Liverpool 2 Man Utd 1 - FA Cup 4th round (Jan 28 2012) - 1st team 2011-2012 - The Liverpool Way Jump to content

Liverpool 2 Man Utd 1 - FA Cup 4th round (Jan 28 2012)

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LIVERPOOL 2 Manchester United 1

Report by Dave Usher at Anfield



Scorer(s) – Daniel Agger, Dirk Kuyt

Half Time - 1-1

Venue - Anfield

Date - Sat 28 Jan 2012

Star Man – Martin Skrtel


















The reaction of Luis Suarez in the stands said it all; this meant even more than usual. It was payback for the lies, the false allegations, the stitch up, the eight match ban and the unjust stain placed on a man's character. Whatsmore, in a delicious twist of fate, it was a lapse in concentration from Patrice Evra that allowed Dirk Kuyt to dump United out of the FA Cup with a dramatic late winner in front of a jubilant Kop. Suarez celebrated as wildly as any of the fans inside Anfield, victory just doesn't get much sweeter than this. Days like this are what being a football fan is all about.


It's been quite a week. Seven days ago we were at our lowest ebb of the season, humiliated by the worst team in the league and facing two huge games that could make or break our season. We had needed to play very well to overcome City, not so much to put out United. We defended well and for all their possession we never really looked in any danger, but we were limited in attack and a bit pedestrian at times. We looked tired and a bit flat. Not that anyone cares, the result was the only thing that mattered and we got it.


That's three competitions Ferguson has been dumped out of this season already. It's the worst Manchester United side I've seen in many a year, yet somehow they are still involved in the title race. They aren't involved in the FA Cup though, Dirk has seen to that. It was only his second goal of a disappointing season, but what a time to get it. Once again, he delivered on the big occasion as he so often has.


All the hype beforehand was about Evra and the reception he would get and all the talk afterwards also centred on that. For me it was nothing. In terms of the volume, intensity and persistence of the booing I actually thought Gary Neville had it worse when he came here in 2006. Evra got booed and there were chants of 'there's only one lying bastard'. Big deal, nothing to get worked up about. The repeated chanting from the away end was far worse but nothing is being said about that. The treatment Evra got was pretty tame really, we made our point but there was nothing excessive and I'm sure the mistake he made for the goal upset him far more than anything he had endure from the crowd.


Of course most of the media completely missed the point of the booing. They are either stupid or deliberately ignoring the reasons we are unhappy with Evra. He isn't being booed for being racially abused, he's being booed because we don't believe his claims. Your Olly Holt's of this world can preach and moralise all they like about how this might put people off reporting racial abuse in the future but I'd say that's bollocks. If someone is racially abused they aren't going to think 'oh I better keep quiet about this as I don't want to get booed'. I'd like to think maybe it will stop someone lying about it as Evra did, but that's unlikely isn't it? It's only booing, it's not much of a deterrent really unless you're a bit of a shithouse.


If Evra had told the truth from the start and simply said 'Suarez referred to me as 'negro' and I don't think that is acceptable' then none of the ensuing shitstorm would have happened. Suarez could have explained that he meant no offence and it's a term that is used in a non-offensive way where he comes from. A cultural misunderstanding that both sides could learn from, shake hands and move on with no harm done.


Instead, Evra lied and changed his story numerous times. On the field he claims he told the referee and Ryan Giggs that Suarez called him 'black'. In the dressing room he'd changed it from black to 'Suarez called me a 'n***er' (on one occasion). He then told French TV he'd been called 'n***er' ten times. At this stage how could Suarez possibly apologise for anything as it would have looked like an admission of guilt that he'd called him something far worse than he actually did.


By the time he met the FA five days later he'd settled on 'negro' and claimed the reason he'd initially thought it was 'n***er' was because he thought that's what 'negro' meant in Spanish. No really, that's what he claimed and that's what the FA believed. This despite him claiming to be able to speak Spanish and claiming to have understood everything else that Suarez had said in Spanish.


No-one heard any of these alleged comments, none of the numerous TV cameras trained on the pair were able to pick anything up, and the video footage backs up Suarez's account far more than the far fetched version of events conjured up by Evra (Shameless plug: I've written extensively about this in the next issue of the fanzine, which will be out Cup Final weekend).


