Our ‘glass half-full’ Liverpool man is fearing the worst, but he has picked out five reasons for optimism ahead of Saturday’s Anfield clash with Manchester United.
Liverpool v Man Utd is always a difficult fixture for me.
It was the first game of football that made me cry – a real hammering fists on the floor job as I ran out into the garden, pounded the turf and wailed uncontrollably after they beat us 2-1 in the 1977 FA Cup final.
In those days, the Wembley showpiece was massive. The stakes were enormous, especially as that season under Bob Paisley we were chasing the ‘Treble’.
We’d scored a brilliant goal to equalise – Jimmy Case swivelling on the edge of the box before smashing home – and then had our fleeting joy punctured by letting in a soft one at the other end to let them get back in front.
Forty years on and, unfortunately, the idea of screamer followed by sucker punch is now our party-piece.
Pre-match expectations have varied in these showdowns against the Mancs. In the 80s, as a young, naive teenager, I presumed we’d win every time. And yet on many occasions I was left dumbfounded as they’d nick a 1-0 win at Anfield through Frank Stapleton even though we’d invariably go on to win the league and were by far the better team.
More recently, when I thought we’d lose, there were those spate of matches when Danny Murphy kept popping up with winners at their place.
Last season I was totally bullish that we’d put one over our rivals from down the East Lancs Road.
Liverpool were rampant; United were limp and lacklustre. We’d simply overpower them in a thrilling feast of football and show that the balance of power was now at Anfield, not Old Trafford.
And then Mourinho did a Mourinho. Completely disinterested in playing any sort of football, he came for a 0-0 draw and got one.
We mocked his lack of ambition and little team, park-the-bus mentality but Mourinho had already driven off into the evening with a smirk on his face. It wouldn’t have come as a surprise if he’d gone to the back window of the departing coach and pulled up his jumper to reveal a ‘Job Done’ t-shirt. You know, the one he first wore in the 2013/14 Chelsea game that we don’t talk about anymore.
Ahead of Saturday’s Anfield clash, I have to admit that my hopes lie somewhere between ‘certain defeat and draw at best’. And I usually think of myself as a ‘glass half-full’ supporter.
LFC went into the international break on a downer after a drab 1-1 draw at Newcastle left us with just one win in seven matches. We emerged from it with skipper Jordan Henderson’s stock and confidence lowered by two miserably average displays for England and the punch-to-the-gut news that Sadio Mane would be out for six weeks after being injured with Senegal.
We’re already seven points behind United and City at the top, below all our ‘big six’ rivals – and Burnley! – and our next two Premier League games are home to Mourinho’s men and away to Spurs.
We still can’t defend. Not-so-fun fact: Only West Ham and Crystal Palace have conceded more Premier League goals than us this season.
Oh, just to ice the misery cake, Emre Can is having his head turned by Juventus and Philippe Coutinho and Roberto Firmino are flying in late from Brazil.
If I seem a little negative, there are reasons why.
The hope is that logic has often been confounded in this fixture and let’s not forget that, until the 5-0 drubbing at Man City, our record against the top teams under Klopp was superb.
Five reasons for optimism
In fact, after digging deep, I’ve just about managed to scrape together a ‘five reasons for optimism’ list. Here goes:
1. We have Coutinho. Remember the way he waltzed through the United defence in the 1-1 Europa League draw at Old Trafford? He’s scored in our last three games. He’s bloody good. He might just slam one in from 30 yards again.
2. We have Mo Salah. Now challenging the Great Sphinx, the River Nile and the Giza Pyramids as the best thing to have come out of Egypt. Hero status at an all-time high after his two goals, including 95th minute winning penalty, sent his country to their first World Cup finals since 1990. Great for us so far and he’s scored in his last four games at Anfield.
3. We’ve only let in one goal at home in the Premier League this season. Wow, a pro-defensive stat. But it’s true. Three games in and Burnley’s Scott Arfield is the only man to make one of our goalkeepers pick the ball out of the Anfield net.
4. They’re without Marouane Fellaini. Mourinho would love to have used the big Belgian’s physicality against us, especially at set-pieces. His absence is a headache removed.
5. Man Utd haven’t played anyone decent yet. They’re not battle-hardened. We’re not West Ham, Swansea, Leicester, Stoke, Everton, Southampton or Crystal Palace. We’re Liverpool.
I feel a bit better now. Yes, there is hope. Time to trust and believe.
We’re due a bit of luck aren’t we? It’s surely a matter of time before we turn all these chances into goals.
So why can’t I shake the feeling that it’ll all end in tears again?