Fortunate Reds gain points and praise at Anfield



So there it was – a result at Anfield at last. Nearly five long years of struggles, ending not with a domineering performance so many travelling Manchester United fans sought, but a huge slice of fortune. It favours the brave, doesn’t it? At least those ‘brave’ enough to deploy a midfield axis of Michael Carrick and Ryan Giggs.

United’s 2-1 victory on Sunday, after four defeats in the past five visits to Anfield, came not on the back of a great team performance. Not even near it. Nor indeed, any real moments of individual genius – although Rafael’s fine goal came close – but two refereeing decisions that swang the match United’s way. First robbing Liverpool of all midfield momentum, and then handing United the match 10 minutes from time.

Referee Mark Halsey got both of those key moments right though – JonJo Shelvey’s 39th minute dismissal for a high tackle on Jonny Evans, and the 81st minute penalty that enabled Robin van Persie to seal United’s first win at Anfield since December 2007. Sir Alex Ferguson’s men deserved very little of the luck though, with the Scot’s midfield completely – and predictably – overrun until Shelvey’s red card changed the game, and the canny Paul Scholes was brought on to ruthlessly exploit the additional space.

In truth, while United defended far better than in many recent matches – Rio Ferdinand on the day of John Terry’s international retirement was immense at the heart of the Reds’ back-four – Ferguson’s men created very little. This was a match in which United’s 70-year-old manager got his tactics all wrong, but came up trumps anyway.

Relief, then, for Ferguson whose team stole the points from a Liverpool side raising its game, once again, for United’s visit.

“In the last four years here we haven’t played well,” Ferguson told MUTV.

“Today at least we’ve got a result. Hopefully that’s a turning point for us because if you look back over the years we always did really well here. I think it was about five, six, seven years in a row we did exceptionally well, but it goes in cycles anyway. Before we had that run they had a period in the late ’80s of getting results against us, so it’s maybe our turn to start.

“I thought we were poor, to be honest with you. I think the last four years we’ve allowed the crowd to get to us a little bit – they give fantastic support to their team and they really dominated the first half. Second half they got a great start.

“With ten men I thought that was a great boost to them because it was something to hold on to, but credit to the players in that respect; the second half we played much, much better, but we were against ten men. I think Scholes, Carrick and Giggs’ experience got us through.”

Predictably, Liverpool’s players and manager complained about the refereeing, although it was almost impossible for Halsey not to have shown Shelvey red for a tackle that crossed the line from reckless to excessive. Meanwhile, other marginal calls fell United’s way, with little evidence for Liverpool’s complaint. Evans cleanly tackled Luis Suarez, with the Kop baying for a penalty, while Glenn Johnson felled Antonio Valencia ;under the official’s nose for the winning spot kick.

The pre-match ceremonies had brought a measure of détente between the camps, but it was shattered five minutes before half time when Shelvey refused to take his punishment with any grace. The former-Charlton midfielder, having already hit Ferdinand with a barrage of four-letter expletives on the pitch, aimed further ire at Ferguson before departing for the dressing rooms.

“I think it’s a clear sending off, I’ve absolutely no doubts about it,” added Sir Alex.

“I’ve seen the replay. It was reckless. Jonny Evans, who has dived in, went for the ball and got the ball, no question about that, but Shelvey was nowhere near getting the ball and could have given Jonny Evans a real bad injury. He was very lucky, actually.

“Shelvey came and blamed me. Why not? Why look at himself in the mirror? Just blame someone else. I think the boy’s young and when he looks at it again he’ll realise the stupidity of it. He may apologise, he may not.”

The midfielder later claimed on Twitter that he had apologised to United’s septuagenarian coach, before deleting the statement. It takes not a soothsayer to predict why, not least after the 20-year-old later accused Ferguson of being “a grass” for the manager’s perceived role in the decision.

Meanwhile, in a week when United supporters came under fire for singing “Always the victim” at Old Trafford last Saturday, Ferguson came perilously close to echoing the sentiment if not the dark spirit of that particularly divisive chant.

But there were positives for United, not least Ferdinand’s outstanding defensive display, and another buccaneering performance from Brazilian right-back Rafael da Silva. The youngster retains many critics, especially with loose defensive work too often complementing fine attacking skills. But with United on the rack for much of the fixture, Rafael demonstrated maturity in defence and an outstanding goal, curled in with his left foot.

