For the second time in a week I write:What the hell happened?
Never in a million years would I have expected that.
I was not exactly optimistic coming into this game, despite our victory over Real Madrid, as our league form has been indifferent at best. Then I heard the news Alonso wasn’t playing and Lucas was his replacement. I felt Babel being dropped sent the wrong message out too. On top of that just before kick-off Arbeloa got injured.
All this had me convinced we couldn’t win. Boy, was I wrong.
We started poorly. United dominated possession but didn’t really do much with it. On the other hand, Liverpool was determined to squander possession at every opportunity, by playing long balls for Torres to chase, rather than try and play the ball.
United made the breakthrough when Park ran onto an excellent through ball and was brought down by Reina, who had dived in rashly. Ronaldo slammed the penalty to give United the lead and my sinking feeling got worse.
However, my spirits were lifted minutes later when the usually ever-reliable Vidic failed to make an easy header and was beaten to the ball by Torres, despite having a 5-yard head start. Torres muscled Vidic off the ball and made no mistake with an excellent finish past Van Der Sar. That was the first goal Van Der Sar had conceded at Old Trafford since November.
Liverpool started to take control of the midfield, with Mascherano and the much-maligned Lucas playing well. In the United half however, it was Torres vs Ferdinand and Vidic, with Torres winning as his pace was causing havoc, despite him still not being 100% fit.
Man United didn’t look too defensively solid against Inter Milan midweek and we were able to capitalise on their insecurities. Gerrard went on a run into the area and Evra chopped him down for the rarest thing in football, an away penalty at Old Trafford. Gerrard made no mistake from the spot to send Liverpool ahead at half time. Gerrard was the first Englishman to score against Man United all season, and the first since Dean Ashton at the end of last season.
Liverpool was able to sit back and defend in the second half. United again dominated possession but again did nothing with it. Carrick was unusually wasteful, Anderson was poor, Park was ineffective and Ronaldo anonymous. Tevez and Rooney tried hard but were easily matched by our defence. Sami Hyypia had yet another great performance in dealing with every single long ball United launched into our box.
Ferguson sent on three subs in search of the equaliser but moments later Gerrard was through on goal when Vidic hauled him down. He was rightly shown his second red card against Liverpool this season. Even Alex Ferguson had no complaints. Fabio Aurelio curled an exquisite free kick in for the third goal.
Liverpool could really afford to relax now and took Torres off for Babel. Babel teed Gerrard up in the box only for him to blast over when he should have scored. We were not to be denied a fourth though, as another ball caused confusion at the back for United and Andrea Dossena lobbed Van Der Sar to put the icing on the cake.
Liverpool’s win was the biggest at Old Trafford since QPR won 4-1 in 1992 and was Liverpool’s biggest Old Trafford win since 1936. The title may be over but we showed there’s still some fight in us.
I’m still amazed by what I saw. We’ve scored 4 past two of Europe’s best teams and Andrea Dossena scored in both games! Not sure which of these I'd have said was the more unlikely (who am I kidding? obviously Dossena!).
Torres and Gerrard were fantastic and ran rings around the best centre-back partnership in the league. Mascherano and Lucas did well in the middle and their contribution should not be overlooked.
I’d like to make a special mention of our defence. Reina barely had anything to do and it is down to the 4 players in front of him. Skrtel and Hyypia were excellent, Carragher did well at right-back, even though he doesn’t want to play there and Fabio Aurelio had another good performance at left-back.
Despite the win, it would be a mistake to adopt the same tactics until the end of the season. The tactics we played required the opposition to press forward so we can hit them on the break. Only United and Arsenal constantly press forward so whilst this system worked well against United, we cannot succeed next week against Villa playing the same way.
I can’t see us winning the title but at least we’ve made a bit of a fight of it after surrendering abjectly recently in the league. We need to beat Villa next week in order to really make a good go of it but we’re all going to be dreaming about what might have been at the end of the season..