So no, we were not booing Evra because he was the victim of racist abuse, we were booing him because we don't believe his claims that Suarez said to him "I kicked you because you are black" and "I don't talk to blacks". We think he's a lying, shitstirring rat and that Suarez has unfairly been branded a racist on the basis of Evra's lies. So yes, damn fucking right we booed the little bastard and we'll do it again. In fact we'll boo him every time we have to face him and we'll make no apologies for it. If some people don't like it, tough shit.


But enough of that fucking dog. Let's talk football. This was a pretty tame affair and one of the most low key clashes between the sides in some time. The Evra thing definitely had an effect on both teams, neither of whom seemed to want to tackle anybody. The team selections also contributed to the lack of action, both sides going with negative line ups featuring a lone striker.


United were without the likes of Rooney, Nani and Young which obviously limited Ferguson's attacking options. Then again, he left two of them on the bench last time they came to Anfield so there's no guarantee he'd have selected them anyway. Kenny was also a bit restricted, as there was obviously no Suarez and Bellamy was never going to start this one having already played twice in the previous seven days.


Caroll up front with Downing and Maxi supporting from out wide wasn't very surprising, but Carragher in midfield certainly was. In theory, I can see why Kenny would do that. The lack of midfield protection for the back four has been an issue on and off all season, but with Lucas out for the year and Spearing not deemed ready for a return yet, it made some degree of sense to bring Carra into the side against a side who are very good at exploiting the kind of gaps we've been leaving.


Depending on how you look at it, you could say that it worked up to a point as United didn't really create much at all whilst Carragher was on the field. Unfortunately neither did we, we were static in midfield and didn't get on the ball at all. We found it hard to keep possession and the likes of Scholes, Carrick and Giggs saw an awful lot of the ball in the first half. It was only when Kenny made changes in the second half that we took control of the midfield and began to look threatening. The City game and the short space of recovery time afterwards almost certainly played a part in how we approached this game, both in selection and tactics.


However, whilst at the time it was worrying seeing United knocking the ball around virtually uncontested at times, in the cold light of day when you analyse it pretty much all of their possession was in front of us and they rarely managed to get in behind. Perhaps that was part of the plan? For all the arse kissing of Paul Scholes, what did he actually do? He had a lot of the ball and was given plenty of space to knock it around and look good, but it was never in areas where could hurt us. He'd exchange a couple of passes with Giggs or Carrick etc and then float a little ball out to one of the full backs who's path would be blocked and it would go back in the middle for Scholes to do it again.


It was frustrating for the fans as at the time it looked like we were getting a bit of a chasing, but looking back on it I don't think we were. I'm not suggesting we simply let them have the ball, as that would be doing them a dis-service. I do think we were set up to make sure they didn't get in behind us, and barring a couple of exceptions they didn't. Perhaps Kenny didn't think we had the legs to play a high tempo pressing game like we'd done against City? Having Carroll up front rather than Bellamy certainly makes it more difficult to play like that. Kuyt is an important part in that too but after his efforts on Wednesday night he was another who was rested. And would the amount of games he's played since returning from a long lay off catch up with Gerrard? He didn't look particularly fresh all day and was subbed with 15 minutes to go after feeling a twinge.


The more I think about it, the more I think United's territorial dominance was because we reluctantly surrendered ground high up the pitch to make sure they couldn't find any space in our final third, and for the most part it worked. It was definitely to the detriment of our own game and poor Andy Carroll was badly isolated for long spells. United were the better side in the first half but in terms of chances there was very little in it.


Maxi forced a decent save from De Gea and the lively Valencia hit the post for United. Giggs shot straight at Reina and Gerrard blazed wide from the edge of the box. Tit for tat. We went in front when De Gea decided that wrestling with Carroll was a better option than catching the ball and Agger rose highest to head it into the unguarded net. You could see early on it was our intention to try and unsettle De Gea from crosses. Instead of the usual corner routine where it looks as though he's trying to bum Skrtel before peeling away when the kick comes in, we had him stand right in front of the keeper. Everyone can see that De Gea is a flapper on set pieces, and it made sense to exploit it. I don't think we did it anywhere near enough actually.


Aside from the Valencia shot that hit the post United didn't look threatening at all, but as we've seen so many times down the years they only need one chance and you've got to constantly be on your guard against them. We weren't, as a terrible mistake from Enrique allowed Rafael to get to the byline and cross for the onrushing Park to lash a shot past Reina. Great cross and great finish. Shouldn't have been allowed to happen though, and Enrique needs his arse kicking as he's been getting increasingly sloppy by the week recently.


