‘œGet In!’ ‘œC’mon!’ I am reading back through the texts for last Saturday lunchtime between Asif, a Liverpool supporting mate of mine, and myself. I cannot lie and say that this conversation rivals the spellbinding dialogue of Shakespeare, or even rival the banter on an old Brookside episode, but it sums up Saturday’s game in style.
I am in Leamington Spa. During last year’s Champions League final, I discovered that this sedate market town was a hot bed of Manchester United support. The distant drunken chorus of ‘˜United! United! United!’ filled the muggy May air as I trudged back to my flat. I was preparing for the usual media chorus that ‘œManchester United are the greatest club in world football since someone decided that kicking a pigs bladder around grass was a nice way to enjoy a sunny afternoon.’ I was not disappointed.
There are very few games that get me excited these days, but you can be assured that Liverpool v Manchester United will get my in front of the television. Although I know that this game has always been a centrepiece of the football season for as long as I can remember, it is rare that I seem to be so emotionally care. After reading a large amount of Liverpool books and appearing to exclusively relax with Liverpool fans in Merseyside and further afield. I have a fair idea about how much this means to people.
I would love to savour the match within Anfield or Old Trafford, but I found myself in one of those weird chain pubs, full of bright yellow paint, and crazy paving. There is no argument regarding where I wish that I could have been.
The audience were mostly Manchester United fans. It is a student pub, and most of the drinkers were of an age when United were beginning their domination of national football. This was the decade when I was coping with some truly dreadful football at Portman Road; my friends were jumping on the stuttering Liverpool bandwagon. The history and the mystic skills of Robbie Fowler attracted them into the arms of this proud football club.
One of these mates is Asif. For a long time, his Facebook profile pictured a grinning Asif, clad in Liverpool red, at the back of the Kop looking towards Anfield Road. It is night time and the stadium is shining across Merseyside, like the Radio City Tower. Even though he is over a hundred miles away from me, I instinctively know that Asif will be watching the game. I would be choking on my bar snack if he were found to be watching the Coronation Street Omnibus.
Back in sleepy Leamington, I sense that United fans surrounding me on all fronts. They seem to be counting down the minutes to, what they believe, to be certain victory. There is a dangerous disdain metered out to the boys in shiny grey. These United fans seem to want this match to be over as quickly as possible, so they can get on with a little bit of Saturday sunbathing and shopping.
The match begins with some personal tension. I am unsure whether the actions have been slowed down via the satellite coverage. Liverpool seem to be defending at such a pedestrian pace with short balls spraying around the back, which could be devoured by the United frontline. The first penalty kick and I am thinking that it was not a penalty. The various shots continue to tell me that it is not a penalty but I realise that I can not say a word.
We all know what happened next. Torres and Gerrard weave their magical best. The text messages are flying out of Asif’s phone in Batley, which is within the Bermuda Triangle of the Yorkshire motorway system. I can feel the joy and excitement coming out of the blunt exclamations.
We start to speculate on possible tactical changes like a hyperactive punditry team from an American cable channel. Benitez does not seem to be listening to us? Why should he? The goals keep on coming, in a way that even the most positive Merseyside red could have believed was possible.
It reaches 4-1 and I text Asif whether he is happy or not. There is no reply, which I take to mean that he has collapsed in delirium. I have to admit that I have a little bit of a spring in my step, and I am pleased that the Manchester United bandwagon has been halted, but Liverpool are back with a vengeance that must excite most football fans around the UK.
Let me fast forward to Monday morning. I spot a Manchester United- supporting colleague skulking into the staff room, and I feel that I can not miss this opportunity. This is a staff member who offered us a chance to discuss the 2008 European Cup Final result in his office. He has lived on cloud nine for nearly twenty years. Although I would have done just the same when my beloved Ipswich were achieving things in the early eighties, the Man United swagger can be a bit irritating sometimes.
I innocently ask whether he had a good weekend. He blusters that United is still at the top with a game in hand, and you can not argue with reality. I did not doubt that Ferguson is a master of picking his teams up from oblivion. On Saturday Lunchtime, Sky told me that fact after every couple of minutes. What the match has told us is that Liverpool Football Club back in the Premiership consciousness. The title run may still be a long shot, but Liverpool are back with their self respect and their willpower. The team is placing decent football.
The epitaph of this game could be that Manchester United will probably be hoping that they do not get Liverpool in the next round of the champions league at the end of this week. Where there is hope, there is a belief that there are more positive things to come during this season.