“Rafael’s goal got us out of the mire,” added Ferguson of the 51st minute equaliser.

“It was a fantastic goal, a good bit of football and it put us in the position where we didn’t need to panic and worked our way through the rest of the game. [The penalty] wasn’t easy for him [van Persie], but he’s taken it well, just the way I envisaged he would take these penalties. When he was at Arsenal, either side he would thunder them home. Reina’s had a good attempt, he got a hand to it, but the power of the shot has made it safe.”

Off the pitch United played a full part in commemorating those lost at Hillsborough 23 years ago, with Sir Bobby Charlton handing 96 roses to former Liverpool striker Ian Rush. The flowers formed part of an extensive pre-match ceremony, which Ferguson had ensured United did not shirk.

Meanwhile, Steven Gerrard released red balloons over Anfield, followed by the usual pre-match rendition of “You’ll Never Walk Alone.”

Visiting supporters, warned to behave by Ferguson pre-match, sang through the anthem as is always the way at Anfield. “U N I T E D,” sang almost 3,000 travelling Mancunians in support of their team. ‘Foul’ cried a select few – ill-informed – journalists on social media.

While, Sky Sports deliberately sought to stoke the controversy, and the Mirror’s Martin Lipton claimed disrespect, there were no complaints from more sensible observers. After all, nobody claims “United Calypso” and dozens of other club anthems across the land are sacrosanct.

Indeed, this was a match when – save for a few muted cries of “Murderers” and one unfortunate burst of “Where’s your famous Munich song?” after 13 minutes – the majority came to pay respect and enjoy a fine, if fortunate United victory. By the end two Liverpool supporters ran across the Anfield turf wheeling their arms in an all-too-familiar aeroplane motion to provoke another round of anti-Liverpool songs in an empty stadium. There’s always a few to break the mould.

On the pitch United is yet to reach anywhere near top gear this season, having only ever played well in short bursts. There were rarely any moments at all on Sunday, save for the goals. In that there is at least hope; United can only get better in the season to come. Unless, the pessimists among us might add, Ferguson’s luck simply runs out. It certainly didn’t on Sunday.

But after a week in which the 70-year-old has forcefully built a bridge between the two clubs, perhaps he deserved it.

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  • uncleknobheadforfucksake

    more bollocks from taggart about ‘experience’ winning us the game

    assume one or both of giggs and scholes will start every big game this season again then

  • uncleknobheadforfucksake

    fucking best moment since we last won the league when persie buried that peno tho

    • Mongoletsi

      Yep. Reina beating the ground = brilliant :o)

  • red2death

    I’m one who hates the Liverpool ‘conspiracy theorists’ as much as the next guy. Liverpool have had some shit luck over the years, but it’s not like everyone’s intentionally out to get them.

    That said, you can’t say Halsey got the two major decisions right. He didn’t. If you take a look at the sending off, it’s fairly dangerous play from both, and arguably even worse from Evans. It’s either 2 reds or 2 yellows. Completely inconsistent to only send one party off. As for the argument about Evans ‘getting the ball’. The fact is both of them reach the ball at the same time. The only reason why it seemed to stick to Johnny was because he went in with both feet versus Shelvey’s one. Take a look and it’s plain to see they’re both off the ground, both going for the ball, Shelvey with one foot and Evans with two. There’s no way you can rule that Shelvey walks while Evans stays.

    http://i1226.photobucket.com/albums/ee408/theblackpearl121179/8015368309_37ab580c42_o_zps516d83e0.gif

    As for the penalty, there isn’t even contact. Valencia sense the tackle coming in and duly starts to go down. Johnson in fact ends up sliding to the side of him, but the penalty’s given. In fairness to Halsey, he probably couldn’t really see it properly, though with video replay from a different angle he’d be able to tell. Then again, he couldn’t see the tackle on Suarez in the box ten minutes earlier either, but no penalty for that. It would have been harsh had he given it. But the inconsistency still remains. If you’re going to punish studs-up challenges with a red card, then you need to do it to both teams. And if you’re going to award penalties that you can’t really see, then you need to do that at both ends of the field too. Apply whatever standards you want, but be consistent with both side. Decisions like that change games, and in this case they changed this one.

