Dublin: 12°C Tuesday 28 September 2021


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Welcome to the first game of an intriguing day of Premier League action. Although, let’s be honest, as action-packed as today looks, this is undoubtedly the biggest match. Certainly, it’s the one with the most tradition and history. But, of late, it’s also been the one with the most rancour…. even more so than usual. As much as the Luis Suarez-Patrice Evra may dominate the coverage, however, really this is a huge game in the context of both teams’ campaigns too. After last week’s 3-3 draw with Chelsea, it would be a massive fillip for Manchester United to come through this difficult set of fixtures just two points off Manchester City… or better.What’s more, they will also feel the owe Liverpool after three games without a win in the fixture. Kenny Dalglish’s team, meanwhile, need to start ironing out inconsistent form if they’re going to claim that crucial fourth Champions League place.

As we say, of late, Liverpool have had the better of the tie. It’s difficult to perhaps explain why but, certainly, a hallmark of the Dalglish return has been that Liverpool have performed better in big games. Remarkably, they have a superior record against the better teams than they do against recently promoted teams. Ferguson, however, also seems to show a little too much caution against Liverpool, very much leaving the handbrake on.

Alex Ferguson, meanwhile, makes a strident defence of Evra in his programme notes:

“My biggest regret is the way Patrice has been castigated in some quarters for standing up to racism. He can’t have enjoyed the booing he endured at Anfield the other week but he kept his dignity and his concentration on football.”

The teams:

Manchester United: De Gea, Rafael, Ferdinand, Evra, Evans, Giggs, Carrick, Valencia, Scholes, Rooney, Welbeck

Liverpool: Reina; Johnson, Skrtel, Agger, Jose Enrique; Spearing, Gerrard, Henderson ; Kuyt, Suarez, Downing

Suarez, of course, starts on his own up front for Liverpool with no Bellamy or Carroll alongside. But is that the best use of the forward? Would he not be better off playing off one of those two?

Ferguson says he’s surprised at Liverpool’s team selection: “I didn’t predict that… [No] Bellamy was a surprise… We carry on playing our game.”

Dalglish, meanwhile, gives another narky interview to Sky. It’s a toss-up between him and Andre Villas-Boas for the most abrasive interviewee in the Premier League at the moment.

This from @infostrada sports

Giggs and Scholes are both in the starting XI of a #EPL match yet again, more than 18 years after their first PL start together in Nov 1994.

The teams in the tunnel now, Evra looking stoic as he leads United out. he does get moral support from the child mascot too.

The handshakes start…

Luis Suarez refuses to shake Evra’s hands. Evra clearly shocked and pulls the hand back.

Ferdinand refused to shake Suarez’s hand.

Well. That’s early drama then. With boos ringing out, Suarez pulls the hand away. Of course, this will only whip up all the controversy again. Makes Suarez look the aggrieved party.

We’re off…

… and, immediately, Evra goes flying into a tackle that he wouldn’t have otherwise made. Instead of taking out Suarez, he takes out Ferdinand. Whatever about all the controversy, was that just a classic piece of gamesmanship from Suarez?

United’s first attack with Welbeck slipping Valencia in. he crosses for Rooney but Reina is there.

This has started at a real pace early on.

Giggs curls in a free but Johnson just nods it away before it reaches Rooney.

At the other end, Johnson then cuts inside and curls an effort just to the left of the pst.

Aside from all the controversy around the Patrice Evra incident, it’s been clear for sometime that Suarez is the ultimate example of ‘viveza’, the rationale which explained Maradona’s Hand of God. He will use virtually anything to get an advantage in a match.

The game is a little scrappy now. Suarez tries to take on Evans but, after a nice bit of footwork, puts it out for a goal-kick… to the joy of the United crowd.

There is a nasty enough atmosphere at Old Trafford.

And, this, from @Sean_Fay

This is boring. Make them shake hands again! #MUFC #LFC

Rooney has a pop from outside the box, but it’s wide. Again, the game has descended into scrappiness.

This is the problem with the incident too. It’s helped feed into a scrappy game and, in any case, no-one seems to be really talking about the action anyway!

Should have been 1-0 Manchester United! After a supreme, patient, poised passing move, it ends up with Scholes who hits it straight at Pepe Reina. Either side and it would have been a goal!

That, by the by, was the first bit of football in about 30 minutes.

This from the spoof @Roy_Keane_esq

If I was playing, if Incey was playing, if Sparky was playing: Suarez ends the game wishing he’d shaken hands.

Gerrard tries one from distance, takes a deflection and might almost have been awkward for De Gea. Corner for Liverpool as they enjoy a period of relative pressure.

A United opening breaks down at the feet of Ryan Giggs. He’s not had his best game today.

First card of the game (surprisingly) as Downing hauls down Rafael.

More controversy! A touch takes Suarez throgh but Ferdinand arrives from slightly behind to make contact. he gets a touch on the ball but that would only have resulted in a race between Suarez and De Gea, which the former would surely have won. However, Suarez then goes down rather theatrically in a bit of a delayed action. had he stayed on his feet he was through.

