By Simon Meakin
Simon Meakin takes a look at this Sunday’s titanic clash with Manchester United, in a match preview like no other.
And we danced all night to the best start ever! Woo! Yeah! Big shout out to young person’s beat combo, One Direction for perfectly encapsulating what is now officially, The. Best. Start. Ever. And, not only in the English top flight but in any of Europe’s big leagues.
I’m now wondering how may more games we need to win to break the record in Europe’s small leagues (I believe that’s their official title). Although I’d imagine someone like Dynamo Berlin in their 1970s Stasi-backed pomp probably managed to rack up 300 wins on the bounce without breaking a sweat (I can’t imagine who would have even dared try to take a point off them knowing that that the team, coaching staff and entire support would probably have been dispatched to the nearest gulag quick-sharp, while the result was “unwritten” in the paper next day.
Our football now seems to have entered a new dimension. The games against Sheffield United and Spurs felt unlike our previous matches this season. Completely dominant in possession against sides that barely attempted to cross the halfway line. It’s starting to become reminiscent of peak Pep-era Barcelona (see the 2011 Champions League Final against Man U as evidence. I’ve never seen them so impotent. And that’s when they were still quite good). But (whispering it quietly) it does make for slightly sterile football matches. I think we actually managed to send ourselves to sleep for the last twenty minutes at White Hart Lane (or New White Hart Lane, or Not White Hart Lane or Highbury or whatever they call it these days) given how easy things had been until then. All part of Jose’s latest master-plan no doubt, and it almost worked.
And to make it clear I’m not complaining here – I’d be delighted to send millions of Sky Sports subscribers to sleep if we romp to the title. It’s up to the other team to try and stop us. We are basically crushing the life out of teams. So after my range of Big Red Combine Harvester merchandise mysteriously seems to fail to impress the LFC marketing department I’m planning to sneak back on to Dragon’s Den to unveil my latest new club nickname. The Big Red Boa Constrictor! Although that does sound a bit Benny Hill-ish (“Hello there young lady! Would you like to come home and see my Big Red Boa Constrictor?”) Although I might suggest to Jürgen that he could maybe mix it up in training by hiring a saxophone player, having Jordan Henderson dress up in a nurses uniform and getting the entire squad to run in and out of the bushes in Stanley Park really fast, all in a line, while Jordan’s clothes mysteriously fall off and everyone tries to slap Fabinho on the head. Always worth trying something different to gain that little extra edge surely?
Anyway, back to by far the greatest team the Metropolitan Borough of Trafford (it’s not far from Manchester I believe) has ever seen. The auld enemy (not sure why I’ve come over all Scottish here. It’s not the Old Firm Derby). But ever since I was a small child these have been our biggest rivals. These have been the ones I’ve been most desperate to beat. More so than Everton or whoever we were fighting it out with for the title. Even when they weren’t that good (although sadly I’m too young to remember when they were really bad and Denis Law managed to relegate them to a backdrop of their fans fighting, while wearing ludicrous trousers).
But even in those days we always seemed to struggle to beat United as often as we should have (sorry I should be clearer here. That’s Manchester United. There is only really one United and that’s the late lamented Hereford United RIP, God Rest Its Soul). And that didn’t exactly improve when Ferguson turned up and they actually started winning everything. Okay, sometimes we might have been occasionally well beaten but I’ve lost count of the number of times we seemed to lose to scrappy late goals or their keeper having a blinder. John O’Shea only scored about six goals in his entire career but I reckon about 14 of those were winners against us.
But that only makes the good times all the sweeter. Top of the list has to be the 4-1 demolition at Old Trafford when I thought Torres was without question destined to become our greatest ever player (rest easy King Kenny. Your crown is safe – for now). Other highlights include a pile-driver from a young Stevie G, THAT goal from Riise and a hat trick from the mighty Dirk Kuyt from a combined distance that was probably less than the length of my big red boa constrictor (I’ll leave you to debate how long that might be).
Favourite memories from matches I was actually at include winning 2-1 at Old Trafford circa 1990. The first victory there for many years and the last for quite a few more, and achieved despite John Barnes deciding to go for own goal of the year by sending a lovely lob over the keeper from 25 yards. And also last year’s 3-1 win at Anfield when Santa came to deliver an early Christmas present, including an extended Christmas break to a Mr J.Mourinho care of the Lowry Hotel, Salford.
Less pleasant memories include seeing Jamie Carragher trying to outdo Digger by scoring two own goals. And the aftermath of our 2-1 win at Old Trafford circa 1990, when we thought we were being clever slipping out of the police cordon leading us back to the Liverpool coaches to get back to my student digs, only to find that thousands of angry seething Mancs had all spotted our sneaky move and decided they were going to lynch us (in some cases trying to climb out of the back window of the top deck of a bus in their desperation to get at us). Rapidly coming to the conclusion this wasn’t the best thought out plan ever, we turned tail and just about made it back to the cordon unscathed (in my mind I cleared the central reservation Colin Jackson style although I suspect the reality was a little less graceful).
I’ve always wondered what became of the one nutter who followed us, thinking we were up for a ruck, and went charging into the angry mob on his own, while wearing a Liverpool shirt. He actually thought we would be right behind him. It really can’t have ended well for him.
As for Sunday’s match I really, really want to win this one. Not only to take another step closer to the title, and not only because of the rivalry but also because these buggers have had the temerity to be the only team to have stopped us winning. I’m not sure we’ve ever managed to beat every other team in the league in a single season (we failed to beat City last year, I probably don’t need to remind anyone about not beating Chelsea in the ill-fated Brendan Rodgers title bid season and even our record breaking 1979 team couldn’t beat those lot from Goodison). Win on Sunday and we’ll only have West Ham to go.
So it’s going to be tight. But as ever I’m going to predict a Liverpool win. 2-0 to the Big Red Boa Constrictor. Salah to finally break his duck against Man U and Shaqiri to reprise his act from the bench. Although unlike Jose, Ole will remain at the wheel having perfected the art of winning just enough games to remain in his job without ever threatening to turn Manchester United into a force again.
Oh, and memo to Jurgen. As a Hereford fan, do not let the kids lose to the Slop in the FA Cup. Repeat do not let the kids lose to the Slop in the FA Cup. Don’t expect them to be as big a pushover as that shower from the last round. Curtis get your shooting boots on again!