CAN I tell your congregation how a resurrection almost feels?
There was something about that little cup run combined with Sunderland combined with everyone else winning football matches for what felt like forever which hurt. Which dented. Which made you wake nights and wonder if what we wanted could be brought about.
What did we want? I’m quite clear. A proper interest with five to go. That’s it. The Reds to be the greediest Reds and a proper interest with five to go. My heart ablaze with five to go. In or near to our hands with five to go. Give me that across the next three or four seasons and I’ll die a happy man. Important to specify the dying happy part, because I probably won’t survive it. Nothing that happened today damages that.
It’s the nature of this season, a season which feels like three in one, a season which has become stupidly intense early that the mildest setback — like the one both Liverpool and Manchester United have theoretically suffered today — feels terminal. Everything that goes mildly wrong becomes a hammer blow. Possibly because it could actually be a hammer blow.
The lads leading the league have played 21 games and won 17 of the bastards. Don’t tell me to relax and take it easy — I don’t set the pace. A point at Old Trafford should always be alright. For that matter a point against Liverpool should always be alright too. The feeling persists it might not be.
Regardless we had no Sadio Mane, Joel Matip in administrative darkness, Jordan Henderson on one leg, Liverpool suddenly looking light and looking slow, and another win for the London three. Hopes dented all over the show and not unreasonably.
But then The Reds happened. Liverpool were a long way from great at Old Trafford but they also showed massive balls and the desire to fight to the death for one another and for this greater cause. Through key moments in the game they were the better side. They reacted to almost every potential setback brilliantly, the captain leading by example in an era where that sort of thing supposedly doesn’t happen.
Trent Alexander-Arnold played well but made the odd error under pressure. So did all the seasoned pros on the pitch. They spent 95 minutes putting one another under pressure, 95 minutes of one more. Georginio Wijnaldum stood out for Liverpool. Emre Can frustrated again but he’s played five in a row in a run where no-one else has.
James Milner took another fantastic penalty and battled away. Took a terrible tackle too. But battled away. Because it is Manchester United v Liverpool. Because this is what you do for this manager.
When the final whistle went it was noticeable that players from both sides went on their knees, on their haunches. Players from both sides gave everything and were exhausted. It’s what it means. Remember this the next time someone tells you football isn’t what it used to be, that the game’s gone, the players are mercenaries. I didn’t see a single mercenary on either side. I saw lads who gave the most fucks.
In the greater scheme it was almost as important Liverpool didn’t lose this as that they won it. No wins in four. If this is the blip that’s sound. We’ve blipped worse, blipped harder.
Up the giving the most fucks Reds. This thing of ours belongs to them too tonight.