Van Dijk sour grapes and how Liverpool blew their big chance against Man Utd

Editor F365
Liverpool defender Virgil van Dijk.
Virgil van Dijk gets little sympathy in the Mailbox.

​The inquest into Liverpool’s failure to breakdown Man Utd takes place in the Mailbox. Virgil van Dijk receives little sympathy, while Erik ten Hag has given himself a problem.

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Fuming with Liverpool​
How to lose a league in 90 short minutes.

Our mentality monsters were really purring yesterday, eh? Rock up to a newly expanded Anfield with absolutely zero teeth from a rapidly deteriorating front three. Nothing going on up front despite overwhelming possession. Salah hasn’t beaten a defender in about two months and looks utterly clueless about what to do with a ball at his feet. Diaz runs around a lot. Nuñez is the worst number 9 I can remember in our ranks.

Figured we’d just show up and tonk them 7-0 again, is it? Sure, lads. United will oblige, aye?

We then leave our only game changer, Elliott, on the bench at least 15 minutes too long while Gomez (!) comes on, presumably to allow Trent to go into midfield while in possession, WHICH WE ALREADY HAD THE VAST MAJORITY OF. So a wasted sub.

Curtis Jones made us worse, too.

We look a 2nd/3rd place side, which probably suits our owners who can now avoid spending in January.

Way to capitalize on the one time City decides to sh*t the bed. Just like us, that.
Scott, LFC Toronto

Van Dijk’s sour grapes
It’s a natural response for players and managers to be disappointed after dominating a game and coming away with a point. But the scouse complaints are hollow for several reasons.

Firstly, in the corresponding fixture last season, United were arguably (I’m leaning on that word a lot here, so lease don’t start moaning) the best team in the first half and ended up getting battered seven nil. We’ve been dicked on severely by Liverpool of late so I would’ve been happy with anything less than 4-0. You can keep your dominant performance and 34 shots – you were as bad at putting the ball in the net as we were. Zero goals is infinitely better from our point of view than 7 (seven). We’ll take a point at Anfield at any point, in any season.

Secondly, you need to look at the injuries we’ve got. If, at the start of the season, you’d have told us we’d be travelling to Anfield with Jonny Evans (5th/6th choice) at centre back we’d have laughed. In the summer, McSauce was up for sale, Amrabat didn’t play for the club and Mainoo looked like he might be a decent sub. That they’ve all started this game and United have kept a clean sheet is insane. Only Luke Shaw of the starting 11 could claim to be among United’s best players last season and our best player this season was suspended. If you’d shown me that team sheet after the Bournemouth game I’d have petitioned for United to forfeit the game and get a 0-3 out of it. A point is magnificent.

And then you have to look at the magnitude of the fixture. I read someone from Tanzania (obvs) say that this isn’t a big game anymore because United aren’t very good. Well they couldn’t be more wrong. Regardless of where the two are in the league, this is the biggest English fixture every season. There was a brief couple of years where the United – Arsenal games got close, but the Liverpool one is the one we look for in the calendar and get excited about. It’s also the one we hate to lose the most. I couldn’t care less about what happens when United play the oil clubs. Games against London clubs never have the same bragging rights. And when we go to Anfield, anything other than defeat is absolutely fine. You don’t like that it’s a drab affair? Well fine, but it’s rarely been a classic in the history of the game. Even when Liverpool were rubbish they gave us a game and bloodied our nose a few times. We stopped them winning a treble when we were similarly rubbish. If they lose the league by a point this season we’ll be absolutely delighted. We’ve literally got nothing else to cheer about at the moment! I’m sure the “One in 30” Liverpool fans can relate.

So yeh, limited we may have been, but we kept you out Virgil, which is a marked improvement on recent games at Anfield. When we’re run as well as Liverpool, perhaps we can start to impose ourselves and have a bit more attacking intent. But we’ve got a minor injury crisis and we’re a basket case of a club and team. We’ll take the point thank you very much. It’s not as if Liverpool never shut up shop at Old Trafford in the past is it? I hope you remember this when you end up as sour old pundit.


…A mark of just how dull the Liverpool v Man Utd game yesterday was, is the fact the main talking point today is Roy Keane’s comments about VVD.


Carry on, Kobbie
Well that was a very uncomfortable game, as always at Anfield. But we dug in, the game plan was generally spot on and we were unlucky not to (smash and) grab a winner on a couple of occasions.

Evans and Varane were excellent, and our MF was fairly flawless in terms of what they were asked to do off the ball. It was clear we were set up to be compact and cede space out wide. TH said they had learnt from last season’s shellacking and, as it turned out, we did.

