Let’s swiftly dispense with yesterday’s game. ‘Inevitable’ is a dirty word in English football, particular this season of miracles and whatnot in what was already the greatest league in the world™. It’ll fit perfectly here, though.
Some things you can rely on. Liverpool spanking City at Anfield is one of them, but us building up expectation then doing everything we can to knock it down is another.
There was a vague excuse for tiredness but it still looked uncannily like complacency. You know how they’re going to go about it but some of our players didn’t look like they fancied it.
Once Milner walked (it’s been coming all season, that) you’d have bet everything that was the end of the matter, before Palace shot themselves in the foot. Reassuringly so, since it was beginning to look like we owned the exclusive rights.
At 1-1 it began to look like we were somehow the better team but when a club’s had a hold on you like they have, you watch through your fingers and wait for the obvious to occur. A Benteke winner was probably the least likely outcome.
Ignore the usual cryarsing. The manager who headbutted an opposition player is worried about “certain things creeping into the game”? Yeah, OK. You can admit we were second best and still revel in the reversal of fortune. It wasn’t a good performance but who really cares?
It’s especially galling when you see how good we can be, like against City days earlier. Hoodoos work both ways, thankfully. It wouldn’t matter if City had zillions and the Reds had zilch — we’d still win at Anfield.
There was good sport to be had at Sterling’s expense. Suarez’s move was doubly mourned because we lost a fantastic player AND didn’t spend the money properly. Sterling’s good, obviously, but the idea of him in a deadly triumvirate at Camp Nou is laughable.
Flanagan hit Sterling good and proper in the first minute, appealing to the bear-baiter in all fans and getting cheap applause out of it. It set the tone for what followed.
As the third went in, the jubilation was tempered by the thought of why this hadn’t happened at Wembley days earlier. It didn’t even sting them in the title race since both Spurs and Arsenal took aim at their own feet and blasted them with both barrels. I still think Leicester will collapse.
At 3-0 down and with the game gone, City’s younger element decided to fight dirty and recite “always the victim”, English football’s lumpen method for singing about Hillsborough without saying the name and thus avoiding any finger-wagging lectures from the prissy-but-thick broadsheets.
City had always been OK on this issue, and a mix of ale, youth, and humiliation can bring out the worst in any away end, but you couldn’t help feeling what had happened in years gone by was just so they could establish a difference between themselves and United.
Decades of dismal defeats made us forget they were Mancunians.
So the monkeys have been to Anfield, let’s suit up for the organ grinders in the Europa League. This will naturally be big fun — capital B, capital F.
Now we’re talking, about hoodoos I mean. The last league game was the archetype for how this will all pan out, with United barely bothering to expend energy and knowing it’d all turn out OK in the end. Only this time it’s going to be dragged out for a whole week and for two games before the inevitable occurs. Same old torture, just for longer.
If Thursday by some fluke ends happily, remember the words of Admiral Akbar: “It’s a trap!”