What emotion. The utter brilliance and joy of seeing Kenny Dalglish back in Liverpool’s dugout was quickly turned to anger and frustration and a certain Bulgarian striker and his refereeing pal Howard Webb MBE.
But out of all the resentment, another away defeat, having Gerrard suspended for the Merseyside Derby next week and being out of the FA Cup at the first hurdle, Liverpool can take a lot of positives from an improved performance at Old Trafford.
Chris Bevan, BBC journalist, writes today:
Dalglish’s most obvious impact was on the 9,000 travelling Reds fans, who showed him more love during the 90 or so minutes at Old Trafford than Hodgson received in the entire six months he spent in charge of the Merseysiders. Not that such a reception was a surprise for a man who helped fill the Anfield trophy room with silverware as a player and manager between 1977 and 1991.
The affection was mutual too, putting right one of the mistakes of his predecessor. After receiving raptuous applause when he emerged from the tunnel before kick-off, Dalglish grinned as he saluted the Reds supporters and he was always quick to raise a hand in acknowledgement on every occasion – and there were quite a few – that his name was rhythmically chanted over the course of the afternoon.
And he’s not wrong, whilst Utd took the victory and a fourth round tie away to Southampton from the occasion, the Library of Dreams could only be filled by Liverpool songs, You’ll Never Walk Alone bellowing out as the clock ticked down to United’s victory.
On the pitch, the Reds were let down by a World Cup Final referee. Dimitar Berbatov diving at the feet of Daniel Agger in the first minute, Webb literally seeing things and awarding Ryan Giggs to score what turned out to be the winner from the spot.
For Alex Ferguson, it was a definite penalty, but Dalglish has better eyesight and told press, “I’ve seen the replay and unless they have changed the rules it is not a penalty. The other one, I can’t see that as a red card either. In the dressing room before the game someone said to me the game hasn’t changed that much and I said I thought it had become a non-contact sport. Maybe I was right.”
But perhaps the result is irrelevant (to a certain extent). Liverpool’s performance was much improved from the Roy Hodgson era, and we can’t help it if United were playing 12 men against 10 from the 32nd minute.
Andy Hunter of the Guardian discusses the main focus of the day, the impact of the King’s return. He writes:
Dalglish was tempted, he said, “to do a Mourinho or Gary Neville and run down to that corner” when he faced Liverpool supporters for the first time as their manager since a 4-4 FA Cup replay draw against Everton in February 1991.
He also countered suggestions that, 10 years after his last managerial experience at Celtic, he had been out of the game too long and was placing his reputation at risk at Liverpool by attempting to correct their recent decline.
“How do you know you have anything unless you try?” he said. “I will give everything I have got to put the club in a better position than it is now. Whether that’s going to be sufficient for everyone, I don’t know. I can’t see into the future. I can only promise 100% commitment. That is the way to look at it. For me, it was a no-brainer. Whatever other people think, they are perfectly entitled. I made the decision and I made the one I think was best for myself and the football club.
Sam Wallace in The Independent writes an interesting article well worth a read about how Dalglish can’t be expected to quick-fix Liverpool, but that a long term strategy must come to light soon. Wallace writes:
“Should Dalglish achieve even a moderate degree of success over the next five months then the clamour for him to stay as Liverpool manager will easily eclipse the mutinous chants that began in early October that he must be appointed. Then it will get very interesting for the executives of Fenway Sports Group.
“As far as Dalglish’s record is concerned, yesterday’s defeat in the FA Cup to Manchester United does not count, especially given Steven Gerrard’s kamikaze red card. Dalglish is too shrewd to have put himself in this position if he did not feel that he could keep his chin above the water. He is younger than four of his fellow Premier League managers. He could hardly be less popular than Roy Hodgson.”
Welcome back Kenny, next step is Blackpool away on Wednesday night, before next weekend’s Merseyside Derby at Anfield.
This is what the fans wanted, and John Henry listened.