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Manchester United 2 Liverpool 1 - Prem (Feb 11 2012)

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Manchester United 2 LIVERPOOL 1

Report by Dave Usher



Scorer(s) – Luis Suarez

Half Time - 0-0

Venue - Old Trafford

Date - Sat 11 Feb 2012

Star Man – Daniel Agger















We've undoubtedly had worse days at Old Trafford, but this was still pretty hard to stomach and it will sting for a little while. After all that's gone on this was a game we daren't lose, but we did lose it and deservedly so. We just didn't show up, it was a shocking performance and even though most of the focus will be about non-football related stuff, that shouldn't distract from how poorly we performed. We played the occasion, not the game, and we paid the price for it. The media can hype up the whole handshake farce, the tunnel bust ups and the post match comments all they like, it's our non-performance that bothers me more than anything.


I didn't like the team selection but I liked the way we performed even less. We were completely second best and seeing those two old timers running rings around us in the middle of the park was really tough to sit through. Our midfield was crap, the widemen were worse and the full backs were garbage. Skrtel and Agger were the only ones to come out of this with any credit (Reina too I guess), the rest ranged between awful and mediocre. We were fortunate to go in level at half time, but the ensuing tunnel shenanigans seemed to affect our concentration as we let in two soft goals in a five minute period after half time. We were never coming back from that, and everybody knew it.


I was surprised we even pulled one back to be perfectly honest. Nice that it was Suarez who scored it, but it was somewhat flukey and not down to good play on our part. The only other time we even went close to scoring was a shot from distance by Johnson that De Gea made look much more difficult than it actually was. Johnson had gone closest in the 1st half too, but overall I thought he was shite and didn't make the most of the acres of space he was afforded as Giggs tucked infield. He struggled defensively too and I have no idea where he was going on that first goal. Watch the replay, he's got position on Rooney but actually runs away from the ball whilst Rooney runs towards it.


The second goal was on Spearing who got caught on the ball by the impressive Valencia. I don't think Enrique helped the situation by playing it to him in such a tight space, but still, Jay has to do better than that. That Rooney goal ended the contest as we struggle to score goals at the best of times and it was going to take a miracle to get two back at Old Trafford. It looked more likely at this stage that they would add to the lead before we would reduce it, and they had chances before they appeared to settle for what they had and began trying to just play keepball.


Suarez's goal gave us some faint hope and we did improve after the introduction of Carroll and Bellamy, but it was still fairly routine for United and De Gea had a piss easy afternoon. That's the most frustrating thing for me, that lad is dodgy as fuck, especially on crosses. Yet we barely tested him at all. I didn't agree with Carroll being left out as not only has he started to look decent of late, but he'd have strongly fancied himself against the likes of Evans and the washed up Ferdinand. Leaving him out when he's finally getting some confidence just seems counter productive to me.


And quite why Downing got the nod over Bellamy is anyone's guess. Craig Bellamy is a big game player who thrives on the pressure occasions like this bring. Stewart Downing is the complete opposite, he disappeared as soon as the whistle blew to start the game. I can't say he was noticeably bad, as I didn't even notice him until he got booked for mistiming a tackle on Rafael. He was invisible and there's no excuse for an experienced international player to have such little impact on a game. Risible stuff, I was furious with him as this was just a cowardly performance. We needed players who wanted to take the game by the scruff of the neck and win their individual battles. Instead we got Downing doing his Mr Passive act once more and not testing Rafael even once. Henderson wasn't much better but at least he looked like he wasn't scared of receiving the ball.


I understood why Henderson got the nod over Adam (I even suggested it would happen in my Spurs report the other day), but in hindsight Adam should have played. Presumably Henderson, Kuyt and Downing were all selected because of what they could do without the ball rather than with it, as we'd have been far more threatening with Adam, Carroll and Bellamy in there. It was just a bad day all round, poor selection, even worse performance and yet more negative headlines and bad publicity that won't be going away anytime soon.


The day may have turned out differently had Phil Dowd penalised Ferdinand just before half time for the incident with Suarez. I'd say it was probably a foul based on the fact that both players seemed to play the ball at virtually the same moment, but Ferdinand was tackling from behind and went through Suarez to get it. You could also argue that it was his second movement that brought Suarez down after the striker had ridden the initial contact and was through on goal. It was far from clear cut though and even after numerous replays it's difficult to make a conclusive judgement of it, and that's before you even get into interpretation.


There's no way I can have a go at Dowd for that as it was such a close call and unless he has a clear view of it and is completely sure what happened, he can't give it. Suarez was understandably furious and lost his cool for the first time. When the half time whistle went seconds later he booted the ball away in frustration and there's many a ref who'd have taken action against him. I have to say I thought Dowd was brilliant on the day.


