This month we have decided to do something a bit different and we have two write ups on the match of the month, do all fans really think alike?
The first write up is by Atsis
At the beginning of every season when the fixtures list comes out, there are always a few games that we, as United fans, look for straightaway; amongst them the derby, Arsenal, Chelsea and last but not least Liverpool. This is the one special game that we always look for at first. Whether it is home or away, this game has a rivalry that goes beyond the borders of the northwest. Despite very few players nowadays being from both regions of Manchester and Liverpool, the tension, the passion and the hatred is as strong and present as ever. Not to mention the rivalries that have now been grown into the fans of both club internationally.
The scenes that marred last season’s F.A.Cup tie at Anfield as Alan Smith was in the ambulance leaving Anfield were disgusting and shameful, yet not much was taken into account by the F.A, not to mention the behavior of the Liverpool fans when they came to Old Trafford for their F.A.Cup semi-final versus Chelsea. Yet all this was just spraying more fire on the already burning flames of hatred that has kept growing between both clubs, which was emphasized more than ever when Gary Neville celebrated in front of the Liverpool fans at Old Trafford by kissing the United crest when Rio Ferdinand scored the last minute winner in the clash between both sides in January 2006.
This season however, things have been a bit different. United have been at the top of the league since the start, and have very rarely let points drops. Before the game, all the talk was about Liverpool being on top form, having just beaten Barcelona at the Nou Camp, and Sheffield United 4-0 at Anfield, the scousers had every reason to be buzzing. Whereas, we were grinding out results, including a hard fought 2 -1 win versus Fulham in which we scored at the last minute, and a difficult 3-2 victory in our replay versus Reading at the Madjeski Stadium.
This game was the biggest obstacle we were expecting to come across in our title run-in. Some of us expected a draw, others had even already counted this as one of those defeats that will happen in every team’s run-in, very few expected a win, but one thing’s for sure, nobody could ever have expected what was about to unfold during this game.
Few omens, should’ve given us a sign about what would be. The fact that United have yet to lose to Liverpool when wearing white at Anfield should’ve given us a sign of things to come (not too sure about this fact, but it’s from the top of my head), but no one would’ve believed it. For those who pay attention to details, you would notice that almost all premier league captains(at away games), when they choosing the ball or which pitch side they want at the coin toss, choose to score where their fans are sitting during the second half. So when Gary Neville chose United to attack to the Kop end during the second half, something Liverpool obviously are not used to, ( just as United aren’t used to not scoring towards the Stretford end in the second half ), you could maybe pinch yourself to believe that something different was about to happen.
The game kicked off, and was pretty even at the start. Very few chances were created by both sides, as they usually are in these northwest derbies. The first real opportunity fell to Liverpool striker Craig Bellamy but Van Der Sar was up to the task and saved comfortably. Nothing better was created following that. Shots from Ronaldo and Daniel Agger were good attempts but were unsuccessful. The closest either side came to scoring a goal in the first half came again from the troublesome Bellamy. He drove Nemanja Vidic out to the left hand side, and used his speed to outpace the Serbian defender at the by-line, until he put in a pass that was inches away from Dirk Kuyt, who probably should’ve made it 1-0 to Liverpool. But it wasn’t to be. Just before the interval, Liverpool had another chance to score with John Arne Riise powering a free-kick that went just a few inches wide off Van Der Sar’s goalpost, although that can mainly be due to Paul Scholes’ run out of the wall to obstruct the Norwegian’s powerful free-kick. Despite Liverpool slightly being more dominant in a very unentertaining first half, both teams went in scoreless.
The second half began with Liverpool having more intent and more determination to win the game that United did. Inspired by their captain Gerrard, Liverpool thought they’d scored when Craig Bellamy found United’s net only to see it ruled offside, when Sissoko flicked on a shot from outside the box. United, at that point, were counting their lucky stars as the score line remained a stalemate. Barely a chance had been created by the visitor in the second half so far, and Ferguson started ringing the changes. Henrik Larsson, the Swede legend, playing his final Premier League game for the club, after his short term loan deal, was ineffective during the game and was replaced by the returning Louis Saha from injury. Carragher’s rash challenge on Rooney left the England striker with a gashed knee and he was then replaced by United’s Mr. reliable John O’shea.
In the meantime, Liverpool kept attacking, and United kept sitting back, as if playing for the draw. Riise had a good shot, that just whistled over the top bar, but one of the best opportunities fell to tall man Peter Crouch as he controlled Dirk Kuyt’s cross from the right hand side, and fired a perfectly placed shot only for Van Der Sar somehow to get his fingertips to it and make one of the saves of the season. United had a huge shout for a penalty when Louis Saha was tripped by Agger in the box, but it wasn’t to be as the game seemed more likely to end in a draw than anything else.
With 4 minutes of normal time left to play and tempers rising, Paul Scholes lashed out at Xabi Alonso, and got his marching orders. United were down to 10 men, playing badly, and on the back foot as the scousers kept looking for that goal. We had now entered injury time, with 3 minutes of it left to play, when Ryan Giggs on the left hand side towards the Kop End, was pulled back and the referee awarded a free-kick. Giggs and Ronaldo stood over the ball whispering to each other how they would take it. Inside the box all of Liverpool’s players were present. United had few men up. Ronaldo swung it in hard and low, Saha went for it but missed it. Reina lost control of the ball and it fell to……….. JOHN O’SHEA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! He just rifled it into the roof of the net, and the celebrations were unbelievable. United couldn’t believe it. Liverpool couldn’t believe it! In the 91st minute, of a game which seemed completely lost for United they come out with all 3 points! John O’shea of all people scores the winning goal at the Kop End. The look of dismay on everyone connected to Liverpool was one that every United fan was enjoying at that moment. The final whistle had gone.
Liverpool 0 – 1 Manchester United at Anfield. An unexpected result, especially considering the circumstances! The celebrations that followed were as if United had won the league! Rafa Benitez has still yet to beat United in the league, as Ryan Giggs’ celebrated his 700th game in a United jersey and Henrik Larsson his final one in the Premier League, as United for the second time this season, beat Liverpool.
From a personal point of view, I went absolutely crazy! I lost my voice for the few days that followed! I was watching the game with my cousin ( usual companion for every United game ) and my father ( who was here for a month of holidays , and is usually the most quiet emotionless man ever ) , and we all went mad ! I have never seen my father go that crazy over a United game (since 99)!
The building facing ours complained the following morning that there is too much noise coming out of the building once or twice a week and they would like to know what it’s from. And they will know. Hell they will know! We are on our way, to regaining our trophy back, and if the entire neighborhood hears us, if the entire country hears us, if the entire world hears us, they will know that Manchester United will NEVER DIE!