In a day when Arsene Wenger celebrated his one thousandth game with a record equalling defeat at Stamford Bridge; in a day where Andre Marriner made a refereeing mistake that will give him indefinite sleepless nights; in a day when Daniel Sturridge bravely shook off the national vilification for his disgraceful antics last week with a goal at Cardiff (waddya mean you’ve heard nowt about it?), Wayne Rooney equalled, then surpassed Jack Rowley’s scoring tally and stole the headlines with a goal from 58 yards at the Boleyn Ground. It’s hard to say which is Rooney’s best ever goal and it can obviously only ever be a matter of opinion anyway, but it’s comfortably the furthest goal he’s ever scored. The goal has been constantly compared to David Beckham’s goal against Wimbledon at Selhurst Park in August 1996. Personally, I think it’s more akin to Nayim’s fantastic goal for Real Zaragoza against Arsenal in the 1995 European Cup Winners Cup Final in Paris (shown below). Like Andre Marriner, West Ham United keeper Adrian will have a few sleepless nights coming up. Even with admiring the brilliance of Rooney’s initiative, a keeper should never be beaten from that distance (unless you’re David Seaman)
Losing at Anfield under normal circumstances is forgivable, never nice but forgivable. No matter how shit Liverpool are, they always make a visit to Anfield a hard game for United. They raise their game, play out of their skins and all other cliches that can and will, be recited ad nauseum over the next couple of weeks whilst Liverpool celebrate winning their first title in twenty four years. Today, United had seven corners to Liverpools two. United who for the last few years have taken corners like an articulated lorry, never looked like threatening a stout home defence whilst Liverpool, scored from their first corner on three minutes after Tom Cleverley ducked out of the way of a goalbound Daniel Sturridge header. This was a bad goal to concede but there was plenty of time to regroup and put some sustained pressure on the Liverpool goal. For the next ninety two minutes (obviously including injury time), United ‘enjoyed’ 57% possession compared to Liverpool’s 43%. To paraphrase Samuel Johnson though, statistics like ‘patriotism, is the last refuge to which a scoundrel clings’, but these statistics make things even worse. Despite Liverpool not playing brilliantly, despite United’s superior possession and corners, Liverpool deserved this win. Since the final whistle I’ve heard David Moyes say ‘I thought we played well, as well as anytime this season’. I’m only hoping Moyes is presenting a positive front for the media and not truly believing that himself. I can’t believe he would have said the same to the United players in the Anfield changing room post match. I remember Sir Alex saying after United lost at Maine Road in 2002 that ‘we should have let the fans in the changing room after that performance’. I could easily say the same about this disgrace of a showing. The United players who turned out for this game should be locked in a darkened room and shown a video of United/Liverpool matches from the 80’s and 90’s.
Atmospherically, United against Liverpool is never going to be the Woodstock festival but passing by the Liverpool fans today on the forecourt, about quarter of an hour before kick off, both sets of fans were baiting each other, divided by police lines. It may have been a lot of hot air, the ‘hold me back’ bollocks that occurs when traditonal enemies see each other and want to put a bit of a show on. I didn’t recognise one person in amongst the crowd who were ‘firm’. The last time I saw Old Trafford this moody was in January 2002 when Danny Murphy scored a late winner for Liverpool in the Stretford End. That was post match but today, it was all pre-game. The corresponding match last season was played in the wake of the furore of the Suarez/Evra affair and a pretty sickening FA Cup defeat at Anfield two weeks prior. The atmosphere that day outside the ground was nowhere near as lively then as it was today going in. By United/Liverpool standards, the atmosphere in the today during the game was quiet subdued. Maybe it was the kick off time or maybe it was the freezing weather but after the pre match bravado outside, once inside people seemed more concerned with keeping warm than creating the raucous atmosphere we normally get at this fixture. A couple of minutes into the game, Liverpool fans made a statement of intent when a smoke bomb went off in the middle of their stand. Apart from the Scousers displaying their legendary self celebrated wit with songs about Bryan Robson having VD and implying Gary Neville’s relationship with his mother had not progressed past the oedipus complex, this was the sole contribution they made to first half atmosphere.