I can't think of too many decisions he got wrong, but more importantly he didn't allow the occasion to get to him and showed a lot of common sense. He was fully aware of the tension surrounding the fixture and how things could easily get out of hand, and he did everything he could to ensure it didn't. Instead of booking Suarez, he just told him to cool it. At the end when Evra was inciting trouble by celebrating right in front of Suarez, he got himself over there and dragged Evra away and told him to pack it in.


So whilst he could have sent Ferdinand off for that challenge, I don't have any complaint about it and I actually have nothing but praise for Dowd on the day. Might be the first time I've written that, and may well be the last. Credit where it's due though, this could have got seriously out of hand with a different referee in charge.


As for the whole handshake fiasco, it's not as clear cut as is being reported for me (never is though, is it?). Did Suarez snub Evra? Well firstly let me say that if he did I wouldn't blame him as in his shoes there's no way I'd want to shake hands with Evra. What most people seem to be failing to understand is that Suarez completely denies saying most of the things Evra accused him of saying. That the FA decided to believe Evra over Suarez proves nothing but does add to the sense of injustice felt by Suarez.


Evra accused him of saying that he 'kicked him because he is black' and that he 'does not talk to blacks'. Suarez vehemently denies saying either of those things. Now, if you did not say such things but had been branded a racist and suspended for 8 games because people chose to believe the word of your accuser, would you shake hands with that person? I wouldn't, it would have taken all the willpower I could muster not to fucking lamp him.


That being said, Suarez had presumably told Kenny that he would shake Evra's hand (Kenny said during the week that Luis would shake all the United players hands) and by not doing so he put his manager in an awful position. Kenny was visibly shocked when he was informed after the game that Suarez had not shook Evra's hand. So whilst I wouldn't blame Suarez if he chose not to go through with it, if he'd told Kenny he would do it then he should have.


However, I'm far from convinced that the non-handshake was a result of Suarez 'snubbing' Evra. Luis had his hand out, he did not pull away from it. Evra appears to pull his hand back slightly before then moving it back as Suarez is on his way past. Watch how Evra shakes the hands of the other LFC players but then changes his movement when Suarez approaches. There's clear hesitation there. He then kicks off when Suarez continues on to De Gea and grabs his arm agressively and makes a big scene. He had no right to do that, regardless of whether Suarez snubbed him or if it was just a misunderstanding.


As I see it, there's three possible explanations for what happened:


1) Suarez decided to go back on what he told Kenny he would do and simply ignored Evra.


2) Evra feigned to pull away knowing Suarez wouldn't be able to do anything and then he made a big deal about being snubbed to once again portray Suarez as the bad guy.


3) There was a hesitation as to who should grab the other's hand, and neither did it. Both were wary of eachother and whether they were going to be snubbed, so neither made the first move to actually initiate the handshake and before you knew it Suarez had walked past and all hell broke loose.


I don't know which of these is accurate, nobody does apart from the two participants. Everyone has an opinion on it, but there's no way anyone can be conclusively sure about what went down. If I had to place them in order of most likely to least likely I'd say 3,2,1, but that's based on 'probability' which proves nothing unless you're an FA Kangaroo Court. In short, I don't know what actually happened but I'd certainly like to hear Suarez's version of events.


What I do know is that these things happen in a split second and even the slightest hesitation is enough to throw the whole thing off. If Suarez thought Evra was not offering his hand he's hardly going to just stand there like a dickhead. Some will argue that's precisely what he should have done, therefore forcing Evra into a decision. If Evra didn't accept his hand, at least Suarez could say he tried. They may also argue that when Evra grabbed him he could have rectified the misunderstanding and shook his hand then and explained he initially thought Evra didn't want to and he meant no offence. I'm not going to condemn him for not doing that as I highly doubt I'd have done it in his position, especially if I thought he'd pulled his hand away.


Once again Suarez will be portrayed as the villain, even though once again it was Evra who completely lost his head and saw the red mist. Within seconds of the game starting he tried to do Suarez and ended up almost breaking Ferdinand's neck after Luis saw him coming and took evasive action (if we'd gone on to win the game this might have gone down as one of the funniest things I've ever seen). He then caused murder in the tunnel at half time when he went after Suarez and according to the Sky reporter on the scene had to be prevented from entering the LFC dressing room by Skrtel, which then almost started a mass brawl. Skrtel should have let him in and then closed the door behind him.


