Ahead of kick-off yesterday, I wrote about what I hoped for the day ahead. It goes without saying we all wanted a win, however we had to win, but there was one person I really want to see on the scoresheet.
I don’t really care how we score, as long as we do. It could come off Wes Brown’s arse for all I care but I really would love to see Berb score today.
Never in my wildest dreams did I anticipate he would go on to do what he did today. But more on that later.
From start to finish, we were the better side yesterday. I was expecting Liverpool to be poor because the only players really capable of shining in their squad are Steven Gerrard and Fernando Torres. But I was so pleased to see us passing the ball around so well, keeping possession so much better and generally just looking dangerous and confident on the ball.
But being the better team means nothing unless you can get the goals. Our first great chance came following some lovely passes between Berbatov and Wayne Rooney. Wazza probably could have squeezed the ball back to Berb as he ran behind the Liverpool defence, but he opted to go right to Nani instead. If he’d hit it first time or got a better first touch, we could have been a goal up, but he cut inside awkwardly and the ball came back to Rooney. He had a go and after being blocked it fell to Nani again, who swiped at it and fired the ball out for a goal kick. He should have at least been forcing a save from Pepe Reina there.
Reina’s bezzie mate, Glen Johnson, created the only chance I can recall that Liverpool had from open play. He smacked it from just inside the box but it was well wide and Van der Sar watched it go past of his post.
Darren Fletcher, who is still some way short of his impressive form of the last couple of seasons, played a brilliant ball forward to Berbatov on the right. He beat his man and got the ball across to Rooney whose header came off a defender for a corner.
Ryan Giggs stepped up to take it and ended up winning another. Fernando Torres embraced Berbatov, cuddling him from behind, and despite his best efforts at fouling him, the Bulgarian got his header away to make it 1-0. I couldn’t quite believe it when my initial hopes that Berbatov was the scorer (it was down the other end of the pitch and my eyesight isn’t what it used to be) because, firstly, it was just too good to be true that the man I wanted to score so badly had done, and secondly, it was a header. Has he scored one for us before? All I can recall are the headers which he fires over the crossbar time and again.
Moments later, United should have been awarded a penalty after Jamie Carragher blocked the ball in the area with his hand. Howard Webb had a perfect view but waved away our appeals.
Nani, who ruined Paul Konchesky all afternoon, could have had his second goal of the game following another brilliant ball forward from Rooney from one side of the pitch to the other, where O’Shea was waiting. John played Nani in and he rifled it against the cross bar. It was a cracking effort and Reina was well beat.
Nani then grabbed his 5th assist of the season, after again getting away from Konchesky and putting a ball in across the box. Rooney leapt to get his head on it, but thankfully, it was too high for him. Berbatov, with his back to goal, controlled the ball on his thigh and then fired it over his head. It’s the kind of effort you so desperately want to go in but know you’re probably kidding yourself to think that it will. But after hitting the crossbar, the ball fell perfectly over the line, and the ground erupted. Sorted, two goals from Dimi, three points against the dippers.
We weren’t finished yet though. Nani again got away from his marker and played a brilliant ball across the box and had Rooney been on his toes, he would have got there before Carragher, who had to stretch awkwardly to get it away.
However, when Jonny Evans naively slid in on Torres in the box, you knew there was only one decision Howard Webb could make. Evans looked surprised, and had the Spaniard not got his foot to the ball faster and played it inside, Evans probably would have got away with it. Gerrard stepped up to take it at the same end Rooney took his penalty against Liverpool last season, and sent Edwin the wrong way.
Then, when Liverpool were awarded a freekick just outside the box, there was a horrible feeling that they might just get themselves back in to this. They had been second best all day, leaving Van der Sar and our defenders with very little to do.
My initial reaction to the awarding of the freekick was that it was very soft. O’Shea and Torres came together just outside the area and it didn’t look like a foul. I’ve since seen it on MOTD2 and I stand by my initial opinion. Torres made the most of a coming together. Maybe that’s my red specs. Regardless, Carrager pulled Michael Owen to the floor as the last man at Anfield last season and was given just a yellow card, so any scouse cries for a red card for O’Shea are hypocritical. Van der Sar would have got there before Torres anyway.
Van der Sar set his wall up perfectly and then credit has to go for the work put in on the Liverpool training ground to get the better of us (I can be gracious knowing what happened six minutes from time). Meireles intentionally pushed in to Fletcher on the edge of the wall then pulled away. Instinctively, Fletch went with him, leaving a perfect gap for Gerrard’s freekick to fly through and end up in the empty half of Edwin’s net. Gutting.
The little scouse twat ran away to the Sky Sports camera, just as he had the season before last, smearing his dribble all over the lens as he smooched it. Maybe he’s missing Alonso, maybe he wants a trophy to kiss, so Sky Sports are bearing the brunt of his frustration. Either way, he looks like a right dick head when he does, particularly considering they went to lose the game.
Still, I hadn’t seen the replay of the penalty challenge and was sure the freekick from which they equalised was soft, and had a very strong feeling we’d been done by the ref. Played them off the park all game, kept them away from our goal, totally restricted them from creating anything from open play, yet here we were at 2-2. Gutting.
So, who was going to step up and save the day for United then? Nani had been playing really well, Rooney had struggled to get involved, Giggsy had made some nice runs down the left, but there was only going to be one man to make the difference today, the man many of our fans ‘lovingly’ refer to as Berbaflop.
John O’Shea put in a great ball and Berbatov outjumped Carragher with ease to score his second header of the game, leaving Reina with no chance.
Old Trafford erupted, Berbatov’s song was sung and despite our late results against Everton and Fulham, there was no worry we were going to blow it now.
Berb was subbed off just before half-time to receive a well deserved standing ovation. He kept his head down and strolled off, applauding the fans as he got off the pitch. He has since revealed he loved our reaction, but is shy, and doesn’t know how to respond to such adoration.
As I walked back to the car I was racking my brains trying to think of when someone had done this before. When was the last time one of our lads scored a hattrick against Liverpool? It was only when I got the radio on that I forgave myself for not being able to remember, given that it happened quite a few decades before I was born. What a brilliant achievement.
In hindsight, I’m glad Liverpool got those two goals. Whilst the final scoreline of 3-2 doesn’t reflect just how much better than them we were, it’s nice knowing we put their fans through the mill. They thought they were done and dusted at 2-0, sitting silently in the away end, as they had done all game, left to ponder over their shocking decline. Then at 2-2 they actually had some belief. Not only could they get a point here, if Torres plays his cards right, he might con Webb in to sending one of our lads off, and they could go for all three points. But then Berbatov ruined it for them, bringing them right back down to earth, leaving them two places above the relegation zone and unable to avoid their horrible reality.
This was one of the games we’ll look back on at the end of the season with a smile.
And who knows what Berbatov can achieve this season with our fanbase on side? I honestly cannot wait to see.