It’s not difficult to recall my last visit to Old Trafford, although it has been a while; Saturday the 14th of March 2009. I travelled alone to Port Laoise early on the Friday morning where I met everyone and off we headed: a bus full of Utd fans to see our beloved Man Utd play Liverpool at Old Trafford. A dream come through for many of us because, as rivalry’s go, this was the biggest. This was the game we all dreamed of going to as we grew up. This was the biggest rivalry for both sides and we were going to witness it, and live! The sense of excitement on that bus was palpable but there was a certain amount of fear too as Rafa Benitez’ Liverpool had dispatched the mighty Real Madrid in the midweek Champions League fixture that preceded this early kick off. However, none the less, we were optimistic that our solid defensive wall of Nemanja Vidic and Rio Ferdinand would hold firm against Fernando Torres, Steven Gerrard & Dirk Kuyt, and that Cristiano Ronaldo, Wayne Rooney & Carlos Tevez would deliver the hammer blow.
We were wrong. Ronaldo was a no show from the kick off and Rooney, for all his endeavour, was living off scraps as he grew increasingly frustrated as the game wore on. Further, Nemanja Vidic was simply torn to shreds by Fernando Torres in a 4-1 defeat. Disaster.
The reason I recall this dark moment on the weekend of this Liverpool v Man Utd ‘Super Sunday’ is that I can still recall one major thing about that game: optimism. Leaving the stadium, many disappointed supporters still believed, and no one felt this was anything more than a one off game that almost all of Sir Alex’s teams were prone to every now and again. All of us can recall games where United lost, played badly and the following week we returned to form and this was just one of those games.
Not one supporter I spoke to on that day felt this was anything more than a blip, and everyone was convinced that the manager would put things right in the changing room directly after the game. We listened to the Liverpool supporters sing the usual anthems and we moved on safe in the knowledge that we would soon prevail, which of course, we did.
Fast forward to this weekends fixture and those same Utd supporters must now be fearful. This is possibly the strongest Liverpool team we’ve faced in the history of the Premier League and also possibly the tamest Utd side. To say anything else would be an attempt at fooling one’s self. Could we go to Anfield and beat them 4-1 on Sunday? Absolutely. Will we? Am…
The realist in me says no. Jose Mourinho will, at some point soon, have to admit that a top four finish is unlikely at this juncture. Inconsistent, lacklustre and leaking goals, as well as having no apparent idea what our best starting 11 is is no way to head to Anfield. Especially when good old Jurgen has his boys firing on all cylinders.
I can’t remember a time when every Utd fan you talk to was so pessimistic. Jose’s ability to win a one off game is what a lot of us are hanging on to. Moreover, Liverpool winning on Sunday would surely fill them with confidence for the second half of the season as they chase their first Premier League crown. A frightening prospect.
The fear is real; lets hope the nightmare of March 2009 doesn’t happen again this Sunday.