Then finally there was his over the top celebrations at the final whistle, dancing and whipping the crowd up right in front of Suarez. Through all of this, Suarez didn't react to anything. Yet he'll be getting caned from all sides now because of the whole handshake farce whilst Evra will be portrayed as some kind of fucking conquering hero. It's sickening, and I'll be avoiding Sky and all the papers for at least a week. I'm not subjecting myself to the endless stream of shite that's going to be churned out. No doubt scumbags like Jason Roberts and Gordon Taylor will be getting plenty of airtime over the next day or two.


The owners will no doubt be disturbed to see the club being dragged through the mud yet again, there were some suggestions they weren't happy about Kenny's remark after the Spurs game about how Suarez 'should never have been banned in the first place', and after the manager said earlier in the week that Suarez would shake Evra's hand I'm sure they'll be wanting an explanation for the latest shitstorm we've become embroiled in. All because of a stupid fucking handshake.


Those pre-match handshakes need to be fucked off completely, they're a total waste of time and it's become a pantomime now. "Will Wayne Bridge shake John Terry's hand?" "Will Anton Ferdinand shake Terry's hand?" "Will Evra shake Suarez's hand?" Who gives a shit? Everybody it seems. It's a joke, this fucking stupid pre-match ritual is getting more attention than the actual game. It's a morbid curiosity we have. Be honest, most us watched that Chelsea/City game to see what would happen with Terry and Bridge, and millions of neutrals will have tuned in to see what happened here. The storylines behind the matches seem to mean more than the actual games themselves, it's like the fucking WWE these days.


The thing is, why should you HAVE to shake hands with everybody from the other team? If you don't like somebody why should you be forced to shake their hand? Let's face it, Evra didn't want to shake hands with Suarez, and Suarez didn't want to shake hands with Evra. They both agreed to do it for the benefit of other people, not themselves. They were put in a position were it was expected of them, just to satisfy some bullshit pre-match etiquette and to give some false impression that everything is cool now. Why? It should be completely optional who a person shakes hands with, and them two shaking hands wouldn't have changed anything in terms of what they feel about eachother. When the game finishes you can shake hands with whoever you choose, and refuse to shake hands with whoever you choose. Scrap this fucking charade as it's more trouble than it's worth.


Ferdinand didn't shake Suarez's hand but fuck all will be said about that. Surprisingly I found myself agreeing with Rooney afterwards when he refused to rise to the bait dangled in front of him by Sky and just said something along the lines of "It's between those two whether they shake hands or not, the rest of us need to just be professional about it." Pity his manager didn't show the same level of decorum, the reprehensible piece of filth.


There's a lot I could say about Ferguson and his comments but I'm not going to. It wouldn't do me or TLW any credit so it's better to keep it to myself. I'll be interested to hear what Kenny has to say in response though, that's for sure. When that will be is anyone's guess. He swerved the post-match press conference (for the best as nothing good was ever going to come of that) and they don't usually do one before FA Cup games so it might be a while before Kenny speaks.


Star man is Agger, he shades it from Skrtel purely based on the reports coming out of Denmark that he told Ferdinand he wanted to fight him outside. Maybe next time we can arrange that instead of the charade of shaking hands and pretending to respect eachother. Just let them all fight it out in the centre circle and be done with it, we've got the WWE style storylines, may as well go the whole hog and get the steel cage set up for next time. What I'd give to see Agger and Skrtel in a tag match with Ferdinand and Evra. Or Ferguson in a buried alive caskett match.



Team: Reina; Johnson, Skrtel, Agger, Enrique; Gerrard, Spearing (Carroll), Henderson; Kuyt (Adam), Suarez, Downing (Bellamy):

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Political correctness, Dave.

People need to be seen to respect and care about one another thesedays, even though, for mine, they give far less of a shite about their fellow man than people did 30 years ago, when ceremonial handshake gangbangs wouldn't have been dreamt of.

And you're spot on. For all the sanctimonious third party opinions, the only two people that truly know what went on with Evra and Suarez, then and now, are the two blokes themselves. And there is absolutely nothing to suggest to me that Evra's side of the story has any more integrity than Suarez's. Indeed on face value and body language, prickly cunt though he can seem, Suarez looks considerably the more honest of the two. But again, honesty means fuck all thesedays and is itself one of the antitheses of political correctness.

Great report by the way, as usual. I don't know how you summoned up the motivation to write it so quickly after the game. To get it out of the way perhaps!!

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I think you've covered every angle of this Dave. Great report in a short space of time. I can't fucking believe how one-sided the reports on this whole debacle is. It's quite devastating to be honest.


I hope the club has reported everything that went on just to see if anything sticks because the whole game and the aftermath of it was a fucking disgrace. I hope the Germans come back to knock the whole place down once again.

