Blimey, what a redux of a birthday gift!
Twelve years ago on Sunday March 6, 2011: Liverpool 3-1 Man Utd.
As we coasted to a win, The Kop serenaded Happy Birthday to then Liverpool manager Kenny Dalglish whose big day is March 4. The very likable Dutch Dirk Kuyt scored a hat trick during that game.
Fast forward to Sunday March 5, 2023: Same venue, same opposition, our King Kenny now in the stands, the latest Dutch recruit in the Liverpool team (wearing the same number 18 shirt) threatened to net a hat-trick against a Man Utd side which ironically, he was rumoured to be joining not so long ago.
Cody Gakpo ended up scoring a brace in what eventually turned out to be the most crystal-clear thrashing of our biggest rivals. Wondering if Sir Kenny enjoyed this gift more than the 2011 edition, even if we didn’t hear any happy birthday from The Kop this time.
Taking a step back, Virgil Van Dijk can be said to have been the biggest influencer in this latest installment of the most awaited fixture in the Premier League calendar.
In Qatar, our central defender convinced his international teammate Gakpo to sign for Liverpool instead of succumbing to fellow Dutch Erik ten Hag’s lure to join the other side of the East Lancs Road. How ten Hag must now be ruing this missed opportunity.
After a rather slow start in an underwhelming Liverpool side, Gakpo opened his scoring account at the fourth time asking in the league and in the most emphatic way: in the Merseyside derby.
He then doubled it up the following weekend against Newcastle. And now he has again doubled his tally with this brace on Sunday, i.e. four goals in five league matches. Where are those rush-to-the-conclusion critics that he was not living up to the billing?
Speaking of double, Gakpo’s fellow strikers also scored a brace each.
In the Newcastle review a fortnight ago, we wrote that the triumvirate of Nunez - Gakpo - Salah had the potential of inflicting damage for the rest of the season. We had no idea that the most emphatic demonstration of such damage would delightfully come so soon against the team we most love to win against.
Jurgen Klopp’s true brand of football had turned up. Relentless pressing this time yielded more than its expected share of fruits, a gift that couldn’t stop giving.
Liverpool had a good start and took the initiative from the get-go. Attempts from Salah, Nunez, Robertson re- assured us that the monkey of conceding first was likely to be off our backs.
In fact, Man Utd tried to slow down the game with some off-the-ball antics. It nearly worked. By the half-hour mark, they appeared to have grown back into the game with chances for Marcus Rashford and Bruno Fernandes; admittedly the best chances of the game until then.
But on the 43 rd minute, a brilliant Andy Robertson visionary pass found Gakpo in decent space down the left. The Dutchman controlled and then curled it around the other side of David de Gea.
No one would have suspected that this classy first goal was just the opening of the floodgates even though
Liverpool had been the more threatening side during the first half.
It is said one of the best times to score is just before half-time and Liverpool demonstrated that by picking up the
second half where they had left the first.
What a second half that was in front of The Kop
Two minutes after the re-start, Nunez headed in at our favourite end from a Harvey Elliot’s cross after the Reds had put relentless pressure on United.
Then came the counter-attacking goals that we all love:
- Captain Hendo intercepted in the Liverpool penalty area, Gakpo launched Salah down the right who laid the
ball back to the Dutchman for a chip over de Gea.
- Hendo also intercepted in the follow-up action of a United corner and sent Nunez on his way down the left.
The ball ended with Salah near the penalty spot and our Egyptian King smashed it in the roof of the net.
To further prove that he was the embodiment of Klopp’s famed gegenpressing during this match, our captain collected a loose ball from United defending a free kick before teeing up another Nunez header.
Are you still keeping track of the score? We are 5-0 at this point. Just like at Old Trafford in October 2021, time for the United supporters to go home early.
On the other hand, it was also time for our Egyptian King to become Liverpool’s highest scorer in the Premier
League era and against what better opposition than our fiercest rivals to do it. After a scramble for the ball in front of de Gea, Mo inherited a rebound for a tap-in for goal # 129, overtaking Robbie Fowler’s 128.
Strangely, the left-footed Salah had scored his brace with his right foot on this Sunday afternoon. Well, when the opposition is leaking goals, anything will go in, right?
To cap it all, some nostalgia was on the menu with Bobby Firmino squeezing the ball past de Gea for Liverpool’s seventh goal.
The Brazilian recently announced his departure from Anfield this summer and he will surely leave with the very best wishes of the Kopites after having immensely contributed to the past memorable 8 years of the club’s history.
May this continue
Undoubtedly, Sunday’s was a complete Liverpool performance that is genuinely up to Klopp’s standards.
Every player in Red was keen to chase the ball, press the opposition, play for one another, and create chances that they efficiently converted.
United barely had any threatening attacking move during their nightmarish second half. If 007 likes his drink shaken but not stirred, Man Utd were truly shaken and stirred by the 7 goals conceded in the Anfield cauldron.
Imagine if it was ten goals instead…
Five consecutive clean sheets in the league, 13 points collected out of a possible 15, 3 points behind fourth placed Spurs with one game in hand, we are finally looking forward to the rest of this strange season.
The advertising board at Anfield had one advert to visit the Indian Ocean tropical island of Mauritius.“Memories last forever,” it says.
Liverpool supporters (and United’s as well for that matter) will likely remember this Sunday’s score for the rest of their lives.