Saturday, the 14th of March was a momentous day. Joyous for some and horrendous for the others. Just when the league was in the danger of becoming drab and drag, things were turned upside down this Saturday.
As many Liverpool fans would put it, they came, they saw, and they conquered. Of course, United deserve a fair share of credit for their howler.
As far as the neutral is concerned, it was not the perfect game to watch and rave about the standards of English football but the Liverpool faithful wouldn't mind that. Liverpool took United by storm, the look on the faces of the United players told most of the story. They had been stung and stung where it hurt most.
In front of their own supporters, the Champions were brought down to their knees and humiliated. It had been quite sometime since the Red Devils had been at the end of such a spanking.
To make matters worse, it was at the hands of their most bitter rivals in front of their own fans.
Now that the storm has subsided, at least for now, and the dust has settled, lets see how things shaped up on Saturday and will shape up in the coming weeks.
The names of Fernando Torres and Steven Gerrard seem to be synonymous to the title, at least for this game. Even though United gifted Liverpool with most of the goals at important times in the game, there was an awful lot to be done by the attacking duo.
Torres in particular tormented the United defense in general, and Vidic in particular, throughout the afternoon.
As the attacking prowess of Gerrard and Torres stole the limelight, the contribution of Liverpool's midfield and defense went unnoticed. Though the defense was largely untroubled, they deserve credit for standing up to the big game.
The absence of a targetman for United in the form of Berbatov somewhat eased the pressure on the center backs, but the lively Tevez kept them on their toes.
Another bunch of unsung heroes were the midfield duo of Mascherano and Lucas. Though they did not contribute much creatively towards the game, they did well
to break up United's attacks during their inception.
Lucas seemed to wear blinkers so as to keep a close eye on Cristiano Ronaldo. Mascherano, was his belligerent self and would be pleased to have banished the memories of last season's tie at Old Trafford.
Liverpool were far from what they were against Madrid mid-weeek, but few fans would think twice as to which of the results was the bigger one for the club.
Liverpool put in a rugged display and even though they cannot claim to have dominated the game, they soaked up the United attack and were disciplined on the
United were made to look toothless in front of goal as a stern defensive display by a stitched up defensive unit was able to undo any move made by the attackers.
Though the United defense has been getting a lot of flak after this game, the warning signs were evident from the past few weeks.
While United's attacking strength has waned considerably this season, the defense has been the cornerstone of United's success so far this term. Hence, the degenaration of the defense catches the eye more easily than the mediocrity of the attack.
Vidic has generally suffered against pacey forwards more than the ones who provide more of a physical challenge to him. His indecision on the ball compounded with Torres' pace and physical presence cost United the first goal.
The back line of United was poor on the day. Sometimes, football can make you pay for your mistakes; Saturday was just one of those days.
United's decision to go with two in midfield was not very surprising as they were playing at home and the prerogative was theirs to attack. However, United seemed to lack experience in midfield.
The absence of Scholes/ Giggs was sorely felt on the day as United struggled to keep possession of the ball. Their lion's share of possession was no good as they gave the ball away cheaply.
Carrick failed to dominate the midfield to his liking and Anderson, though impressive with his darting runs, always lacked the killer pass. In short, United were crowded out in midfield and their inability to spread the game to the flanks played to Liverpool's advantage.
Rooney, seemed like he'd done all the talking off the pitch and was out of words while on it. His football certainly failed to do the talking for him. But in fairness, he was one of the better players for United, even though he was not at his best.
The Aftermath - What next for the two sides...
While this result will no doubt have rejuvenated Liverpool's title shout, there is still some way to go. Specially keeping in mind Liverpool's ten drawn games already this season, the winner of this season is not an easy call to make.
Let us see the run-in of both teams in the last lap of this title charge.
Liverpool - Better placed
Aston Villa - Home
Blackburn - Home
Hull City - Away
Newcastle United - Home
Westham - Away
Westbrom - Away
Spurs - Home
Arsenal - Home (may be rescheduled)
Liverpool, apparently have the easier run-in of the two sides, playing one game lesser. Liverpool play five games at home and four on the road. While it may be argued that Arsenal is the biggest game, there may be more to it than meets the eye.
Arsenal at home is, in fact, a big game for the gunners, as is for Aston Villa who play at Anfield this weekend. With both teams fighting out for the Champions League spot, it'll be anything but a walk in the park for the Reds.
On the other end of the spectrum, Blackburn, Hull, and Spurs to some extent (though I feel they will be safe 'til the end of the season), will know any result other than a loss will be good enough for them as they battle it out to avoid relegation.
Westham United at Upton Park will never be easy for any team, albeit the Hammers are stuck mid-table and may not have much to play for. All in all, it's not easy as one might expect, but Liverpool playing one game lesser, could be seen as one game lesser to lose/ drop points, as it is an away game.
Besides, Liverpool do not have the FA cup distraction, unlike United who will have to see off Everton to make it to the finals.
Another big deciding factor will be the Champions League quarter finals. This is one factor which can send all calculations haywire. In the past we've often seen Rafa give precedence to the CL as Liverpool were never truly challenging for the top spot in the domestic League.
It will be interesting what bearing the CL draw will have on his team selection. The results of the quarter/semi - final of the UCL may have an effect on the results in the league too, rubbing off a few positive or negative vibes.
Manchester United - A relatively arduous task
Fulham - Away
Aston Villa - Home
Sunderland - Away
Portsmouth - Home
Spurs - Home
M'boro - Away
Mancity - Home
Arsenal - Home
Hull City - Away
Wigan - Away (may be rescheduled)
United though sit pretty with a four point lead on the top with a game in hand, they will know too well from experience in the past that in football, it is not over until it's over.
With memories of the season where they threw away their 12-point lead to Arsenal, they would not want to get complacent here, a view endorsed by their capt. Rio Ferdinand.
United's games, both away and home, seem trickier than those of Liverpool. While Arsenal at home maybe a big game, the Manchester Derby would be no easy ride, with the Blues desperate to avenge their home defeat.
The games against M'boro and Pompey will be tougher than they appear on paper as both teams fight to ward off relegation, M'boro having done one over Liverpool last weekend.
Sunderland and Hull City who are currently placed at Twelfth and Thirteenth currently, may be perilously close to the the bottom till they meet United.
Aston Villa will be desperate to stop their downward spiral and cling on to their Champions League spot while Arsenal try to knock them off. In short, though United have a game in hand, SAF will know that points in the bag is better than a game in hand.
United's involvement in the FA cup will serve as an added distraction albeit they have a good shot at the Cup. The Champions League will also a bearing on the team selection as it will in the case of Liverpool.
One thing which is certain is that every football fan, a Scouser, a Mancunian, or a neutral, will be smacking his lips at the thought of this run-in. It surely will be a busy few days for the football fanatic, with the odd heartache at times.
In the end, the team that holds its nerve better will triumph. Being unbeaten all along is out of question as both teams will surely drop points along the way.
One would be foolish to write off Chelsea, who seem to be revitalized with the arrival of Guus Hiddink. They certainly are more than capable of pulling something out of the bag.
Will the Champions hold on to their Cup, or will they be dethroned come May? Will there be drama on the last day of the season like there was in the last one? What if English teams face off in the UCL quarter/semi finals ?
Saturday the 14th may be joyous to some and heart wrenching for others, one thing it has certainly sprung up is HOPE. Hollywood would be envious of all the drama and action that football has to offer. It doesn't get much bigger than this. I, for one, am loving every bit of it.