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You know somethings not right when this whole handshakegate shit is breaking news in major news channels all over the world. As Jamie redknapp rightly pointed out, this whole handshake thing is a farce anyway and if you dont like the guy then dont shake his hand. simple. We need to bounce back from this. I just dont know how.

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Your reports are the only ones that say it how it is. No sanctimonious hypocrisy, just a refreshingly honest view on a footy match - and the sideshow shit.


The last two paragraphs are hilarious, mate.


Thanks for doing them.

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Good Report Dave, It's the match that matters and the occasion definitely effected the players. Gerrards form is a worry, but worse still is why Kenny keeps playing Downing he is fuckin gash and bottles it every big game.

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Don't usually disagree with much in your match reports, but I thought your assessment of our performance was a bit harsh, especially in relation to the first half.


We weren't brilliant, but i thought we did our job in the first half, by and large. I can only really remember United threatening once through Scholes' header and we had our own chances to threaten but the end product wasn't there. With that said, our main job in the first half was not to concede and we achieved that. Unfortunately, the plan went to shit when they scored in the 2nd half. We never looked like getting anything out of the game then.


I agree with you on Carroll and Bellamy, both should have played. Carroll is especiallly hard done by as he has really started to improve lately and show signs of life. He may have been ideal for this game as well as he's the only player we have who can act as a target man up front and give us an outlet when we are coming under pressure from them.


I'm not going waste energy on the handshake stuff. It's clear that the media have made up their mind who was in the wrong and it's telling that the emerging video evidence has not yet been discussed on any of the reports I've seen this morning.


The only positive to take from the whole day is that Chelsea and Newcastle lost so it hasn't costed us as much as it might have.

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Enjoyable reading. I agree with all the general sentiment, thought the ref did well considering the microscopic attention everyone was placing on the game.

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Dave, your writing is keeping me sane over the last few weeks.

I heard Gordon Taylor on R5 this morning and could feel my blood pressure going through the roof. Don't know whether it's him or Ferguson I despise most in the world.

As a Liverpool fan I have had a real up and down road these last 40 years, but have never felt totally isolated before. Happily TLW keeps a sense of proportion and common sense. As you say the football is what matters.

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Good report Dave and it's the only one I'll be bothering to read about the match or indeed the non-handshake as I can't believe the amount of fuss kicked up about it or how yet again Evra has come out of this being portrayed as a hero. I kept thinking all week please just don't lose this game and five minutes into the second half I was just completely livid with yet another Old Trafford collapse. Poor team selection and a poor performance. I must admit I completely gave up on Downing after his completely gutless performance in the league defeat at Manchester City and if anything this was even worst and I'm always disappointed if I see his name on the teamsheet these days.

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Brilliant report Dave, would have loved Danny to have hoofed Plug all round Salford.


Its the cowardice of our performance I cant get over, never mind Evra being a lying little bitch or Fergsuon being his usual cuntish self, we helped them and its that that hurts.

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Great report Dave, Thanks.

That shaking hands with all the opposing team is a load of bollocks. There are people I play with every week whose hand I wouldn't shake, not to mind opponents.

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Guest LFD
Presumably Henderson, Kuyt and Downing were all selected because of what they could do without the ball rather than with it, as we'd have been far more threatening with Adam, Carroll and Bellamy in there.


This is similar to what Benitez would do at times. Concentrate too much at stopping the opposition, rather than making them worry about us.


As a result, United didn't have to worry about our attack, as Suarez was isolated and Downing, Kuyt, Henderson offered little support or threat. So United could concentrate on hurting us and we had to think about stopping them.


But when we made the changes and brought on Carroll / Bellamy, Suarez then had some support, we had far more threat and United weren't as attacking and were worrying about stopping us.


I thought when Dalglish came in he would be focussing more about us than the opposition, he always says he does in his press conferences. But no doubt about it that teams was selected to nulify United and then bring on Bellamy, Carroll to win us the game at the end - it worked at Arsenal earlier in the seaosn that tactic. But the problem was we were already 2-0 down by that stage on Saturday and we tried it against City away in the league earlier in the season, but by the time Bellamy came on we were 3-0 down that day.


We have to start being more adventurious, even if it does cost us a few more losses. We have had 8 draws in the league, but if we won 3 of those games and lost the other 5, we'd have more points than the 8 draws had given us.


Play our biggest threats, our match winners and let the opposition worry about us. For me I'd start Bellamy, Gerrard, Suarez and Maxi whenever fit - maybe even Carroll as well... as they are our four or five biggest goal threats.

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