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There are times when the world lets you down. When what you were promised fails to arrive. When you look back at a Super Duper Whooper Sunday that was supposed to offer so much, and delivered so little. When the most interesting and exciting game of football you saw all weekend was Dulwich Hamlet 2-3 AFC Hornchurch, and while it would be nice to take advantage of a national platform (that's right, we're nationally important) to let the non-penalty-awarding buffoon of a referee know exactly what you think of him, that would be slightly outside your brief. So here we are. The other side of Subpar Sunday, with only two goals to show for it, scored from a grand total of about three yards. Shall we dive in? What do you mean you don't care, you're watching Sky Sports News?
It has been suggested, constantly, that this fixture is one of the great jewels in the Premier League's self-awarded WE ARE THE BEST LOOK AT US ALL YOU FOREIGNERS AND DESPAIR crown. Lots of history and very little geography, after all, and plenty of spite, malice, and stupidity larded on for good measure. But as is often the case, what is advertised fails to measure up to the picture on the box. And in the case of larding, if something needs bacon adding to it, then it probably isn't good enough in the first place.
In truth, it's been this way for a while. The last time Manchester United went to Anfield and played well, Henry VIII was watching from the Kop, and Ryan Giggs had just been born. Quite why the super-annuated yogic master is still starting for United is unclear, except it isn't, it's because their squad is hilariously unbalanced. And while the usual United-in-a-big-game negativity that defined the Latter Days of Sir Alex was gone, in its place was evidence as to why, perhaps, that might have been a good idea. It's almost boring to say that United don't have a midfield, and that's evidence that they have had for far too long; the very idea that one of the best and richest teams in the country might be forced to start Tom Cleverley and Giggs away at Anfield should be laughable. Instead it's laughable-at. C'mon, everybody laugh. Ha ha. Ha ha. Ha ha. Get Anderson on? Ha ha. Are all the Manchester United fans laughing as well? What's that? They're swinging from a beam? We'll join them in just a bit.
Liverpool, for their part, were sufficient in the first half and adequate in the second. It's tempting to suggest that Daniel Sturridge has found his level but probably more accurate to say that he's found his context: to watch him play is to watch an ego bathing, swelling and flowering in the tender administrations of a team who need him, a manager who uses him, and a crowd that enjoy him. It would be touching, if there wasn't the ever-present threat of That Dance looming. Was it a conscious decision by his team-mates to celebrate by grabbing his arms and pinioning them to his sides, in order to prevent him ruining the moment for everybody? Yes. Yes it was. Leading that effort was Mrtn Skrtl, for which he justifiably won Mn f th Mtch. Wll, t's nt s thgh h hd ny dfndng t d.
To Ashburton Grove!
Somewhere in north London - probably several somewheres, in fact - an Arsenal fan will have gone to the Emirates and watched their team beat their hated rivals. And they will have jumped up and down appropriately. And they will have shouted and danced and gone 'Wooo'. And after the game they'll have gone out, and had something to drink, and then another something, and perhaps a couple more somethings and then a shot of something. And then they'll have gone home - work in the morning, after all -- and stumbled in and woken the rest of the house up, but it won't matter, because they won! And then, finally, as they're getting ready to dream sweet sweaty dreams of Olivier Giroud, they find, in their pocket, a crumpled and folded piece of A4 paper with SPEND SPEND SPEND printed in neat red letters. Will they feel a tiny pang of guilt? Perhaps. But they'll tuck it away carefully, for next time. Just in case. Printer ink's expensive stuff, you know.
All of which might be some tiny consolation to Tottenham fans, but probably not. It turns out that buying loads of players doesn't automatically give you a team. It turns out that selling the player most likely to take nothing and create something might be good business, but does come with a certain set of consequences. It's early in the season, obviously, but not too early to PANIC.
As for United fans, the only consolation is that their capitulation came the afternoon before transfer deadline day. What better advert could there be to any prospective midfielder thinking about joining the champions? Other clubs might tell you they want you, sure. But just look! Nobody's going to want you so much. Nobody's going to cherish you. Nobody's going to need you with quite such curious desperation.
Andi Thomas and Alexander Netherton