Liverpool v Manchester United 22 September 2012
Given the attention given to off-field concerns: the Hillsborough verdict that exonerated the Liverpool fans from engineering their own deaths, Fergie's urging the fans to be respectful of each other, and the question of whether players should shake hands with racists, we might expect this game to be a little different from usual.
Ferdinand helped 96 inflated balloons (representing, of course, the victims at Sheffield) escape from plastic bags, the balloon industry informing us that 100% latex balloons are biodegradable and are not harmful to animals or sea creatures.
New Liverpool supremo Brendan Rogers is looking for his first league win. Will tactics and style-of-play form a big part in such an emotionally-charged game? Or will it be a Steven Gerrard inspired up-and-at-'em with Scholes picking up a card?
In the first 20 minutes: corner count: Liverpool 3 Man U 0; Liverpool have dominated possession and territory; most of Liverpool's attacks have been down the right flank though their traditional go-to guy seventeen-year-old Sterling; United cannot retain possession, but then England's best player is not on the pitch.
Then on 38 minutes, Shelvey and Evans both leave their feet going for a loose ball. Result: ref Mark Halsey issues a red for Shelvey, no card for Evans. This is interesting as we know from the documentary 'Being: Liverpool' that Rogers specifically told Shelvey to "stay on your feet". The odds on a United win shorten instantaneously.
Even on ten men, though, Liverpool continue to have the more meaningful possession. The Fergie hairdryer will be out at halftime.
The first half ends 0 – 0. Shots: Liverpool 8 Man Utd 3. The best players: Liverpool: Gerrard and Sterling; Manchester United: Ferdinand and Rafael.
At last Scholes is on. So is Jesús Joaquín Fernández Sáez de la Torre (who had made his first full 90-minute debut in the Europa League match against Young Boys a couple of days ago 20 Sept 2012, but who was signed by Rafael Benitez - remember him?) for the ineffectual Borini.
Gerrard scores immediately after half-time. 1 – 0. Not marked closely enough, and his chest and volley is perfect.
Da Silva, from an assist by Kagawa, equalizes with a delightful curling shot that goes in off the inside of the far post. 1 – 1.
Scholes does pick up his yellow for fouling Sterling. Nevertheless, his presence means United now have a midfield.
Back come Liverpool with shots from Suarez and Jesús Joaquín Fernández Sáez de la Torre.
Rogers has decided to play for a draw. He takes off the lively Sterling, and brings on the unlively Henderson.
Jesús Joaquín Fernández Sáez de la Torre a.k.a. Suso is combining well with Suarez.
Valencia, who has been quiet so far, decides to take matters into his own feet by intercepting a square ball in midfield, surging into the United box and then going down under a challenge by Johnson. Penalty: Van Persie hits is hand-height to Reina's left, the Spaniard almost keeping it out.
Kagawa is off, replaced by Chicharito, resulting in no fireworks.
Liverpool huffed and puffed, and Rogers - aware perhaps that his hold on the job is looking increasingly tenuous given that this is the team's worst start in more than a hundred years – complained that Liverpool should have had a penalty themselves. Before the knives are drawn though, we must recognize that the problems at Liverpool are inherited.
United, even without Vidic, looked OK at the back, and the forward line has enough goals in it. But when Scholes is not playing there seems to be little drive or movement in midfield. Could Rooney play there? Will the January transfer window open United's coffers?
In truth, neither of these two teams looked anything special, but Liverpool will feel a little aggrieved at the result.