“SHOW them the way to go home.
They’re tired and they want to go to bed.
They’re only half a football team,
Compared to the boys in Red.”
Few stanzas as beautiful as that.
Before a ball was kicked there was talk of City’s strength. On our Friday show we talked to David Mooney and he was saying how he only really had two Liverpool players in a combined eleven.
But half a football team. There’s two things here – firstly a football team can often be greater than the sum of its parts. And it only needs to be that in key moments, not across a full ninety minutes.
Secondly sometimes football teams are defined by their weakest links, being the weaker side in a specific position or in a key moment means a side can flounder. Can thrash about. Those two things can be absolutely deadly. It can make a fool of pre-match predictions. Football can make a fool of us all.
“We’ll drag them down to our level. And then we will kill them.”
Manchester City 0 Liverpool 3. Dragged down? Not sure. More on that later. Maybe tomorrow. Killed. Almost certainly. What else? Only half a football team. Compared to the boys in Red. Yes.
Frankly, it should be four.
It’s strange but I fancied it. We had chatted away to David, Robbo was nervous but I fancied it and the closer it got to kick off the more I fancied it.
I fancied it given that Liverpool’s manager had had time to work with his key players all week. I fancied it given Liverpool had shown nous at Chelsea. I fancied it because one side would be the boys in Red and the best thing about boys in Red is you can always fancy them.
Half time though and I’m nervous. Very nervous indeed because they are good – Aguero has just scored a worldie and they have good players.
Plus my calf is dripping with blood from a cut elicited in one of those intense celebrations in this bizarre bowl.
They are selling aggressively, selling in a ground which isn’t sold out. Selling from 4 minutes in when a graphic went round the electronic display on the pitch hoping to see us again soon. Selling an idea, an idea which is Manchester City. They are selling it well. Selling it better than it perhaps deserves.
This becomes clearer coming out from the ground. No one gutted. No talk. No grief. I know, I know, but no grief and no beef. Walking out from Anfield all you hear is fury. Walking away from the Etihad it is flat as a pancake. Imagine walking away from Goodison or Old Trafford. Imagine walking away from Maine Road. 1-4 lads. Come on.
Back to half time. Back to nerves. We should be 0-4. We are instead 1-3. You’d have taken it, but the nerves kick in.
And there is no reason for them. Four players arguably have their best day in Red. Firmino, Lallana, Milner and Lovren.
Lallana the most interesting, his second half dummy is sumptuous but the better the opposition and the better his teammates the better he looks.
Firmino the most exciting. Sheer class all over him. Milner the most reassuring. One blip aside he is excellent. Lovren the least convincing, however unfair it may be not least because he’d die to convince me, die to convince you.
He’d die for the shirt.
But then tonight which of them wouldn’t? Playing and winning and running for Liverpool, doing it for the Red shirt. They won the game by three goals, Emre Can’s backheel gorgeous. But it could have been more, much more, in the ground of the side which should win this league at a canter.
This league. We’ll talk about this league in the days to come but there is nothing to be scared of, no team, no ridicule.
By 72 I had no more nerves. We’d seen them off and the question was how much more we deserved, a Skrtel thunderbolt getting me all nostalgic for a team on the march.
An end on the march. Across three tiers Liverpool’s hordes were on the march in Manchester. It felt clattering along on the march. Wonderful fayre.
At the final whistle they played, very loudly, a song by some of theirs.
“Don’t ever stand aside
Don’t ever be denied
You ought to be who you be
If you’re coming with me”
Few stanzas as beautiful as that.
You should do likewise.
Because when the Reds win, we all win.