SOUVENIR PROGRAMME

3 braces, ‘The Butcher’ and Bobby’s moment – Reliving Liverpool 7-0 Man United

The 2022/23 season was largely one to write off for Liverpool, yet they still managed to turn water into wine and give us one of the best Sunday afternoons of our lives in March.

For years, Man United‘s sheer existence served to compound our misery as we looked longingly on at them sweeping everything in sight while we clung desperately to former glories.

Childhoods were ruined and workplaces were made unbearable as Sir Alex Ferguson delivered on his famous promise to knock Liverpool “off their fucking perch” by practically making the first two decades of the Premier League era their own.

Winning the title in 2019/20 was the only way the Reds could fully distribute their penance for the pain our Mancunian neighbours had inflicted.

Even then, we were forced to celebrate that triumph from our living rooms and dream of what might have been had Liverpool’s greatest-ever team been assembled in literally any other season.

How else could we right those wrongs and fully absolve ourselves of the years of torment imposed on us by our friends down the M62?

As always, Jurgen Klopp had something up his sleeve.

Liverpool XI: Alisson; Alexander-Arnold, Konate, Van Dijk, Robertson; Fabinho, Elliott, Henderson; Salah, Gakpo, Nunez

 

Weight of history

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Sunday, March 5, 2023: Liverpool's manager Jürgen Klopp reacts during the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Manchester United FC at Anfield. Liverpool won 7-0. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

In the post-Ferguson world, Liverpool have typically gone into these Anfield encounters as favourites, with the Red Devils failing to find the right formula since their legendary manager waved goodbye to Old Trafford.

The bookies had it much tighter on this occasion and with good reason, Erik ten Hag’s side had their tails up and swaggered down the motorway with the sort of confidence that had been lacking in recent seasons.

Liverpool, on the other hand, went into the contest 10 points behind their bitter rivals and with fading hopes of landing a top-four finish for a seventh consecutive campaign.

Chances came at both ends in what started out as a relatively tight and tense affair, with Bruno Fernandes heading just wide and Casemiro seeing his finish ruled out for offside.

Then came the bedlam. Cody Gakpo struck his third goal for the club as he twisted Raphael Varane inside and out before firing it into the far corner at the Anfield Road End.

What happened next was as marvellous as it was incomprehensible.

There was as much laughter as there was cheering in the second half as Man United buckled and sunk to depths they had never experienced on a football pitch before, let alone at Anfield.

 

45-minute onslaught

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Sunday, March 5, 2023: Liverpool's Darwin Núñez celebrates after scoring the fifth goal during the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Manchester United FC at Anfield. Liverpool won 7-0. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Fans were still making their way back up the steps as Darwin Nunez headed home to double the Reds’ advantage, but those who missed it still had plenty more to look forward to.

It was Mohamed Salah‘s turn to embarrass a United defender as he bamboozled Lisandro Martinez before laying it on a plate for Gakpo to brilliantly make it a brace for himself with a delightful chip over the goalkeeper.

Perhaps ‘The Butcher’ will think more carefully before attempting to ‘tiptoe through the Kop end’ again.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Sunday, March 5, 2023: A shirtless Liverpool's Mohamed Salah celebrates after scoring the sixth goal during the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Manchester United FC at Anfield. Liverpool won 7-0. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Salah then got in on the act himself as he took advantage of a fortuitous bounce to smash home a volley on his weaker foot, before Nunez got his second header of the game and ripped away any last shreds of pride the visitors had left.

Dreamland then became some form of preposterous version of reality we had never experienced before, with Salah’s second and Liverpool’s sixth taking us beyond the 5-0 at Old Trafford we’d convinced ourselves could never be beaten.

The Egyptian King wheeled away in celebration, taking his shirt off to mark the moment in which he became the club’s all-time leading Premier League goalscorer.

Things aren’t supposed to be this good – football is never this good – and yet the crowning moment was still to come.

 

The best of days

Roberto Firmino, who just days earlier had confirmed that he was to leave the club in the summer, came off the bench to round off the scoring and elicit an explosion of emotion around Anfield.

Trophies are and will ultimately always be the measuring stick by which great teams are judged, but football is as much about creating shared memories as it is simply chasing shiny things.

Outside of lifting silverware, that afternoon was just about as good as it gets and the fact it came at a time when Liverpool looked lost in themselves made it all the more magical.

Bog-standard wins over rivals might give you bragging rights for six months at most, but demolition jobs such as this and the 5-0 at Old Trafford that came less than 17 months earlier can never be taken away from you, and they will always be funny.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Sunday, March 5, 2023: Liverpool's Roberto Firmino (hidden) celebrates with team-mates after scoring the seventh goal during the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Manchester United FC at Anfield. Liverpool won 7-0. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

The tide could turn again and Man United could return to the heights they reached under Ferguson, but there isn’t a path football could take that would stop a smile creeping onto your face as you relive those goals again.

We must never let them forget it, too. Hopefully, one day a song will be born from it in the same way homage is paid to Ian Rush‘s four goals at Goodison Park every time Poor Scouser Tommy rings out from the Kop.

Liverpool will win trophies again and they will prevail in big games again, but we will almost certainly never witness anything quite like that Sunday afternoon at Anfield again.

It will take some climbing to get back on any sort of perch after that.