    • VermHat

      Liverpool fan.

      I commend your honesty. I think that with the Shelvey one, if it were me I would have been generous, since they were both at fault, and given a yellow a piece. That said, I would already have booked Shelvey for the Rafael tackle, so he still would have went. That doesn’t mean the ref didn’t get it wrong though. You can’t just give a straight red to one of those two players in my opinion. When I first saw the tackle, I though ‘Shelvey’s off and he deserves it’ but having seen the replays I can’t say that only him getting sent of is a good call.

      I find it hard to accept the Valencia pen as well as it is extremely soft. I wouldn’t mind if those pens were always given but the VAST majority of the time no ref is giving a pen for that little contact. I understand that at full speed it is easy to get knocked down by small contact (I actually, to great unpopularity, always used to bring this up when people called C. Ronaldo a diver) but it isn’t consistent to give that pen. You also make a good point about the ref being unsighted.

      • http://www.unitedrant.co.uk Ed

        VermHat – surely the question isn’t whether it’s a penalty (shove plus clipped heals) but why Johnson didn’t get sent off for denying a clear goalscoring opportunity?

        • Mongoletsi

          Yep. But heh lets not let facts get in the way of playing victim.

          • VermHat

            @Mongoletsi

            Fucking immature. I’m trying to have a bit of a dialogue with red2death about his post so that makes me a victim?

            Where do I say ‘all the refs are out to get us!’ or ‘the refs siding with United again!’. Where do I even say the ref ‘definitely’ got it wrong? I’m saying ‘in my opinion’, ‘if it were me’ and things like that.

            It makes me a victim to have an opinion? It sounds like you’re the ‘victim’ mate- I’m trying to have a little debate and you start throwing insults around because they don’t align with yours.

        • VermHat

          At that angle can you call it a clear goalscoring opportunity? I think in a lot of situations a yellow would have been given. I can understand where you are coming from though- he is in the 6 yard box more or less and is the last man. Like a lot of the decisions yesterday, I think there is an argument to be made either way.

          Maybe you’re right, but I don’t think it would have made a difference in the game anyway (no excuse on the ref’s part though).

          • http://www.premiersoccerchat.com Todd

            It may not have been a clear goal scoring chance, but the proof is there that it was a clear penalty.

            Valencia was pushed.

    • Mongoletsi

      Are you on crack?

      Valencia gets his ankle tapped, a push in the back, and then a leg stuck out.

      PENALTY.

  • Tom

    Listening to Ferguson manipulate referees in his post game comments was enlightening . A stone cold sending off and a definite penalty ,huh???. What a joker !! I’m not even a Liverpool fan and my fists balled up listening to this garbage. Valencia joined a long list of Man U divers , the likes of Ashley Young, Rooney, Wellbeck. Does anyone still think this is not a trend. A fish rots from head on down. One can only hope this comes back to bite them in the ass when it really matters . One reason Suarez wasn’t awarded a spot kick for Liverpool because he took one dive too many before , hopefully Man U clownes get theirs.

    • http://www.unitedrant.co.uk Ed

      Tom – didn’t you know the WHOLE SYSTEM is out to get Liverpool?

    • Mongoletsi

      How was it not a penalty?

      Did Johnson clip Valencia’s heel? YES
      Did Johnson push Valencia in the back? YES
      Did Johnson then put his leg across Valencia? YES

      Was it a penalty? YES

  • http://www.premiersoccerchat.com Todd

    People can complain about the unfairness of calls all they want. I think every team experiences them, not just Liverpool. How many bad calls have changed games for United? Changed outcomes (think back to that offside call on Scholes against Porto).

    The bigger question, in my opinion, is what will be done about it? If the Premier League actually thinks the calls were bad and that the referee messed up, what will they do about? What consequences are given to referees when they change how a game turns out?

  • Anantax

    I thought red card was clear – no doubt in my mind that was a red card.

    Penalty i am less certain, but i think its yhe right call, even if it was a very soft call to give

  • jDUKE_

    Actually, if you actually watch the replays of the penalty call you will see that Johnson clips the heel of AV shooting foot with his shin and also has two hands on his back.