Half-time: Manchester United 0-0 Liverpool

Boos ring out around the ground. They are, of course, directed at Luiz Suarez but they might be towards the general play too. other than basically the first two minutes of the half and the last two, that was scrappy stuff. Many of the United-Liverpool games have been like that lately, but hard not to think the pre-game incident fed into it today.

Sky confirming here that Evra tried to confront Suarez in the tunnel. Skrtel blocked him at Liverpool’s door and many players got involved. Took five minutes to get into the dressing-room. It’s really spilling over.

And the second half is off. As David Jones puts it on Sky, will some football break out?

GOAL! Manchester United 1-0 Liverpool

And some football! if the most basic kind of football… a Giggs corner is flicked onto by Jordan Henderson accidentally. It lands for Rooney who hammers it in from close range. Advantage United.

GOAL! Manchester United 2-0 Liverpool

And United have started this half rampantly. Antonio Valencia tryies a flick-on, it ends up with Jay Spearing but – as has happened frequently today – he’s caught out, Valencia surges through, slips in Rooney and the striker finishes supremely, slipping the ball through Reina’s legs.

Liverpool looking flat now, as the Old Trafford crowd sings “Suarez, Suarez what’s the score?”

Rooney has the ball in the back of the net again but the whistle had already gone becauseof an Evans tackle on Spearing. A little harsh, it has to be said.

And that should have been a hat-trick for Rooney. The ball broke to him at the edge of the box, leaving him with a clear run at goal. He seemed to second-guess himself, though, with Valencia running in. Poking the ball wide, it seemed as if Rooney didn’t know whether he was passing or shooting. It really should have been 3-0.

Andy Carroll is on for Jay Spearing and Craig Bellamy for Stewart Downing. Dalglish has o gamble.

Liverpool don’t have a holding player on the pitch at the moment. If they don’t manage to press United in, they could be caught on the break badly.

As expected given the shape of the teams – if not quite the necessities- United hemming Liverpool in at the moment.

Bit of a ceasefire at the moment as United try to retain possession and Liverpool desperately try and get some kind of forward ball.

Agger tries from distance… but it’s well wide.

Charlie Adam on for Dirk Kuyt now. Liverpool needed to do something. That shape wasn’t working. In truth, United are just passing through and around them at the moment.

GOAL! Manchester United 2-1 Liverpool

There had been a sense United were getting complacent at 2-0 and it’s been confirmed now. Liverpool hit in a free, Ferdinand reacts languidly and lazily, and it falls for Suarez yards out who pokes home. As Sky intone, of all people!

Ten minutes left, as Welbeck almost breaks through at the other end. At the least, it’s an intriguingly-poised last few.

Liverpool beginning to threaten now but United keeping them at bay. Five minute left. There’ s sure to be another chance or two. But at what end?

United have notably withdrawn into their own half too.

Cheers at Old Trafford as an opening presents itself but Luis Suarez plays a poor ball out wide that Johnson can only stretch to send out for a throw.

Into the last minute of normal time now…

So close Glen Johnson! Great strike but De Gea tips it over.

92nd minute, free header, Suarez four yards out… but it’s over! … And, in any case, it was offside. The flag was up.

Rooney intelligently keeps the ball in the corner against the pressure of Martin Skrtel and Jose Enrique. Not only does he win a free, but also a corner as the three minutes of stoppage time are now played.

Full-time: Manchester United 2-1 Liverpool

United are back on top of the table for 24 hours at least as they claim a victory that evidently proves very satisfactory, as Patrice Evra celebrates wildly in front of the Manchester United fans – to the evident disgust of the Liverpool players. For the last 45 minutes, it must be said, the action had seemed to finally overshadow the controversy as Wayne Rooney put United 2-0 up in a stunning start to the second half. Command soon slipped to complacency, though, and Alex Ferguson’s side were left hanging on somewhat. They ultimately did so, though, to claim a big win. That’s four points from two difficult successive fixtures. In the bigger picture, the title race looks only more theatrical.

The post-match comments should be fun.

Darren Fletcher in the studio: “I think the team were in control of our ameotions, which was important.”

Dalglish: “Overall, they were the better side… but you would expect them to be as well.”

Dalglish on the non-handshake: “I never knew he didn’t [shake his hand]. I’lll take your word for it… We’ll ask him and take it from there.

Dalglish to interviewer: “You’re bang out of order for blaming Suarez for anythingthat happened today.”

A very fractious post-match interview there as Kenny Dalglish clearly does not wanting to discuss anything about the controversy.

Alex Ferguson disappointed it ended up 2-1. Seems he wanted a proper thrashing there.

Ferguson on the non-handshake: “I was shocked. I had a chat with Evra today and he said he’s not got anything to be ashamed off, he wanted to keep his dignity. Luis Suarez is a disgrace to Liverpool football club, with the history they’ve got. He should never be allowed play for that club again.”

Ferguson on Evra celebrating in front of Suarez: “He shouldn’t have done that.”