Monday 2nd September 2013 marks the centenary of the birth of Bill Shankly OBE, Liverpool’s legendary gravel-voiced Scottish manager, the man who took a moribund club and transformed it into a European power in a manner rivaled only by his great friend and contemporary rival, Don Revie at Leeds United. It was fitting, therefore, that Liverpool should choose their last fixture before this notable anniversary to deliver a resounding “We are back” message to the rest of the top division, deservedly beating a Man U side that was never allowed to play their own game, and succumbed to an early goal of devastating simplicity.
Liverpool had entered the game on a high – two previous league games had yielded six precious points via steady 1-0 wins for a 100% record as Brendan Rodgers finally looks like putting his own stamp on this famous old club. The Reds started in a fluent and cohesive style and within four minutes they were ahead. A corner from the right was swung in and Daniel Agger showed great movement in the area to completely fox Rio Ferdinand, losing the defender to nip in front and get a firm header in on goal. As the ball arrowed towards the net, two Man U defenders looked able to deal with it, but there was Daniel Sturridge, celebrating his 24th birthday by sneaking between them to apply a decisive touch and send the ball into the net. Mayhem ensued around the ground, apart from the glum band of away supporters who were doubtless contemplating a long and possibly empty-handed trip back down south.
After that, it was a question of plenty of possession for the away side, comfortably dealt with on the whole by Liverpool, who were content to blot out the Manchester attacks and wait for their chances to break away. Wayne Rooney was missing for Man U, and Robin van Persie was uncharacteristically subdued, his sole chance of note coming late on when he was in space on the right of the Liverpool area but put his shot well wide.
New Man U boss David Moyes must have been hoping for a change of luck after 12 fruitless managerial appearances at Anfield, all as manager of Everton. His debut as Old Trafford manager turned out to be unlucky 13, but in reality luck didn’t have much to do with this result. To Liverpool’s credit, they seized their chance to take an early lead, and were thereafter little troubled despite surrendering the majority of the possession.
It was a result to savour for all Liverpool fans, as any win over their bitter rivals must be – but to triumph over former Everton boss Moyes, on the eve of the 100th anniversary of the late great Shankly’s birth – this was a script it would have been hard to write. Shanks would be proud to see Liverpool sitting proudly at the top of the league with maximum points – it was the kind of thing he demanded. Whether Liverpool can maintain the early pace is another question, but on this evidence they will be hard to topple.