    At speed, both of these two actions would have prevented AV7 from being able to get his shot off. Since they were actions that were against the rules and in the box, the penalty call was absolutely the correct call.

  • http://www.newhallmedialtd.com Calvino

    uncleknobheadforfucksake said:
    more bollocks from taggart about ‘experience’ winning us the game

    assume one or both of giggs and scholes will start every big game this season again then

    As soon as read that I groaned in despair!! What has happened to the manager in the last five years?? We must be the laughing stock of the top teams in Europe.

  • Gabagool

    Cannot believe how Fergie insists on playing giggs in these games, yes he’s got all the experience in the world but that’s no good when you’ve started giving the ball away every time you get it. If you insist on playing “experience” at least make it scholes who can still influence a game.

  • RobDiablo

    uncleknobheadforfucksake said:
    assume one or both of giggs and scholes will start every big game this season again then

    Calvino said:
    As soon as read that I groaned in despair!! What has happened to the manager in the last five years?? We must be the laughing stock of the top teams in Europe.

    Well, Sir Alex’s failure to act in the transfer market has left him with little choice but to rely on a mix of the aging, the inconsistent, the inexperienced, and the oft-injured to fill his central midfield–many of them playing out of position. It’s no good him arguing that he couldn’t replace Keane and/or Scholes with exact copies, everyone understands that, but he needed to replace them with players of an equivalent, world class quality and then structure his formation accordingly. He’s already been forced to abandon the 4-4-2 formation against any opponent of decent quality, so why not buy the midfielders capable of being the engine room of yet another great side?

  • Alfonso Bedoya

    Right… first of all… that’s a red card all day long… only one player ever going to be injured there… Evans… and it’s only luck that his leg wasn’t broken… I can understand Liverpools complaint… it was their player, after all… but had the roles been reversed, I suspect they’d have backed the decision.
    The penalty was a strange one for me… it’s hard to tell if he was clipped or not… but look at his position, and ask yourself… if he wasn’t fouled, then why didn’t he shoot???… he was right there to hit it, and could/should score.
    As far as Giggs starting… get used to it… Ferguson has already said he thinks Giggs has a couple more years left… can you believe that?… Giggs playing at 40???
    But I’m wondering what’s wrong with Cleverly and Anderson, that they’re not picked???
    Lucky win, but 3 points from one of our toughest away games of the year will do me nicely.

    “Badges, to god-damned hell with badges! We have no badges. In fact, we don’t need badges. I don’t have to show you any stinking badges, you god-damned cabrón and ching’ tu madre! Come out from that shit-hole of yours. I have to speak to you.”

  • Gabagool

    The more I dwell on this the more I’m actually starting to think that Fergie is losing it. I never thought id say this and it still doesn’t sit quite right with me because the man is a legend for our team and STILL quite obviously a master motivator, but his decision making and tactics are becoming random and frightening. Surely nobody in their right mind would have started giggs ahead of cleverly or scholes in this game? And how the feck he persists with he tactically inept coaching staff he has is beyond me.
    I’ve got a horrible feeling that we’re going to cop a major hiding from someone if he keeps this up. Pains me to say it but maybe this should be the last hurrah for Fergie AND Giggsy.

    • Tourettes at the KOB

      That horrible feeling about copping a hiding is echoed amongst many, worst of all it’s like;y to come from the “Bitters” again, has SAF forgotten last years 1-6 drubbing at home.
      Giggsy has been a great player, but time to hand him the water bucket to carry. If “experience” is what SAF is relying on, then he may have even asked Sir Bobby to get stripped after the pre-match ceremony and put in a shift !!!
      What we need in midfield is movement and energy, even if the likes of cleverly are not an consistant success, these boys need to be kept in the team to gain more experience before we are “Run Over ” by some some top four “truck”

  • Violent Banana

    I simply cannot comprehend why Fergie persists with Giggs in centre midfield in big away games. Didn’t he also play at the Etihad last season, in a match where we failed to register a single shot on target?

    If he has to start, then it should be games at Old Trafford against teams like Wigan.

    Like Gaba says, I definitely think our management team could do with a fresh perspective on formation and tactics. There’s a danger of making him a scapegoat here, but what does Mike Phelan actually do?

