Doubtless that you are already aware, but Manchester United ran out as deceptively narrow winners over Liverpool in a rather enthralling game of football yesterday afternoon
You may also be privvy to the fact by now that Dimitar Berbatov finally shed two calendar years of resolute indifference in one (or three) fell swoop(s) by carding a sublime hat-trick and that – despite hauling themselves back into the game rather fortuitously – Liverpool really were quite impotent for the most part.
On paper, a win over one of your bitterest rivals would seem to be an occurrence to revel in, but the relinquishing of a yet another seemingly impenetrable two-goal lead coupled with some oft-farcical defending and ball retention have failed to render United’s victory in quite such a celebratory light.
Thanks to a brace from the rejuvenated Berbatov (a man who has had more of the syllables in his name replaced with the word ‘flop’ than any other – Flopitar Flopatov, Dimiflop Flopaflop etc.), United were 2-0 up and cruising until Liverpool were quite-rightly handed a penalty in the 64th minute.
Captain Steven Gerrard duly converted the spot-kick with calm assurance, but the goal only served to highlight the paucity of openings that his side had managed to create beforehand – rather than signal that any kind of spirited comeback was on the cards.
True to form, it took another dead-ball scenario for Liverpool to restore parity five minutes later, Gerrard again the man to capitalise by clipping a free-kick through the wall and past the wrong-footed Edwin van der Sar after John O’Shea and Fernando Torres had tangled ungainly on the edge of United’s area.
Whether you are willing to admit it or not, the officials must claim both assists for the goals that saw Liverpool claw themselves back on level terms – and it’s a good job Gerrard received help from somewhere as none of his teammates were doing a damn thing to support him for large swathes of the game.
It looked like recent history was due to repeat itself yet again with United readily surrendering another winning position for the third Premier League game on the trot, that was until man-of-the-match Berbatov popped up at the far post to completed his three-goal haul (thus becoming the first United player to score a hat-trick against Liverpool for 60 years) five minutes from time.
Speaking after the game, United manager Sir Alex Ferguson delivered several torrents of stinging criticism of the way Liverpool had conducted themselves, and belittling their performance in the process.
Despite eventually registering the victory, Ferguson was irritated with the manner in which his old adversaries had found themselves back in the tie, especially as they were offering little in the way of resistance until Gerrard netted from the penalty spot;
“At 2-0 it could have been a cricket score, 2-2 was an absolute farce. It was a game we absolutely dominated and I was saying to myself, ‘It could be 10.’ So when it looked like ending 2-2, it would have been a travesty of a scoreline.
[Liverpool] had the momentum when it went to 2-2, but they never offered anything, did they? They had to depend on decisions from the linesman to get back into the game. Van der Sar hasn’t had a save to make, Scholes was controlling the tempo in midfield and we looked dangerous up front, with Berbatov and Nani in particular. I couldn’t see us losing the game.”
Ferguson also heaped scorn on Fernando Torres, levelling a thinly-veiled accusation of cheating at the Spanish striker for his part in gaining the free-kick from which Gerrard scored his second of the afternoon;
“I’ve watched it and Torres made a meal out of it. He made an absolute meal of it to try to get our player sent off.”
For a man who, in 36 years of management, has never lost a game in which his side have been two goals to the good, it is perhaps understandable that Ferguson is irked by recent performances and by certain occurrences yesterday.
The fact that Ferguson barely misses an opportunity to denigrate his rivals is a salient truth that can’t be overlooked, but his recent comments show that Chelsea’s faultless juggernaut form may just be getting to him this term.
Though his comments are entirely uncouth, they are rooted in fact. Watching the game as a neutral, it became increasingly apparent that Liverpool were going to have to rely on set-pieces if they were to fabricate anything, such was their almost redundant attacking threat, and sure enough it was two such instances that provided the breakthrough – but to call it a travesty is a step too far.
There was absolutely nothing wrong with the penalty call (Jonny Evans fouled Torres in the penalty area) or the free-kick decision (O’Shea fouled Torres on the edge of the area) and so maybe Ferguson should choose to vent his pent-up anger in a more beneficial (and altogether less petty) manner and admonish the culprits that contributed to the woeful defending that United displayed at times – woeful defending that has already cost them four potentially vital points this season.
What was it your mother used to say? ‘If you can’t say anything nice…’