Happy 17th of December one and all!
Well, not quite ‘all’. Because whilst many of my fellow advent-ers might have sought to recall lovely, heartwarming and insightful tales of their youth and the goal which punctuated it most profoundly I am instead going to use this platform mostly as a means to have a pop at a certain Mancunian and his Danish minder. I might also have a swipe at a Frenchman who didn't know how to keep his feet, and temper, under control if we have time.
First of all we’re going to start with Monday night's premier whinger, son of Neville Neville, Gary.
What a twat.
Now, the above picture and act of knobery occurred some years after the goal in question, but it all serves to make up the rich tapestry of what makes this goal my favourite.
There were many moments of Gary Neville being a shit muncher over the years, one for every hair on his sparsely populated top lip, both before and after this particular goal was scored. They all add to the enjoyment to be taken from him being made to look like a prize prick.
See, before you all loved Neville for being able to point at things and talk he was best known for being this sort thing…
…and so who wouldn't enjoy him getting a bit of comeuppance?
Now that I’ve hopefully got some of the old fires burning regarding our friend Gary I’ll set the scene a little more.
It was 1995 and well, United were very good and Liverpool (mostly) were not. 9 months prior to this game Eric Cantona had decided that the best course of to get people to listen to his shite poetry was to kick a gentleman in the chest and then recite some at the following press conference.
The poetry was so bad that Cantona received a 9 month ban, a ban which by some strange twist of fate (Sky TV) made his return game fall on the day that Liverpool visited Old Trafford.
And so it was that King Eric was to finally take to the pitch again against United’s fiercest rivals, he managed to score one and make one too. Which was pretty good.
But if there’s one man even a king is beholden to, its God.
Robbie Fowler in 1995 was at the peak of his powers, that season he would score 28 league goals and 36 in total. Two of them came in this game at Old Trafford, the game which was meant to be about Cantona was gatecrashed and happily spoiled by Toxteth’s finest.
His first was an absolute rocket from his left foot. Its a wonderful goal, but it’s not my favourite.
Gary Neville gives a lovely matinée performance of his crowning glory which is yet to come however, by leaving the most deadly striker in the league with the freedom of his flank. He clearly learns his lesson from this does Gary as he gets much closer to Fowler later on…
Some time later Michael Thomas plays a ball down the same flank, this time Neville’s switched on he goes with Fowler’s run and he’s got the situation under control.
Just stand him up Gary. Be strong. Get goal side maybe?
(Easy this analysis lark actually Gary, can see why you enjoy it so much)
What Neville actually does is get a massive shoulder to send him sprawling and make him look like someone who's much better at talking about defending than he is at actually doing any defending.
Nevertheless though, Gary can usually count on his goalkeeper to get him out of trouble. Peter Schmeichel was huge back then (still is probably) and he absolutely hated being chipped. Teammates have told stories of attempting to chip him in training, Schmeichel saving said attempt and then booting the ball two pitches over for them to go and collect for even attempting to humiliate him thus.
Having Fowler delicately lift the ball over him, with his ‘weaker’ right foot no less, probably didn't do a lot for his mood after Fowler had already beaten him at his near post with a howitzer from his left.
And so that’s why I love this goal.
Fowler might have been a headed goal away from the ‘perfect hattrick’ but he gave us the hattrick of upstaging Cantona upon his return, humiliating Neville on his own patch and humbling the greatest goalkeeper of his generation.
Watch it below, then watch it again. It might help your rehabilitation after Sunday.