, Jose Enrique, Carragher, Sahin, Henderson, Assaidi, Jesus Fernandez Saez
Manchester United: Lindegaard, Rafael (Welbeck – 89′ ), Evra, Ferdinand, Evans, Valencia, Giggs, Carrick, Nani (Scholes – 46′ Booked ), Kagawa (Hernandez – 81′ ), Van Persie Booked Substitutes: De Gea, Buttner, Anderson, Scholes, Cleverley, Hernandez, Welbeck