Scousers weren´t confident coming into this match. The ones I talk to had a similar demeanour about them as we did when we last (properly) played them in March. I wasn´t falling into that trap. I expected Liverpool to up their game from recent fixtures, they always do when they play United. I certainly didn´t expect United to win as emphatically as they did.
Liverpool had the better of the early play but the tone of the game was set up succinctly in the 12th minute when Raheem Sterling missed the first of three great oportunties he was to have this game. Twenty five seconds later, Wayne Rooney put United 1-0 up after Antonio Valencia took out three Liverpool players with a nutmeg on Joe Allen. It´s incredible how such a short space of time could have such a polarising influence on a game of football. If Liverpool had gone ahead, United would have had a job and half breaking them down.
This banner wasn´t allowed to be displayed in the J Stand yesterday because some lily livered jobsworth at Old Trafford didn´t like it. You never see provocative banners at Anfield now do you? (photo courtesy of Neil Meehan and banner designed by Mark Speakman)
The 40th minute saw United go 2-0 up with a goal from Juan Mata who was so far offside that he was nearly behind Brad Jones, Liverpool´s keeper. This will be added source of amusement today for United fans, especially as the visiting Liverpool fans would´ve clearly seen Mata being offside as it happened right in front of them.
Man utd … LOL
— Mario Balotelli (@FinallyMario) September 21, 2014
Actually have to say, fair play to Mario Balotelli for not deleting this tweet, which he made in the aftermath of United´s loss to a feisty pub side in September. Still have to ask though, still laughing Mario?
The second half saw the introduction of a man who considers himself to be the bête noire of Manchester United. Mario Barwuah Balotelli to the predictable and well deserved derision of the Old Trafford crowd came on to the pitch. A man who celebrates his goals like Eric Cantona but plays football like Kerry Katona again earned himself a clean sheet that Brad Jones would have coveted. In the 68th minute, Balotelli forced a great save from de Gea and then he had two chances in a minute late in the game to pull a goal back for Liverpool. That he didn´t means that we can be grateful for the fact that he didn´t pull his shirt over his head to reveal a vest saying ´why never me´ underneath it.
A rapidly emptying Liverpool enclosure after Robin van Persie put the game to bed in the 71st minute (photo courtesy of Matt Ford)
While the Balotelli pantomime was playing, much to a gleeful and unforgiving home crowd, Raheem Sterling, a player of genuine quality who has just celebrated his 20th birthday, was making de Gea earn his christmas hamper from United. In the 51st minute, de Gea outwitted the tricky Sterling to keep the score at 2-0. As well as de Gea did for that, how Sterling missed that opportunity is beyond me. If Liverpool fans hadn´t had prior notice already, they then knew at this moment that this was not going to be their day. This was compounded in the 71st minute when, two minutes after Balotelli had hit the bar, Robin van Persie made the score 3-0 for United. Now the party could begin.
March saw a Liverpool win as comfortable as I´ve ever seen over United, Yesterdays match had the same result but while United were deserved winners, Liverpool were not hammered the same way that United were nine months ago. The fact that David de Gea was comfortably United´s man of the match is testament to that. De Gea´s contract runs out at the end of next season. His last birthday was on the 7th of November, I do hope somebody from Old Trafford got him a birthday cake. Will United fans care today about de Gea being man of the match? Will they bollocks! A win against Liverpool is always a cause for celebration. Reds were yesterday out all over Town having a merry old time and toasting this win. This week, I was told by a Manchester City fan that the United/Liverpool game is no longer the biggest one in English football. He said it is now City against Chelsea. Strictly speaking, in regards to potential title deciders and what have you, he´s right. What he doesn’t understand is that the United/Liverpool fixture has been built up to what it is over the last 45/50 years, to be such as a rivalry untouched by anybody else in England (no matter how loudly they might protest to the contrary). That he and others like him don´t understand that, is not as much a sign of stupidity, more a sign of desperation. It takes time to build up a rivalry like this, it takes truly epic games between the two clubs which have been happening on a regular basis over the thirty something years I´ve been watching football (and I know for a fact a good while before too). It takes an animosity between the two clubs and fans that are far more about each others similarities than we/they would care to crack on. It´s also about a mutual respect which will never be admitted but has to be in place for a rivalry like this to endure. A match like this and the intensity of its rivalry cannot be manufactured by Dirham or Rubels.
I know why Utd fans have been saying this is the biggest game for them. Because they know they can beat Liverpool these days and not MCFC. — Shaun Goater MBE (@OfficialSGoater) December 14, 2014
Thanks to Lee Thomas for his help in writing this