What a day, what a game. Add a zillion exclamations after the statement if you are a Liverpool fan, and sadly, a heavy sigh if you are a Mancunian. All I can do is borrow a line from Forrest Gump - 'Sometimes...sh*t happens'
Well, something you might want to praise is my courage. After seeing my prediction fall flat on its face, and boy, what a fall that was, I'm back here sincerely to do the recap of the game. Well, I certainly hope to win a few sympathisers :)
The biggest of the game's pundits got their prediction wrong, and a few common men like me are amongst the early casualties. Liverpool did paint Manchester red, and for the Red Devils, it was the color of blood on a stinging Saturday.
My Big Mistake - Part 1
Starring: Spanish Sensation - Pepe Reina, Cristiano Ronaldo
Co-starring: Carlos Tevez, Park Ji Sung
So, getting on with the game, the game which was being talked about by players and fans from both sides for a long time. It had an electric start to it, as United seemed to take off from where they left against Inter. United tried to dominate the initial exchanges, which they did for the initial few minutes.
However, Liverpool cleverly slowed down the tempo of the game and they did so quickly. The presence and experience of Mascherano and Gerrard in the Liverpool played to their advantage as United started to give away possession quickly.
Liverpool had the first meaningful goal-bound runs, one a piece, by Torres and Gerrard, causing the once formidable back-line. Vidic looked jittery from the early exchanges and was clearly over-awed by Torres' pace.
Liverpool managed to keep the ball well, until a moment of madness by Reina gifted United an undeserved lead. Though Reina tried to pull out of the attempted slide, it was too late and he managed to clip Park Ji Sung, who was heading nowhere. The first mistake of the game.
1-0 to United, without much to show for. They would probably have been embarrassed by Liverpool's generosity. So United took matters in their own hands, and decided to be charitable themselves.
My Big Mistake - Part 2
Starring: The Rock - Nemanja Vidic, Fernando Torres
Even after being gifted with the first goal, United seemed determined not to mend their ways. They continued to give the ball away cheaply in midfield and the final ball was far from desirable. Liverpool, in the meanwhile, preferred to wait and contain, happy to counter when given the opportunity.
And they were not disappointed. A hopeful long ball from Liverpool's half of the pitch, and the ever so dependable, being proposed by some as the contender for the player of the year, Vidic, looked ordinary to say the least, failing to clear the ball the first time and inviting Torres to the ball. Vidic was clearly no match for Torres' pace, and in fairness, Torres had a lot to do after winning the ball back.
A sumptuous finish by the talismanic Spaniards. Van Der Sar, who had been a spectator so far, was beaten well. Liverpool had equalized without much effort. The second mistake of the game, and there was the second goal of the game. Full credit to Torres for scoring the goal; equal credit to Vidic for creating it. Game on!!!
My Big Mistake - Part 3
Starring: The French Chopper - Patrice Evra, Steven Gerrard
Co-starring: Fernando Torres
Well, as if the warning signs were not clear enough, United continued to be sloppy in possession. Liverpool were content picking up the loose ball and forging ahead. SAF would have been praying for the half time whistle to marshal his troops in the dressing room and give them some much needed hair-dryer treatment.
But the men in Red would not budge, not today, not just yet. Torres, who had been pretty much the center of the action as far as Liverpool were concerned, slid across a fine pass to Steven Gerrard, and just as Gerrard seemed to go clear, the blunder was made.
This time though, Evra decided to give Vidic some respite, just for the moment though. An ill-timed tackle on the edge of the box sent the Liverpool skipper tumbling down; it was a penalty. Gerrard stepped up to take the penalty, not his best, but enough to beat VDS, who did not seem quick enough to get down.
The team from Mersey side were ahead for the first time, again, against the flow of play. It was the second time this season that Liverpool had come from behind to take the lead against United. And the umpteenth time this season when United did not know what to do after they scored an early goal.
My Big Mistake - Part 4
Starring: The Rock - Nemanja Vidic, Fabio Aurelio
Co-starring: Captain Courageous - Steven Gerrard
The Spectator: VDS
United started the second half much better. They kept the ball well and launched wave after wave of attacks. However, they somehow seemed to miss the cutting edge in the final third. Cristiano Ronaldo switched flanks and seemed more effective, even though he was being double-teamed all day long.
If someone was desperately seeking attention on the sunny Saturday, it was our own show stopper, Nemanja Vidic. Not content with giving away a goal cheaply, he decided to do it again, yes—it was show time.
The hard tackling, bulldozing center-back struggled to bring the ball down yet again. In a repeat of the earlier incident, he lost the ball cheaply, and to compound to his misery, he brought Gerrard down this time, in a precarious position. He was rightly sent off for his heroics. Someone was on a mission to give David Beckham some competition, for his sendings-off, of course.
Gerrard and Aurelio stepped up to take the free kick. With everyone on the opposition expecting Gerrard to drive a thunderbolt, Aurelio nicked one into the near-post. It was a near unstoppable free kick taking superbly. Van Der Sar was a spectator. All this against the flow of the game, when it was seemingly imminent that United would score the next.
Bulge of United's goal, ball across the line, three points in the pocket. Effectively, Game Over.
Between all the action, Fergie did try to freshen up things a bit by making a triple change. Hopeful is all I would say. The third goal seemed to flatten United. It was a sucker punch. The sending-off was a rub in the wounds. In a flash, all the substitutions seemed meaningless. In fairness, there wasn't much they could do.
And the Credits Roll...
United had been living of the edge lately. They were managing to win without being at their best. I would not be raising too many hackles by saying that United have not been even close to what they were the last season, or the season before that. But the experience gained by winning seemed to push them on.
This season hasn't seen many a day where United brutally killed oppositions, sending fives and sixes past their goals. This season has been more of a Chelsea style—tough, rugged, disciplined 1-0 victories, both at home and away. And today, when that very foundation collapsed, they could not help but fall on their faces.
Liverpool's love affair with the league, the league that has been elusive for the last 18 years, has been reignited. Without being a fraction of what they were against Real Madrid or a few of the other oppositions this season, they managed to win. The score line was flattering. Apart from Dossena's goal, the others will be seen more as mistakes rather than moments of brilliance.
But it is fair to say that Liverpool were up for it. They took their chances and they took them when it mattered most. They won it without being too extravagant. The defense was outstanding despite being patched up. The midfield, though they did not exactly dominate proceedings, played their part rather well. Torres was outstanding albeit with a fair bit of support, more so from the likes of Vidic than Gerrard.
Suddenly the league seems to be alive and kicking again. Will Liverpool carry on from here? Will United crack up under pressure, or will they show the quality of true Champions? Questions will fly as eyebrows have been raised.
United are still in pole position, but there is much a sip between cup and lip. Today United had a taste of their own medicine, winning without being brilliant, winning by being disciplined, something that United epitomized so far this season.
In totality, it is a moment for the Liverpool fans to savor. It is not often that Rafa has scored a few points over SAF. And above all, it was a Liverpool Double over United. Merseyside will be red with joy and celebrations as Manchester bleeds.