We rode our luck at times but look at the number of players we had missing and yet still deserved at least a draw in the end. That red card was a joke, and should be overturned if only for the fact that it should have been our ball, so no wonder Dalot was frustrated.

Looking forward, we need to keep playing Mainoo as he is obviously another level, and get the players back to push for top 4/5 with a decent run in the FA Cup (if only they would give us a few home draws for a change). It wasn’t pretty but you have to pitch ‘base camp‘ somewhere.
Garey Vance, MUFC

Read more: 16 Conclusions on Liverpool 0-0 Manchester United: Nunez, Varane, Neville, Onana, Dalot’s red


Ego problems​
The problem I think ETH may find is that he’s told the lads to set up to play a certain way and they’ve done it and done it well. A deserved draw and arguably had the better chances to win the game.

The problem he may find is that telling a bunch of “world class” talents (read:egos) to play with an inferiority complex can backfire. You can’t tell the same group to believe in themselves and their best will be good enough because you’ve sent them out to ignore all their attacking principles, keep ten men behind the ball, double up on the wings and hope for a lucky break away.

This mentality worked well for Jose at Chelsea before they were a top club and it worked well at Porto too. But the problem with trying to do it at a Man Utd, as Jose found out, is that the players don’t see themselves as underdogs. They think they’re the nuts. Results aside, all the briefing the media tells you is that they see no problem with themselves, it’s all the management and the tight kits to blame.

Onto Liverpool; we were shite. Nunez didn’t deserve to start the second half, Szoboslai was trying too hard to impress and Gakpo should really be banned from shooting outside of the box. Credit to Gravenberch and Endo though; both made mistakes but mostly battled well and kept us looking stable.

The weird thing is that we aren’t very good this season but were top heading into that game. I think West Ham mid week will be tricky but Arsenal will be a bit more open which might suit us, even though they are much better than the outfit that turned up today.

If we find a bit of cohesion and get a few names back from injury I think we could improve in the second half of the season. The advantage we have is that we have been there and done it before. Arsenal’s title challenge last season was over by March so they still haven’t experienced the pressure of needing every single result right into May. That said unless we improve they won’t have that concern.

Or this is all moot because Man City are about to go on an 18 game winning streak to tie up the league again.
Minty, LFC


Awful Amrabat
We went through the entire summer being linked with Sofyan Amrabat. My knowledge of him to that point was being impressed by his performances at the World Cup and in the Conference League final. “Well…” I thought “whatever happens, he’ll be an upgrade on Fred”. He’s not. He’s absolutely rancid. Panics as soon as he’s pressed and is likely to lose the ball with a poor touch or wayward pass when under pressure. When in possession, he looks like a rabbit in the headlights. Truly dreadful, thank god it’s only a loan.

Anyway, good result, dreadful game.
Lewis, Busby Way


God fearing
I have been an atheist for forty years now, and I completely reject the notion of a deity holding dominion over all of us. But the football gods ; I am here to tell you that they are real. I have incontrovertible evidence.

My suspicions were first aroused in 1986, during the World Cup. In those days, football was a simpler game, and we did not get wall to wall TV coverage throughout the year, so the World Cup was an incredible event. And the footballers – they seemed more like us, and not like spoilt arseholes being paid millions of pounds every year. And as a sixteen year old, I was incredibly hyped up and invested in it.

England were two-nil down to Argentina, and I had turned the TV off in disgust and hid in a cupboard. Not my finest hour, to be fair. Whilst in the cupboard, I missed the England goal. In these days, the score was not displayed in the corner of the screen, so when I extricated myself from the cupboard and turned on the TV, I did not know it was 2-1. So when John Barnes went marauding down the left wing and crossed the ball very late in the game, only for Gary Linekar to somehow conspire to miss from point blank range, it was my fault, because I was not willing the ball in, thinking that the game was all but over. And the football gods saw this, and punished me.

I have carried this guilt for years.

A mere year or so later, Liverpool were playing Arsenal in the League Cup final. Ian Rush scored an early goal, and I declared that Liverpool could not lose, because remarkably, at this time, Liverpool had never lost a game that Rush had scored in. The football gods heard my arrogance, and Arsenal won, 2-1.

I learned from this lesson. Until last year. Liverpool were travelling to Old Trafford, it was still early in the season, Ten Hag was struggling with his line up (no change there) and played an untested back four. A Liverpool win was obviously assured and I made this known to anyone who would listen to me (an increasingly dwlinding number, you’ll be staggered to hear). So, obviously, United won, 2-1, and really kicked on, whilst Liverpool plumbed the depths for much of the remaining season. All my fault.

