Date: 13th January 2013 at 9:30am
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IN the wake of the latest atrocity our very own pantomime baddie Luis Suarez caused on Sunday, the spittle on his outraged critics foaming mouths will barely be dried by the time our red rag in a red shirt enters an arena where contorted faces will be moralising in unison on a high horse and saddle.

Every trip to Old Trafford comes equipped with touch paper waiting to be lit and this weekend will be no exception.

The home fans call him a racist and a cheat, our away fans lionise him for his acts of genius with the ball at his feet and sympathise with what has frankly become a witch hunt against our Uruguayan hit man.

This is a fixture which has hosted side-stories which the press have gorged upon with enough column inches to drag events and falling outs for days, even weeks afterwards. It has never been just a fixture in the calendar; it has become a soap opera at times.

This upcoming clash with our neighbours up the East Lancs sees two sides with contrasting form and fortunes over the course of the first half of the season. Sadly we haven’t competed with them in the full season marathon for some time and may not for some time to come.

To watch the two sides go to battle in recent years with no knowledge of the English game, could you pick out the league leaders and the lower top-half side? Hardly.

On the face of it we generally come to the party at Anfield but what about at Old Trafford?

As we enter the cauldron of Old Trafford we arrive without the backing of the bookies; these games are invariably close, tense and controversial affairs. Here are a few of the best and worst:

Howard Webb in a United shirt

It was King Kenny’s first game at the helm in his second tenure, the clouds were parting in the disposition of every red that morning before this FA Cup 3rd round fixture in January 2011.

The stuffing and game plan was taken from us as early as the 2nd minute when Dimitar Berbatov took a tumble under Daniel Agger’s feet causing a rookie decision from the World Cup final official, awarding them a penalty which was converted.

We showed courage to play our way back into contention only for our captain to see red for a lunge on Michael Carrick. This could have been forgiven only for the production of the episode, the apparent ‘all eyes on me’ carry on before finally sending him to the stands.

Ryan Babel became the latest Twitter-using player to earn the wrath of the FA after posting a picture of Webb in a United shirt, earning himself a large fine in the process. That summed up the whole sorry episode.

Seeing red

One thing you can almost set your watch on when it comes to this fixture is someone will see red. A combination of fierce intensity and a baying crowd in the stands often leads to mistimed lunges (Michael Owen on Jaap Stam), or truly shocking decisions with Javier Mascherano, Sami Hyppia and Steven Gerrard all ordered from the pitch over the years.

This is always intensely disappointing as win, lose or draw, the least you expect is that it was a fair battle, 11 men against 11 from start to finish. Will it be different on Sunday? We can only wait and see.

If the game is allowed to flow we need to press high up the pitch which is incredibly taxing on the body and will be twice as hard if we are to be outnumbered again.

Torres smells blood

Like a cheetah that senses its once fearsome prey is bleeding, Fernando Torres pounced on a scared Nemanja Vidic, who met his Achilles heel that day in 2009 at Old Trafford. My abiding memory is of Vidic having a panic every time the former world class striker got within a few yards of him. They couldn’t live with us that day and it was a joy to behold, a 1-4 scoreline even flattered them such was our dominance. We dreamt of getting the league title monkey off our back. It didn’t work out that way but we certainly drank to victory that day.

There are many other incidents which have caused members of the media and FA to pontificate and sneer such as Suarez/Evra gate and the subsequent carry on when, shockingly the Uruguayan failed to respond to a (lame) outstretched hand! Every show needs a villain and by God did they find one, a bucked-tooth Satan with a Liverbird on his chest, this was Christmas for some folks and he seems to be the gift that keeps on giving with a petty rap sheet which feeds the beast.

So here’s to Sunday, a slice of luck would not go amiss but you need to deserve some luck. 3 points would be a dream not solely for a more attractive looking table, but to get one up on a great rival.

As always, your comments are welcome.

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