Man United-Liverpool delivers drama, chaos, nonsense, comedy and a result that helps neither

Dave Tickner
Casemiro attempts an overhead kick for Manchester United against Liverpool
Man Utd star Casemiro was heavily criticised after his performance against Liverpool.

There’s something undeniably beautiful about a game like that ending with both teams disappointed at the end result of almost two hours’ chaotic, occasionally magnificently and frequently slapstick endeavour.

All three games between these two historic rivals have been aggressively funny this season, but might the best have been saved for last? Quite how Liverpool have got through this season without a single win from three games against Manchester United is an absolute head-scratcher. That they repeated so many of the nonsenses they produced in the FA Cup game entirely ludicrous.

For a while this appeared like it might end up being that game but even more so. The first half was close to a caricature in its portrayal of these two teams and their foibles. United cheerfully letting teams have a million shots while having none of their own. Liverpool stoically refusing to take more than a single one of those chances lest the game become routine, which is absolutely not in their vocabulary.

Even at 1-0, though, it was always going to take something special from Liverpool to bring this to life against a United side quite so moribund as this. Liverpool, it’s fair to say, delivered.

Based on the statistical state of play, there was no way United’s near-inevitable equaliser could be anything other than hilarious, but it would have been a brave man who predicted it being quite as funny as it was.

The sight of a blameless, backpedalling Caoimhin Kelleher at full stretch yards out of his area trying to get himself sent off by saving Bruno Fernandes’ brilliant first-time pouncing on Jarell Quansah’s complacent negligence may be the single defining image of this near unimprovable slice of Barclays.

United’s second, though. Let’s talk about United’s second. It might actually be even better. The Federico Macheda tribute from man of the moment Kobbie Mainoo was on point, but let’s not forget that the whole move began with an overhead kick from Casemiro, who spent the rest of the game shambling around looking lost, confused and tired.

There is a strong case to be made that it was the single most absurd moment of an absurd game, and that is saying something. Where on earth did he find the energy and athleticism for that? A man who otherwise couldn’t muster the effort required to propel a clearance beyond the confines of the United penalty area?

It made literally no sense for United to be ahead at this point. The only halfway sane explanation for how it had come to be was Gary Neville using his powers for evil and reverse-jinxing it into being via the medium of his FanZone Plus co-commentary.

The extent of Liverpool’s head-loss over the 10 or so minutes was extreme. But also really quite understandable. All title races are tough, and this three-way battle especially so. The margins are so tight and room for error so minuscule you simply do not have blood in your body if you can experience what Liverpool were experiencing here without your head taking at least a temporary trip to Mars.

Then it was United’s turn to crack, with Aaron Wan-Bissaka’s go-go gadget legs for once letting him down. For most players, even attempting the tackle he did on Harvey Elliott would have been ludicrous. But if there is one player in the league who could have made such an impossible challenge, it is Wan-Bissaka. Alas, it proved beyond even him.

Football being football, the internet is now full of Man United fans believing the award of this very straightforward penalty is evidence of some dark machinations or other rather than the very simple application of the least confusing of all the assorted ways in which penalties can be awarded and conceded.

But at least it ensured we had a full house of nonsense on an afternoon ripe with it, and a result that left nobody involved – at least directly – remotely happy.