And yet somehow, my hubris still got the better of me yesterday. A massive Liverpool victory was clearly the only reasonable conclusion that anyone could draw. I even said in a sign-off comment in a letter published last week how much I was looking forward to the game and insulted the football gods as I did it.

So I apologise to Liverpool fans everywhere, because that appalling spectacle where despite dominating the game, Liverpool never really looked like scoring, and all their main players had proper mares, and this was because the football gods punished me for my outrageous arrogance. It was two hours of torture, and I my entire weekend had led up to the game.
Matthew (off outside to find some branches to self-flagellate)


I think the disrespect shown prior to kick off towards a team in 7th against team in 1st was immense. There’s a reason why United are not 20th.
That is all.
Nikunj MUFC Solanki, Mumbai.


Dreary Drury
Lots to dissect about the borefest at Anfield yesterday but had to chortle at your 16 conclusions comment regarding Peter Drury and his shouting of Liverpool players names any time they took a shot at goal.

The narrative all week had been about how Liverpool would hammer United and it was jarring throughout the game that Drury was not commenting on actual events but instead assuming that every single shot from Liverpool was going to nestle snugly in the bottom corner of the United net.

It was incessant, it was irritating and it showed a growing issue in commentary whereby the person with the mic is pre-planning what they are going to say rather than just going with the flow and telling people what they are seeing. Going to spoil the whole mail now by being old but I genuinely long for the days of David Coleman (“One nil!”) or my personal favourite Barry Davies (“Oh! you have to say that’s magnificent!”, “Just look at his face, just look at his face!”, “Beautifully pulled down by Bergkamp, OH WHAT A GOAL!!”, etc, etc).
Adam LFC (shouting at the clouds since 1972)


Come back, Dom
Sending this to the mailbox pre- Liverpool vs Utd (so who knows what might happen there and sure to have thoughts on that later) but in the meanwhile I’ve just seen rumors of dom solanke to arsenal, and admittedly wonder if he’s gotten away from us (and Chelsea) and if I might rather have him front and center than Darwin…

Arsenal cruise 2-0 as I write this and villa back from behind to lead 10-man bees

Hoping the late fixture changes my mind but even if Darwin scores a hat trick today (more likely hat trick of strikes against woodwork dare say) I’ll still feel I’d slightly rather have solanke* back as 9 than the Uruguayan but how were we to have known

*Or Ivan toney, or osimhen, or dusan v, or ________
Eric, Los Angeles CA (What prematch anxiety does to ppl eh )


Local issues
A quick response to Chris from Canada. Whilst I no way wish to sound gatekeeper-y, it makes perfect sense for you not to hate those teams whilst supporting Liverpool. That’s because it’s a different nature of support. No better or worse but different. The rivalry between Liverpool and Everton or United is very different in nature. A difference that is probably only really felt by fans who have grown up in the city. Football clubs grew out of the community and are a reflection of the culture in the local area. Why, with the best will in the world, an international fan have any sense of the anger caused by the opening of the Manchester ship canal in Merseyside?
Rivalries, proper rivalries, are generational and speak to wider cultural and social interactions. Another example would be if I was to watch South Korea play against Japan or North Korea with my Korean wife, I would be passionately supporting S. Korea but it would not feel the same to me as to my wife.

In short, it’s not that local fans are better but rivalries are felt differently.


Kai Havertz celebrates scoring a goal.

Happy with Havertz​
Noticeable how little talk there is of Havertz now from rival fans and certain sections of the media. He was written off before he’d even kicked a ball for Arsenal, declared the worst transfer of the summer. Now he’s in form and scoring goals it is time for some praise. If you’d watched a lot of Arsenal games you could see early on that whilst even the most one eyed Arsenal fans were questioning the fee at £60-65m he was still contributing to the team, physicality, pressing, winning duels, dominant in the air – these are some of Arteta’s non negotiables.

He was also making some runs off the ball and finding areas in the box where his teammates weren’t finding him or the ball wasn’t dropping – he’s doing those exact same things now and his teammates are on a better wave length and with a combination of a bit more luck, hard work and a bit more confidence he’s making decisive actions.

Of course he’s not the finished article for Arsenal, he spent 3 years at Chelsea playing as a hybrid striker type role, the last 18 months of which there seemed to be little gameplan in the side. The rush to declare him past it before he’d even kicked a ball was fast – and considering Arteta has arguably improved every single player in Arsenal’s starting 11 with his coaching, was probably quite misplaced.

People may say you’d expect more for £60m, I think there is more to come – but somehow the heat has been very much on Havertz whilst ignoring many of the other £60m signings in the league over the past few years, some of which have been outright flops.
Rich, AFC (£60m down the drain, Kai Havertz scores again)