He started off brilliantly, but recently he's been holding onto the ball far too long which is just not how we play. The ball needs to be moved quickly, but at times Enrique seems more concerned with showing off how strong he is and how he can hold people off than he is with playing a quick pass to a team-mate. It isn't a big deal as it's easily addressed, but it's been winding me up a bit recently. Defensively he's generally been outstanding, but the mistake he made here is something that must never be repeated. He almost cost us a goal a week ago at Bolton by doing virtually the exact same thing.


Instead of just playing it simple he backed himself to be able to cut back inside and use his strength to hold the player off. For the second week in a row, it backfired. Clubs do their homework and I'm sure coaches have been looking at him and telling their players to pressure him as he takes chances. He got away with it at Bolton, but the chances of being punished by United are far greater and you could only admire the ruthless efficiency of how they made us pay. They made it look simple, but how many times have we seen our players in similar positions this season and how many of those have led to goals?


Don't get me wrong, Enrique is a really good full back and he's been a great signing so far, he's just maybe not quite as good as he thinks he is. There's nothing wrong with putting the ball out for a throw in sometimes, if he learns that instead of trying to be too clever then he'll be an even better player. In fairness to him he recovered well from that mistake and didn't let it affect him. Of all the players on the field, he probably had the most difficult task as Valencia is in great form and he's a real handful. He had his moments, but Enrique stuck to his task well and kept him relatively quiet.


On the other side Kelly was having a great battle with Giggs. Kelly was all over him like a sister-in-law on heat and it was fascinating to watch. Giggs actually looked really sharp but Kelly stuck to his task superbly and pretty much locked down that side of the field. He didn't attack much but he was very solid defensively which is the number one priority in games like this. Downing played his part too in tracking back and making sure Evra posed no threat.


Both teams were cancelling eachother out and it wasn't like a typical Liverpool-United game at all. The first tackle I can remember was in the second half when Maxi went in with two feet. I haven't seen any replays of it, at the time I thought it wasn't particularly dangerous but you always worry these days when someone goes in like that. There was a weird kind of pause around the ground when it happened, and the players seemed to stop as well as everyone looked at Mark Halsey. I think he gave a free-kick, but I don't remember exactly. I know Maxi was brought off immediately, but that was happening regardless of the tackle.


Maxi and Carra were replaced by Adam and Kuyt, and shortly afterwards Bellamy came on for Gerrard. The skipper had felt a slight twinge apparently, which is not surprising given this was his third game in seven days and he's not long back from almost a very long lay off. Hopefully it was just a precaution and he won't be sidelined again. I'd be more surprised if he didn't feel the odd twinge really, as he was out a long time.


The changes definitely helped us and United's changes seemed to hinder them. By sending on Hernandez for Scholes they relinquished the control they'd had in midfield and the Mexican goalhanger was fairly anonymous. Goals are basically the only thing he brings to the table, he's a modern day Solskjaer. That's not a criticism, I'd love that kind of player here as it's just what we need.


The flow of the game definitely changed in the final 20 minutes. Adam was able to get on the ball and Bellamy was coming deep to find space and start attacks too, usually down the left flank where Downing and Enrique were becoming more of a factor the longer the game went on. We had a good penalty shout when Enrique's intended pass to Carroll was intercepted by Smalling who then slipped and handled the ball as he hit the floor. It was completely unintentional but he stopped the ball from reaching Carroll, who had to then stop his run and go back to retrieve the ball. His shot was blocked and he appealed furiously to Mark Halsey for the pen.


I was appealing for it too as I had a great view of it from where I sit. In fairness to Halsey I'm not sure he could have possibly seen whether it was handled or not from where he was, and even if he did see it there's no guarantee he'd deem it worthy of a penalty. The Main Stand linesman should have seen it, but then again maybe he did and just didn't see it as a penalty? Some you get, some you don't. This could have gone either way and Halsey got most things right on the day. Having said that, this might just have been the easiest Liverpool v Manchester United game to referee in a long time. I just hope the league game in a couple of weeks passes off with as little refereeing intervention as this, but I won't hold my breath.


There wasn't much in the way of chances for either side and the game looked to be heading for a bore draw and a replay at Old Trafford that we really didn't want. United would have been made up with that, although they were still trying to win the game and were more adventurous than they've been in recent league games here.


