I guess there are a lot of similarities with this season and the 2009/10 season. We had come off the back of second place and pushed the eventual champions hard. We then failed to build on that, I donít know where Liverpool will end up this season but back then we had to settle for 7th, an unfortunate coincidence too is that in 2009/10 (just like now), Liverpool lost 4 games on the spin.
Fiorentina had beat us in the Champions League, Chelsea turned us over, Sunderland and a beach ball beat us and we had also lost at home to Lyon in the Champions League in a pretty weak display, to make matters worse, star striker Fernando Torres had been struggling with an injury picked up on international duty while captain Steven Gerrard hobbled off before half time against Lyon.
At the time myself and the Mrs were trying to buy a house and had an offer accepted, we talked over a mortgage with the bank on the Friday before heading down to Galway for two nights on Saturday morning, it was going to be the last weekend away for a while because of the house, you swear it won't change you and you insist you can carry on living your life of going to the pub whenever but it just doesnít work that way, but one thing always on my mind was the match against Manchester United at Anfield on Sunday.
I probably never shut up about it all weekend, but how and ever, 4 defeats in a row wasnít the best way to go into the game, I did remain positive, if there was one game we would be up for , it was United. The added spice to it was that this was also the first time Michael Owen would return to Anfield after controversially joining United in the summer, Owen had previously scored over 150 goals for us so no doubt he would be seen as a traitor. Owen didnít join directly from us but he was getting a hostile reception anyway. There was also the United fans that allegedly bought up every beach ball in Merseyside and for many minutes before and during the game, the pitch was covered in beach balls to mock Liverpool who had infamously lost a match at Sunderland due to the winning goal from Darren Bent deflecting in via the beach ball.
Steven Gerrard couldnít play but Fernando Torres did manage to play, a far cry from the disaster of a player he is now, Torres was a diamond for us at the time and when fit we didnít fear anyone once we had him, Torres is undoubtedly one of the best strikers we had at the club, albeit for a short time but my god he was good, worth pointing out for those with short memories.
I watched the game in the hotel bar, got one of the last seats available, the Mrs actually sat with her back to the TV some distance away and actually did some school work (teacher), she wasnít interested in the game, that said she wanted us to win for me. There was a healthy mix of United and Liverpool fans there but mostly it was our lot, and I settled down to cheer us on and of course suddenly became best friends with randomers all around. I'm pretty sure I got the Mrs to go to the bar for me as I think one of the bars was closed during the match and I didnít want to lose a seat or miss any action. If only I didnít run the risk of pissing myself most of the game.
The first half was mainly United targeting our young full back Emiliano Insua as every attack seemed to go down that side. Liverpool had gone close, notably from a Fabio Aurelio free kick but the first half remained scoreless. 20 minutes into the second half it was blast off as a wonderful opener from Torres gave us the lead. It would however lead to a nervy end to the match and I'm pretty sure there was a lot of groans when David N'gog replaced Torres with 10 minutes left. A few minutes earlier Michael Owen had appeared from the subs bench to a crescendo of boos.
Nothing was ever safe against United under Ferguson, if you did beat them you sure had to work for it, and if you watched as a fan you bloody well bricked it, and there was certainly no laxative like several minutes of added time against them when they pushed for goals. Towards the end of the match Jamie Carragher brought down Michael Owen who would have been through on goal and was perhaps fortunate to escape with a yellow card. As the injury time began, Nemanja Vidic was sent off for hauling down Dirk Kuyt and that was enough for a second yellow, not long after Javier Mascherano joined him for a wild lunge on United's keeper Edwin Van Der Saar. The injury time was 6 minutes but it felt like 6 days.
Liverpool's defence stood firm, we threw ourselves into tackles and blocked everything we could, however just when we would think an attack was over United would come at us again and again and again. At the bar, bladders were threatening to burst, pints were still downed to get rid of nerves, palms became cold and sweaty, grown men rocked nervously on their barstools roaring at the TV as if the players could hear them in Anfield all the way from Galway as Fabio Aurelio dithered over clearances time and again.
The ball eventually broke to United's Nani, Jamie Carragher who was captain for the day launched himself into another block and finally the ball fell to Dirk Kuyt. The move began to unfold, it was in slow motion, Kuyt turned and found space, you screamed for him to play in Lucas who was in acres and on the far side David N'gog was in space and United had over committed. Kuyt to Lucas, the crowd began to get louder as Lucas advanced, it was 2 on 1 and he played in N'gog. The shouts from the bar in Galway were obeyed by the Liverpool players as we pointed furiously at N'gog as if Lucas could see us, he played in the Frenchman. In unison we were all up off the bar stools screaming "GO ON" as N'gog ran almost in slow motion, he still had a long way to go but United couldnít catch him. The entire move felt like it took 2-3 minutes even though it was all over in seconds. N'gog had the fate of millions in his hands and with 40000+ fans baying at him he kept his cool to roll the ball past Van Der Sar and for United the game was up.
I really would love to see the footage of that bar in Galway, me and my new best friends up off the barstools, screaming at the TV, arms almost around one another and as the ball trickled into the net we hugged each other as if we knew each other all our lives. In the corner the Mrs looked over and smiled, she knew how much it meant. We hugged wildly, there was still some time left but the game was up for United. it meant a lot to the players too, Lucas dived Klinsmann like to the turf in front of the Kop, Jamie Carragher with a smile as wide as the Mersey ran to Kop with a big thumbs up as if to say "job done" and best of all was undoubtedly Pepe Reina as the Spanish keeper was actually the first one to N'gog having sprinted like Usain Bolt to get from one end of the pitch to the other.
Afterwards many a pint was sunk at the bar in celebration as me and my new friends all went our separate ways without even knowing each other's names but for 90 minutes we stood by each other like we were ready to die for each other and although Alex Ferguson was bitter afterwards about the lack of a red card for Jamie Carragher, even he admitted that Liverpool on the day deserved the win and were the better team.
David N'gog was not a bad player for us, he came in for a small fee, he scored some goals and he left for a profit, but undoubtedly he will have few better moments in football or life in general than the day he sealed Manchester United's fate. It is one goal he or I will probably never tire of watching.http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3nUX4Gf59Uw