    And does the hairdryer treatment work anymore? We’ve had plenty of abject first halves recently; I’m struggling to recall a significantly improved second half performance.

    ORVP

  • Alfonso Bedoya

    The coaching staff is another thing that we need to get used to… when Ferguson calls it a day, I expect Phelan to get the job.

    Maintain continuity, and Mike understands the United philosophy, and it’s the United way to promote from within, and more predictable bollocks.

    Watch and see…

  • Just1n

    Giggs starting was a joke decision. How many flick ons must he pass to the opposition before Fergie gets the message. Cleverly and Anderson sitting on the bench…. WTF! No wonder Pogba fucked off and funnily enough he started for Juventus and had a decent game.

    • Damian Garside

      What I don’t understand and maybe my pals here can help me with coz it’s driving me a bit mental: why is it that Feegie replaces a young player NOT after they had a disastrous game and made mistakes that led to us losing, and NOT after they just did OK, but after they played like the answer to oyr problems and, as most recently, SCORED brilliant and important goals. I know what I think this says about our manager and it is cery sad and unfortunate and a recipe for disaster. The 2 young players who scored in their first game should have been given a run, they would have been brimming with an infectious confidence that could have energized the team. The opposite seems to be true about Giggs: no matter how badly he plays and how much he fails to get into the game the manager not only keeps faith with him , but actually lauds him as if he were the architect of the victory. You cannot win the league when your manager’s thinking is messed up.

      • Just1n

        Fergie really spouts bollox about the commitment to youth. There is no logical reason for Giggs to have started that game in a midfield two and to drop the youngsters is just bizarre. Thankfully the red card saved us from a good rodgering as Pool were well on top of our midfield before the red.

        • http://www.unitedrant.co.uk Ed

          Just1n – comes to something when a spanner like JonJo Shelvey looks like he’d walk into our team. I could even forgive him the tackle – at least he wants to make one. There was a time when Fergie absolutely had to had at least one evil bastard in the side – often plenty of them. Now there’s none. Not a single one.

  • Sid

    Have been trying to figure out the decision to start Giggs, it is interesting to see that he was named captain, could the occasion have played a part? Once Ferguson decided to rest Vidic, the captaincy would normally go to Evra, which was never going to happen at Anfield, especially with what was planned before kick-off. Ferdinand no longer gets the armband because of his fitness record, I wonder if this contributed to Giggs’ selection.

  • Swoggy

    It has become very depressing watching the team this season with no one able to keep or pass the ball except backwards when it gets lumped up field and lost.I will not mention the obvious midfielders instead dont understand how Carrick avoids critics .. he cannot go forwards with the ball under control, it generaly bounces away from him or if he makes it to the ‘D’ he shows no composure to lay off a gentle pass or for once hit the damb thing at goal, Anderson would have the confidence to.
    Like last season our false league position covers over many worsening player & tactic performances and I get the impression RVP is shocked that his new team mates are not as good as he expected and is overwhelmed by the amount of work expected from him – we know how his body reacts if pushed too far.
    A concerned,longtime Red.

  • Denton Davey

    Swoggy @ 2:26: “dont understand how Carrick avoids critics .. he cannot go forwards with the ball under control, it generaly bounces away from him or if he makes it to the ‘D’ he shows no composure to lay off a gentle pass or for once hit the damb thing at goal”

    I assume that you didn’t see the match against Galatasary.

    • Swoggy

      I see what you mean…. thought you was saying he was forever bombing forward with the ball stuck to his laces providing numorous chances.

      I saw it ALL the other 89min. You think him tripping in thier box due to Hypoxia and nudging the ball in makes up for 2 barren yrs.

  • sidney

    I can’t be arsed with fretting over the usual early season shitness. A lot of yesterday’s shite play was due to nerves, the occasion, the pressure etc. basically things people on forums can’t comprehend. A win is all that matters in a game like that.

  • uncleknobheadforfucksake

    weve been shite in every game this season, and all bar the first few last season

  • marlon

    Despite Scholes and Giggs now playing in the same position it’s unfair to compare them directly. Scholes, like Giggs, occasionally comes up with the odd bit of magic, but on the whole his game is focused on retaining possession which, for the most part, he achieves by spreading the ball out wide where players have more space. Giggs is much more likely to play a riskier forward pass through the middle.

