Sentimentality is the emotional promiscuity of those who have no sentiment.
Liverpool 1-2 Manchester United
In all earnestness and sincerity, in spite of all those who insist that these are the halcyon days of football. I am sick all the way up to my gag reflex of the tie-in between football and media. All the über-clichéd rhetoric about the wickedness of racism and the penchant of FIFA, EUFA, the EPL, et al, for allowing the likes of Lazio’s fans and owners along with players like Luîs Suarez and J.T. to take their slap on the wrist, shed some crocodile tears and carry on with the same ol’ same ol’. This weekend United fans had to swim in a barrel of treacle syrup and sentimental tears. bearing mute witness as millions did their duty and wept for the 96 dead of the Hillsborough disaster in 1989. Watched by banks of closed circuit cameras and an army of plainclothes and uniform policemen and obnoxious ushers, even the Yobbo dregs bit their tongues and held themselves in check on pain of lifetime bans from Anfield and Old Trafford. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, per sé, but the glib, garrulous rubbish about the love of the game, civilization, the marrow-deep decency of your average Briton on the street and the almost comedic presentation of Our beloved Sir Alex Ferguson, as a sort of cuddly, ruddy uncle riding an equally munificent Brendan Rodgers on his knee had me reaching for a receptacle to vomit in.
Watching that bucktoothed devious Uruguayan git, Luís Suarez, look everywhere but in to the eyes of his nemesis Patrice Evra while they shook hands was sort of interesting, I suppose. Manchester United legend Sir Bobby Charlton then presented flowers to Liverpool’s record goal scorer Ian Rush as opposing captains Gerrard and Ryan Giggs released 96 red balloons in memory of those who lost their lives. What all this teaches our kids–that insincerity is always rewarded and that pluralistic public behavior must be censored at all costs–gave my youngest son and I lots of passionate ammunition to discuss in passionate depth that evening.
At any rate, a late, great Robin van Persie penalty gave Manchester United a sweet, telling victory over a bad Liverpool side that turned out to be even more poor than our own. On a pathetic afternoon at Anfield, one that aimed for poignancy, der realpolitik won out, thank God, and, yes, the good guys in the white shirts won!
After an hour of prayer and singing for the real Hillsborough victims, the Red Scouser masses of the Kop wept their crocodile tears and endlessly repeated ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ as if it was a kind of romantic gotterdammerung. Victimhood? Liverpudlians? How wonderful it would have been had they all collectively committed suicide by drinking poisoned Vimto or a ceremony of collective seppuku, on their knees, disemboweling themselves while United fans stood by with samurai sword in hand, ready to decapitate them and finally send them to their self-pitying valhalla. Yes Scousers: We’ll all be equal once we’re dead!
As usual, it was a mostly boring, mediocre match. Nerves always get to the players on both sides and when Liverpool were reduced to ten men just before half time when the donkey-brained Jonjo Shelvey was sent off for a hard, double studs-up foul on United defender Jonny Evans, it became clear that a poor, disjointed United team might steal one. Yet, when the second half began, Liverpool’s captain Steven Gerrard had other ideas, volleying them into the lead.
Absolutely dreadful in the first half, with Giggs and Kagawa clearly clueless against a superior Liverpool midfield, United were still barely in the game for the second half until the metronomic, commanding Paul Scholes stepped into the fray and waved his magic ginger wand. And five minutes after falling behind, Rafael Da Silva, one of the few United players who did not seem overawed by the occasion, scored a brilliant equalizer after jinking his way into a packed Liverpool box before firing home.
I sort of felt sorry for Brendan Rodgers. Still without a league win after five games and now mired in the P.L. bottom three, his side lack ruthlessness in the box. Despite dominating possession, United, minus central defensive kingpin Nemanja Vidic, were still too much to deal with for Luís Suarez and Fabio Borini. Why Suarez, a brilliant flair player with exquisite technical skills would rather repeatedly swan dive than try honest scoring is beyond even many Liverpool fans. Suffice to say, both Suarez and his ultra-emotional teammate Jonjo Shelvey were each repeatedly warned by the referee, Mark Halsey, for bad behavior; so that when Shelvey lunged carelessly at Evans, and Evans required treatment, Halsey had no compunction about sending him off.
Rodgers brought on Suso for Borini at the start of the second half and he and Johnson played a nice give-and-go on the wing to set up Gerrard’s awesome left-footed volley past Anders Lindegaard in front of an ecstatic Kop. But just six minutes later, Shinji Kagawa chested down a sweet Valencia cross into the path of Rafael. who. after a pretty run, curved a superb finish beyond a diving Pepe Reina.
Then, Lindegaard, who is locked in competition for the number one goal keeping position at United with David De Gea, made two fine saves from Suarez and Suso. Then, while a segment of the Kop let loose a quick hit-and-run chanted burst concerning us ‘Munichs,’ completely against the run of play, United caught yet another jammy break. As Luís Antonio Valencia stole a loose ball away from in between a tired Agger and Johnson, the pair collided. The Ecuadorian winger then set off down the right flank as if he had Usain Bolt whispering sweet-nothings in his ear. His sprint only ceasing when the embarrassed Johnson caught up and gave the winger a light push while attempting to recover. With Agger stretchered off after the collision, United’s veteran striker, Robin Van Persie, waited patiently for six minutes, before finally converting his spot kick.
After Martin Kelly left the field injured also, Liverpool were rudderless. Having won at Anfield for the first time in five years, United will surely count themselves as being fortunate. Brendan Rodgers surely felt hard done by, but, in the long run, with so many United players like Nani, Kagawa, Van Persie, Evra and Carrick putting in indifferent performances yet again, the future bodes better in the short run now that Liverpool’s more difficult early fixtures are out of the way. The Gaffer can look no further than next week and the power of Andrés Villas-Boas’ Tottenham Hotspur and hanging in there well enough to reach the January transfer window.