Then out of nothing we took the lead again. As Evra stood watching, Pepe's long clearance was flicked on by Carroll perfectly into the path of Kuyt and he drilled a low shot past De Gea. In all honesty it wasn't even a good finish, it was straight at the keeper and if it had been Joe Hart in goal he'd have saved it with his foot and we'd all be cursing Dirk. De Gea isn't Joe Hart though, he's more like Tony Hart.


Carroll almost made the game safe with a towering header that hit the post from Enrique's deep hanging cross. Kuyt was inches away from converting the rebound too. It's a pity for Carroll that it didn't go in, he played well and deserved a goal. Even when he does everything right it just isn't happening for him, how many times has he seen great headers come back off the bar or force a wonder save from a keeper?


It was a difficult game for him as often he didn't have people around him when the ball was played up to him. Still, he held the ball up much better than he has previously and he had a fire in his belly that hasn't always been there. He was yelling at Downing for a good 30 seconds after the winger cut the ball back to Adam rather than hang one up for Carroll. Downing kept pointing to Adam to say he did the right thing in picking him out, which is probably true. I liked that Carroll was angry about it though. Too often the ball is just floated at him instead of hung up in an area where he can attack it.


I wouldn't say his performance was anything special, but he did play well and he did most things that you would expect from him. Too often he hasn't done that, but this was a step in the right direction and it is a real shame he didn't get the goal as it would have boosted his confidence no end. Despite having major doubts, by and large the fans are still in his corner, even the most basic lay off or piece of control is greeted by applause as everyone wants him to do well. Hopefully this is something for him to build on, but one swallow doesn't make a summer and all that.


I'm going for Skrtel as the star man, he just shades it from his defensive partner Agger. Both were superb and it's good to see both also making a contribution in the opposing penalty this season too.


It's often said that a week is a long time in football, and the last seven days are proof of that. Compare the emotions of a week ago with how we're feeling now? It shouldn't be seen as a surprise that we've seen off both manc teams after losing to Bolton. We've been doing this all season. Drop stupid points against shite and then go and win at Chelsea or Arsenal. The last couple of games have been great, we played superbly against City and we showed great battling qualities and determination against United.


Hopefully we won't go and spoil it by losing at Wolves. Still, even if that happened at least we know Suarez will be back afterwards. How boss is it gonna be seeing him run out against Spurs next week?



Team: Reina; Kelly, Skrtel, Agger, Enrique; Carragher (Adam), Gerrard (Bellamy), Henderson; Downing, Carroll, Maxi (Kuyt):

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Great stuff Dave, as per usual.


Any chance you could copy and paste your bits on Suarez/Evra and send to the nationals?


It is getting beyond a joke how fucking thick ignorant/up Fergie's hole/anti-Liverpool (delete as appropriate) they are over this and in general.


SSN yesterday reporting constantly about that loon from North Wales who was making monkey gestures. Get a grip knob heads.

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Great report Dave. Thanks for succinctly summarising the whole farcical situation as a result of Evra lies.


You may not have seen it but Whisky Nose afterwards was saying something along the lines that they were the best team, more possession etc. To be honest no problem with that opinion but then he went on say something about the referee didn't give us much. Put down the feckin bottle you old soak you got nothing because there was fuck all to give!


For me what was really pleasing was that we did to Utd what they have done to others over the years, that is; play average and still have enough to get nous and desire to get a win. Very very pleasing. If Utd had done that to us the media would be praising Utd to the hilt, professional performance etc. however as it was us they focused on the booing. Shows the standards of journalism in this country I'm afraid and there are virtually no exceptions.


Well done to Kenny and the players for strength of character after last weekends debacle and well done to the fans for the solidarity shown.



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Yeah I saw Ferguson's interview. Didn't have a clue what he was bleating on about, I think it's just habit with him now. Lose = bring referee's performance into it.

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An honest report Dave. The Evra issue had to be addressed and how ironic it was that he messed up with Dirks goal. Thank goodness the team got their act together as todays report might have been totally different!

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We've got two massive games coming up now and hopefully that will bring out the best in the team. It usually does, as over the years we seem to have morphed into a side that will beat the top teams and lose to the shite ones. Having dropped points to the likes of Wigan, Blackburn, Stoke and Bolton in recent weeks, we really need performances against both manc teams this week as our entire season is on the line now. Fail to win either of these games, and there's very little left to play for.


You don't think they're reading this do you? Ahhh, no way. Footballers? Read?



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