YOU go to Old Trafford. You don’t play well. They don’t play well. They win.
I think I’ve seen this film before. I’ve seen games decided by set pieces. I’ve seen blunt sides overwhelmed by the occasion. I’ve seen vaguely questionable refereeing decisions. I’ve seen Liverpool be poor so often.
Better Liverpool sides have lost like this to better Manchester United sides. And in essence, that is the problem.
Sean Rogers said to me on the Tuesday Review: “You can get beat at Old Trafford whatever you do…so why not be bold.” And I think this is going to become the thing quite quickly, if it wasn’t the thing already — no-one wants this Liverpool to be cagey, not really, no one wants backward steps.
There was a time when we did want backward steps and when we understood them. There was a time when solidity made sense over and over again. Under different managers. In different eras.
Since Crystal Palace made it 3-3, since before then if we are honest, everyone has wanted Liverpool to be more solid. Be more solid, stop the attacking, stop the risk taking. Concede fewer goals. Keep it tight. Be normal. And Liverpool have looked to do that. Consistently looked to change it and sit deeper; be responsible. That’s been deemed the correct course of action.
It isn’t the correct course of action. It is wrong. It is very wrong indeed.
Today is the apogee of its wrongness. Turning up not to get at them but to let them have it and look to spring makes sense against Arsenal but against this United side Liverpool should be looking to own the ball. To own the game. To create and to dominate.
This is important: they may fail in that. It might go wrong. It’s football, things often do. The question that should very often be asked in football is how do you want to fail? Only one team can win the league. Everyone else fails. Only one team can win the World Cup. How do you want to represent yourself
Therefore it is in the attempt that this side asserts itself and creates for itself an identity. Instead Liverpool do what they aren’t quite capable of and then only get going when they go a goal down.
Liverpool sides should not look better when they go a goal down. That isn’t the point of the enterprise and yet that is exactly what happened. It could be right to state United didn’t have their first shot on goal from open play until they made it 3-1, it could be right to state that that is what Louis Van Gaal wanted, it would be right to say that we should not accede to his reality, that we should consistently try to create our own.
Fine margins are what this game came down to. Fine margins are what Liverpool have been poor at since June 2009. Fine margins needed to be got rid of, because if you can’t win by fine margins then why try to play a game decided by fine margins? Play the game that suits you.
Liverpool were poor straight after half time — not quite at it and allowed United to reclaim the upper hand and then they scored from a set piece, a lovely strike from a classy footballer, unstoppable, unerring. Then they played, of course they did, and they should equalise and of course they don’t.
Because this is Old Trafford and you can lose whatever you do. Milner toiled in every sense. Can yet again showed his strengths and weaknesses, Benteke was poor until he was absolutely brilliant because that’s the way it is with attackers. Liverpool failed to convert two or three of the best opportunities of the game from open play. No sympathy from here — the approach didn’t deserve the points.
The second killed, further evidence of the idea that young defenders make one mistake they get punished and pilloried, while United’s third showed young forwards do one thing well they get applauded to the skies though Skrtel was very poor indeed and his starting place should be under serious threat.
You can lose at Old Trafford whatever you do. My hand to God, you can lose at Old Trafford whatever you do. In our last 20 visits we’ve lost 15 times and in that period we have tried all kinds.
Norwich and Aston Villa both come to Anfield next and those are bigger games for our season than this one. But. But but but. It’s time to be about something because if we aren’t we can’t be having it. It’s time to cut loose. It’s time to try and be the better side. We’ve got to try to be able to sing tra-la-la-la. Because this thing here, we aren’t going to be good enough at it.
There’s a case no one can be any more, that could go either way, but I know we can’t.
You go to Old Trafford. You don’t play well. They don’t play well. They win. We’ve seen this before. And so we know it is about what happens next.
Make it good.
Pics: David Rawcliffe-Propaganda Photo