Liverpool beat Aston Villa 5-0 – dubious penalties or not, it’s a well-deserved three points and on form, the title’s Liverpool’s to lose. Manchester United have serious, serious work to do now.
Well that was embarrassing…
Manchester United have broken all sorts of records this season – defensive records, champions league records – and then they’ve had moments like the Liverpool game last week and Fulham today, where they conceded one of their worst defeats in a long time and have now conceded 6 goals without reply, including 2 penalties and a free kick, not to mention receiving 3 red cards in the process.
I’ll be honest – if the roles were reversed and United had just beaten Liverpool at Anfield 4-1, and had seen Liverpool lose 2-0 away to Craven Cottage, and had Torres and Skrtel red carded, we’d not only be screaming in ecstasy, we’d be making sure everyone knew that Liverpool had lost their bottle.
So here it is – United have lost their will to win over the last two games, they’ve lost their discipline and they’ve conceded some ridiculous goals. I love this club and I have full faith that they can go on and still lift the title, but a repeat of this performance will almost certainly see them lose the title. They have 2 weeks now to regroup with the international break coming up, and it doesn’t matter if they have a game in hand now, they need to starting winning and certain players need to start performing.
Rooney’s red card will be a point of contention, so will Dowd’s refereeing and Ronaldo’s – well, Ronaldo himself. To be fair to Dowd when I saw Rooney throw the ball in real time I thought he’d thrown it in anger, which would give Dowd the right to show him a yellow card. Having said that, consider the following:
- This was a team that was 2-0 down and had played with 10 men for most of the game.
- Rooney had been on only since the start of the second half and his first yellow was on the 81st minute.
- Watch the replay of the second yellow yourself here.
It’s a stretch to call it a yellow, but assuming that it is a yellow it’s understandable that United fans (myself included) will call this a very harsh decision and would have preferred to see Down decide in context of the game not solely look to apply the letter of the law.
But that was too late. We might have scrapped a goal back but two goals with 10 men down? It’s happened before in football but it wasn’t our night, it wasn’t going to be our night even with Rooney on.
The other story – apart from the Scholes red card which was, well, unfortunate but dead on – was Ronaldo and his impact on the game (or lack thereof). In the first half there were at least one decision that clearly merited a free kick but Ronaldo didn’t get it, other than that, and I’m quoting Amy Lawrence on this, moaned and groaned and flung his arms about like a pantomime dame.
There was a second incident where Pantsil trod on Ronaldo’s ankle from behind, but the referee never saw it and again Ronaldo went down. He did improve late in the second half, but the only other incident of note was Dowd losing his temper on Ronaldo for needlessly protesting every decision made by the referee. Dowd showed restraint at the time, perhaps he should have shown the same restraint on Rooney.
But that’s in the past. Manchester United will take solace in the fact that Chelsea lost at White Hart Lane, but Liverpool play Aston Villa at home tomorrow and in their form, you’d be foolish to bet against Rafa Benitez’s men. Whereas Tottenham have played well against top sides in recent years (their win against Chelsea means they’ve won 2 and drawn 2 of their last four games), Villa are without a win in March and Liverpool have scored 8 goals in their last two games.
It’s a massive game tomorrow – a Liverpool win would not only put them within a point of Manchester United (whose game in hand is looking increasingly crucial), it would also put them 3 points ahead of Chelsea, and you can rest assured that between tomorrow and 4th April every story about the Premier League will talk about Manchester United having lost the plot.
They’re still in pole position though, although with home games against Spurs, Arsenal and Man City to come along with a trip to the Riverside, their margin for error is all but gone along with their confidence and self-belief.
A final word for Fulham – well played, you thoroughly deserved the win and the 3 points.