    Giggs still has a role in the team, although not as part of a two man CM or on the wing. He is one of our best players at playing through balls, so in Kagawa’s position he could thrive, with a lower workload and less defensive responsibility. His talents are clearly better suited to chance creation instead of winning and retaining possession. I seem to remember the last time he thrived was playing behind Rooney in a 4411 in the CL. He is a player the team has to ‘carry’, but he’s definitely worth it when on form.

    After we lost to Barca, Fergie seemed intent on building a team to match them. Since then, our biggest weakness has become playing against teams who use a pressing game. Not sure how Carrick shirking his defensive responsibilities is supposed to help that. Hopefully he’ll be able to find a balance and do for us what Arteta does for Arsenal, although I don’t think he has the stamina required.

    Not too worried about our season though. Started badly but Rooney is yet to return, our second top scorer is Rafael and we’ve only lost one game. No point worrying about Scholes/Giggs either. Fergie is just waiting for Giggs to score his customary goal and Scholes has at most 4 months left.

  • uncleknobheadforfucksake

    giggs will probably have a run of superb games in cm next to carrick again at some point when the chance of a new deal starts rearing its head, hes been doing this for 10 years

  • http://twitter.com/dosdamt Ben Hulston

    Abject performance, brilliant result

    All you delusionals questioning either the red card, or the penalty, have a word with yourselves.

  • uncleknobheadforfucksake

    why does everyone say we’re trying to build a side like barca

    what have we ever done since they battered us to suggest that

    signed two one dimensional wingers, signed one dimensional hernandez, signed berbatov, and signed persie who theyd probably stick on the wing, oh and that kagawa, jurys out on him

    we’ve changed our play from high paced xfactory stuff from the wingers and forwards led by ronaldo to one paced complacent aimless crossing shite led by valencia

    and weve signed no midfielders

    and we play a flat movementless 442 more often than ever

  • marlon

    After we lost the CL final, Fergie said something about responding to the challenge etc. etc. So not necessarily a side like Barca, but one that would do better against them.

    Then we sold/retired 5-10 players and started the next season with Anderson/Cleverley playing and everything was different until injury/city happened. Then we finally bought a no.10 and an expensive striker.

    If you weren’t watching the games, you’d think something had changed.

  • sidney

    That Liverpool documentary is shite. It’s like a party political broadcast for the yank rendition cunts. Some excruciating shots of Rodgers opening curtains to usher in a new dawn while he talks in rhetoric and cliches. Set of cunts. Glad we beat em.

  • uncleknobheadforfucksake

    is suarez in it

  • Ichiro

    Its time the Cleverley- Anderson midfield was given another chance.

    • Gabagool

      Agreed, what has Fergie got to lose? The midfield has been abject so far this year. At the very least give em a start against Newcastle so they get some playing time.

  • sidney

    uncleknobheadforfucksake said:
    is suarez in it

    Yeah, he went round to Lucas’ house. The whole thing was staged. He sat there with a couple of other players, and their wives, and they all played monopoly.

    He was sat on a black couch too, so how can he be racist.

  • bman

    Well, in the positives column, Rafael is looking very sharp going forward. That was a really cracking goal he scored. Yeah he’s still a bit dodgy defending, but it’s easier to teach him that. Also, he’s a sharp defender when he’s been instructed to sit back more, like when he plays against someone like Bale. It’s more the balance between defending and attacking that catches him out, he gets caught out of position. And you could argue that he’d get caught out of position a lot less if our shit midfield didn’t lose possession so often.
    To be honest I think we’re short of just one big game player in central midfield, someone who’d lift the whole team up. Yeah we’re dodgy on left wing and so on, but we’d start looking better everywhere if central midfield was a source of strength again instead of being a big sucking black hole our attackers, defenders, and wingers have to compensate for.

  • Clive

    With regards to the the Suarez penalty shout – I’ve watched it a good few times now and I’m pretty certain Evans doesn’t touch the ball so I think they were robbed there, but as Fergie said we never get decisions at Anfield usually, so about time!