Last week’s thrilling, but ultimately disappointing 4-4 draw against Arsenal at Anfield was looked upon by many as a massive chance blown by Liverpool. Some are writing the Reds out of the title race now. Christiano Ronaldo says their 5-2 victory over Spurs means the Premier League is definitely staying at Old Trafford.
Yes, the draw was gutting. Especially when hopes were so high at the start of the night, and Arsene Wenger was forced to name an under-strength team due to multiple injury problems in the Emirates camp at the moment. But how important that 92nd minute equaliser from Yossi Benayoun may still prove to be. It keeps Utd at arms length ‘“ three points away, and the Reds ‘“ for the moment- have a better goal difference.
That draw against Arsenal, rather than defeat, meant Liverpool’s 3-1 win at Hull City on Saturday still put them top until Utd responded with their victory at home to Spurs. It doesn’t matter how many points we win it by, as long as we win it.
So now we come to the final stage of this epic season ‘“ Liverpool’s best chance of winning the top-flight league in 19 years. May is upon us and we’re still in the title race. That’s a fantastic achievement. But with Utd closing down on their 18th league Championship win ‘“ to level with Liverpool’s all-time record, and patience running thin on Merseyside, now is the time to seize this fantastic opportunity. And I think we will.
Liverpool can do nothing more but win their final four games of the season. They are, Newcastle (h), West Ham (a), West Brom (a) and Spurs (h) on the final day of the season. Win those, and hope Utd crumble is the plan.
And here’s how they might. United have a difficult end to the season in my view. It involves teams still playing for a lot. Add to that their distraction of Champions League football, which resumes tonight against Arsenal.
This weekend, Utd have the first game out of the top-two in the table. They face struggling Middlesbrough, who lie level on points in the relegation zone with our opponents a day later, Newcastle Utd. Middlesbrough will be hyped up for this one and have shown before that they can upset Utd in the Premier League. Utd have consistently struggled against Middlesbrough before. Whether the Teeside club are their bogey team or not, this isn’t going to be an easy trip to the Riverside Stadium for Alex Ferguson’s men.
On Saturday, United must also bare in mind their Champions League semi-final second leg at the Emirates Stadium on Tuesday night. That’s a welcome distraction Liverpool don’t have this season.
The following Sunday, United face local rivals Manchester City who have show both brilliant and shocking form this season. With Man City now lingering in mid-table, a win in the Manchester Derby, like they so triumphantly did last season, may be a tidy consolation prize for a disappointing campaign. What’s that old saying about form going out the window when it comes to Derbies?
United finally play their game in hand a few days later. Like their game in hand earlier in the season, it’s against Wigan. This time it’s at the JJB Stadium and Wigan have had a solid season, on course to finish mid-table. The Latics could frustrate an under-pressure United at this late stage in the fixture list.
United’s penultimate game of the season sees Arsenal go to Old Trafford aiming to inflict damage on 16 May. Should Arsenal have beaten Utd in the Champions League semi-final, they will still have 2 weeks to prepare for the final, so no resting players here. The Gunners could also be chasing third place from under Chelsea‘s noses, too. Should Utd have beaten Arsenal in the semi-final in Europe, then the prospect of sweet revenge and ruining Utd’s title chances will be making Arsene Wenger thirsty. Either way, this won’t be an easy game for the hosts.
And on the final day of the season, as Liverpool take on Tottenham ‘“ another mid-table team, happy with being safe from the relegation battle they faced earlier in the campaign, United go to the KC Stadium to face Hull City who are right in the thick of it. As of today, Hull stand just three points out of the relegation zone. If things stay the same, they’ll still be in the dogfight on the final day of the season. A tense finish at either end of the table.
Despite getting back to winning ways after defeats by ourselves and Fulham, United have shown that their defence has frailties. The conceded twice against the same Aston Villa side we thrashed 5-0 just weeks before, twice against Porto at home a few days later, Kenwin Jones scrambled in a scrappy, poorly defended goal at the Stadium of Light against them, and Spurs were 2-0 up at half-time at Old Trafford. There is a way is in and if teams can suss out a way to shut them for the entire 90 minutes at the back, then anyone can frustrate Utd.
I didn’t mean to start this article with so much emphasis on Manchester Utd. Usually, I wouldn’t care what they’re doing. But I believe Rafa Benitez and the players know exactly how to handle their task in hand. Simple and straightforward ‘“ no slip-ups, four victories against four clubs we should beat. Whilst Manchester Utd have a trickier run in, and that gives me a lot of cause for hope and a lot of cause to take more of an interest in what they’re doing.
And Reds legend Ian Rush agrees. He says, “I genuinely do not believe this title race is over. United have to face a derby match still.”
The season is not over by a long-shot and it’s time for the Anfield faithful and the travelling away support to continue the fantastic atmospheres they’ve been creating lately. Sing up, we’re gonna win the league!