There is something about this game, this rivalry, the biggest that the premier league has to offer. It seems fitting that the color both of these giants associate themselves with is that of blood, because it so often becomes the football version of gladiatorial combat, a titanic struggle between two massive Godzilla-like creatures, no matter how they may have been performing going into the game.
The Red Derby.
Today’s match did not disappoint. Even though the current incarnation of United are nowhere near being fit to be considered a proper rival to today’s Liverpool, they somehow held on to being only one down for almost the entire game. It’s like the spirits bewitched the ball; how else could you explain Mo’s miss, Mane’s miss, or that incredible De Gea save on Hendo? the very same De Gea who has been so awful in recent weeks? it also seems like the Kop can both suck the ball in when Liverpool is attacking it, and repel it otherwise.
Ask Andy Pereira.
Liverpool should have been four up by halftime. Liverpool should have been four up again by the 60th minute. Liverpool looked like they deserved to be four up when the game started. Firmino’s VAR-canceled goal was as inspired as his general performance, and Gini’s offside was rather… marginal. But they weren’t, because this specific game writes its own stories. Ultimately, it fell to Mo Salah to finally end his goal drought against United with the kind of goal you often see in middle school, leading to a rare sighting of his fearsome six-pack.
Normally so polite, he just couldn’t contain his joy.
It’s hard to count all the various records that the Reds are in progress towards breaking. There are some esoteric ones, like the possibility of Alisson (who at this rate is closing in on another premier league golden glove) breaking Van Der Sar’s consecutive clean sheet record, which stands at 11. Considering how the team could not stop leaking goals in the first part of the season, this is quite remarkable. But one does not need to look at the stats to be awed by the sheer dominance of this merseyside squad. You just have to look at a game, any game, and it’s easy to observe how they simply assert their will over their opponents.
Premier league aside, it’s not clear that there is a team in the champions league that can fare any better.
All of which leads me to the midfield, the engine of Liverpool, the connective tissue. It’s so hard to pick man of the match awards in games like this, where you have an entire unit performing downright flawlessly. Jordan Henderson continues to exert his immense presence over opposition players, justifying (as if anyone needed it) his election as the England player of the year in 2019. A raging Ox repeatedly induced cluster migraines in United players. But even above those two stood the dutchman – no, not the one that scored – who pretty much owned this game. At some point I realized I wasn’t even following the ball anymore, I was simply trying to track what Gini Wijnaldum was doing. Chasing, harassing, destroying, envisioning, creating, he was doing it all, all the time. It was a dominant performance from a player who, as appreciated as he is, is still somehow underappreciated.
Then again, this seems to describe many of these Liverpool players.
And so the monsters fell back, exhausted. They will be back at it again next year. In the meantime, the devil was left to lick his wounds, and the liverbirds continue to spread their wings, their shadow covering the land.