By Mark Payne
So much of the 2015/16 season has been dedicated to negative write ups for Louis van Gaal and Wayne Rooney. Yet, as they left the home of Manchester United’s arch enemy, the club’s captain and manager had masterminded and executed a victory which could reignite this ambling hedgehog of a season.
Over the years I have had to sit down and write a number of post-mortems for matches between United and Liverpool. In the lead up to the Spring 2009 fixture, I received hundreds of death threats from Liverpool fans after suggesting they would be “giddy like smack-heads with dole cheques” after beating Real Madrid 4-0 earlier in the week.
After Liverpool’s 4-1 win at Old Trafford, most of those same fans returned to delight in the fact that I had to live through the following week. At the end of that season, Manchester United won the title.
That was just before Twitter took over the world and gave everyone a more instantaneous voice. Because of the presence of that service, we all knew that Marcos Rojo, Michael Carrick and Phil Jones were in with the away fans at the weekend.
Ander Herrera has spoken on many occasions about wanting to go to an away game with the fans. Darren Fletcher and Roy Keane have been seen in among them in the past. There are a lot of player in the squad who ‘get’ United at the moment. One suspects the same cant always be said for the manager.
In many ways, this is a frustrating time for the club. We are barely challenging at the top of the league and a run in the FA Cup is almost the most the supporters can hope for. We also have a few overpaid show offs on our books, although fewer than last season.
This particular era has a similar feel to it to the late seventies and early eighties. Whilst nobody wants the club to endure such a barren run of league titles, the role of the club’s supporters is interesting.
It was during the 70s, in particular, that United ‘s travelling fans cemented a formidable reputation for taking over the townships they visited. This era was documented wonderfully in Ian Hough’s Perry Boys Abroad, which I highly recommend.
Back in those days, Liverpool were the slightly shinier proposition and at present Jurgen Klopp enjoys more fashionable glances than the curmudgeonly Van Gaal. Nonetheless, the wily old Dutchman outthought his counterpart for the victory here.
That makes it four wins in four for LVG against Liverpool and the beginnings of the ludicrous run United enjoyed against the Koppites in the 80s have been sown. Long may it continue.
The fact that the first hour was nervy and we relied heavily on our goalkeeper for the umpteenth time matters not a jot. Late triumphs over Liverpool must always be celebrated with a lusty enthusiasm.
Louis believes this marks the start of United’s charge to the title. For the sake of his job, it needs to be. Whilst I try to remain ever the optimist, there needs to be a huge improvement if we are to win this championship.
A look above us in the table though sees plenty of faltering teams. Stranger things have have happened. After all, two months ago, Wayne Rooney was finished. It turns out, he might not be yet.
Neither is this season.
Mark is the author of Fergie’s Last Stand, just £3 this January
Follow him on www.twitter.com/markjpayne