Liverpool 2 Manchester United 0: Match review - The Anfield Wrap

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Thursday, March 10, 2016: Red smoke billows across the pitch from the main stand as Liverpool beat Manchester United 2-0 during the UEFA Europa League Round of 16 1st Leg match at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

THERE are three pieces here. Maybe four. Which one should we have?

There’s one which slaughters: “The Sun was right, you’re murderers.” I like that one because I like Manchester. Manchester is better than that. Manchester is a working-class city that has a ton of class about it. Manchester is the business. But that’s a vast majority of their end. A vast majority. Everyone is better than this. You know it. I know it.

There’s one which talks about the fact that Liverpool should have put the tie away from Manchester United. That we should be going to Old Trafford to lord it rather than worry. One which should be criticising Liverpool’s lack of ruthlessness, one which should be saying that was a game had to be taken away from Manchester United.

But forget that. Forget all that. Let’s write about these Reds who graft and are organised. Let’s write about these Reds who have touch and style. Let’s write about these Reds who want to be a credit to themselves, their manager and their football club.

Liverpool were excellent tonight. All over the park. Every single one of them goes to bed tonight knowing that they were excellent — part of a very good Liverpool performance at Anfield; an expectant and demanding crowd sated.

All over the pitch Liverpool wanted battle and then won it. They won it with both brawn and brain — Jordan Henderson booked early but then thinking his way through 88. Emre Can better than you. Stronger than you. And then smarter than you. Smarter than you, knowing where almost everyone is. Adam Lallana’s feet bright as a three-card trick. Now you see them, now you don’t.

And a paragraph all for Roberto Firmino — a paragraph which says maybe we need to stop considering him a modern day John Wark or a Brazilian David Platt. Maybe we stop comparing him to Luis Garcia because already the end product is greater.

Maybe instead we look at where he learned his trade and see him, as someone pointed out to me on the Twitter, as that most 21st century of players like Thomas Müller. A man who knows how a football match works innately and exploits it, a man whose touch may not be certain but whose brain is. A man who can play football on a different plane to those who are embedded in it.

Don’t say he decorates games, say he embroiders them, weaving his way through the chaos to offer beauty.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Thursday, March 10, 2016: Liverpool's Roberto Firmino scores the second goal against Manchester United during the UEFA Europa League Round of 16 1st Leg match at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

It’s easy to say all that about tonight’s Reds and forget a key point. This was against Manchester United. A Manchester United that has won four of its last four outings against the Reds. A Manchester United that has made itself resolutely hard to beat at Anfield — one which has delighted in its own gnarliness.

They couldn’t live with Liverpool. They couldn’t live with them.

The best 11 on show tonight looks like this: David De Gea, 10 Liverpool players. And Simon Mignolet did nothing wrong.

I’ve been to Old Trafford and been on the other end of that. I know how hard that is to take, how much that hurts. United won’t be as meek next week. They will be all for making amends.

Yet the gulf looks a tough one to swim. What do they change? How is it different? That’s tomorrow’s problem. Next week’s concern. They can still find a way. But leave that.

Look at this — wherever you are in the world you can swan around, stick your chest out, have one more drink. In the biggest game in world football (possibly outside of Spain) the mighty boys in Red won by two goals which flattered their opponents the other end of a ship canal and generations of civic rivalry which has become too bitter and too engrained and too pathetic for words.

Stitch that. So just fucking stitch that. Stitch that with these appalling songs which don’t rile me as much as “20 times” but just disappoint me instead.

Stitch that, Fellaini’s endlessly Evertonian nature. Stitch that Manchester United. Stitch that.

The fourth piece reminds you that they may stitch that and fight back next week. They might do it, you know. They have winning in their DNA just as we do.

They might do it.

But that isn’t the piece we’re writing tonight. Not the one you are reading. The piece we are writing tonight is that the tricky, gnarly, organised Reds are a good football team.

Up the Reds. A set of lads you can go for a pint with. Up the getting their round in Reds.

A great set of lads. Our mates. Remember this the next time they conspire to let us down. These are our mates.

Up the matey Reds.

With love as per. Have a Thursday. Have a hungover Friday.

Up our Reds.