(It's him scoring a penalty, it's all I could find!)
United 1-0 Liverpool
With the armband back on Ferdinand's huge bicep, with Vidic rested, United make tough work of 10 men Liverpool, but still come out on top with a 1-0 victory.
As far as tough starts go, there wouldn't have been any tougher a start for Kenny Dalglish as, two minutes in, after Agger was adjudged to have brought Berbatov down in the box, Giggs slots in a penalty to the left of the despairing Pepe Reina. 1-0.
The game was feisty, with plenty of tackles flying in. But this just falls right in Liverpool's favour as they start to grab a foothold in the game. A shot for Gerrard and a cross by Kelly across the face of the box got us a little bit nervous, but each was dealt with effectively enough by United.
But the shape of the game was definitely going against us. Liverpool, galvanised by the return of "King" Kenny Dalglish definitely showed a bit more spirit, at least in the opening 25 minutes.
It all went pear shaped, however, with the clock showing 31:59, as Steven Gerrard is sent off for a two-footed lunch on Michael Carrick. It didn't look that bad, but the replays showed that Howard Webb's decision was justified. Doesn't get easier for Kenny, does it?
And just a bit of a lol, my dad mused "That Nani fellow, he's not in top form, he's playing so badly" just as he cuts through the defence. That's my dad, though.
By the end of the half, Liverpool are limited to long-range efforts on Tomasz Kuszczak's goal.
And on the stroke of half-time, Jevans STEAMS in onto a Giggs corner and absolutely smashes his header against the post. But on the balance of the first half, United just edge it.
The second half starts with Giggs going on a trademark mazy run down the left flank. Brought a tear to my eye. (Figuratively...)
And we didn't let off, the pressure didn't leave the Liverpool box for the next 3 minutes, Chicharito getting a chance on goal with his head just inches wide. With more style and purpose than the first half, things looked dire for Liverpool.
Berbatov got a chance around the 55th minute, which he skied over the bar with pressure from Squirtle. I think they've clued on to the fact that Berbatov's a pretty awesome player if you don't mark him, so they've always got one if not two men on him quickly.
Babel and Shelvey coming on for Rodriguez and Meireles seemed to breathe life into the Liverpool side — more attacking options for them meant they got more threats on our defence. This forced Sir Alex to bring Anderson on for Fletcher to add just a bit more bite into our midfield.
It didn't quite work out the way we'd planned, first thing that Anderson really does is concede a free-kick, from which, arguably, Liverpool's best chance for a goal came from — a Fabio Aurelio curler parried away by Kuszczak.
But the threat was brief, and up at the other end of the field, an almighty scramble occurred on 68 minutes, where there were chances for Berbatov, Giggs, Rafael and Evra - all of which were saved by Reina. Playing with desperation, Liverpool seemed to gain more belief in their play.
74 minutes saw a dejected Chicharito come off for Michael Owen! Chyeah!
And he had his chance, on the left wing, he nutmegs Squirtle and runs forcefully into the box, looks up and tries to play a square ball into the box which would have surely brought a goal, had it not been smashed behind for a corner. (I'm not biased at all, am I?)
Chances were created, especially for Berbatov, but none were taken. Owen also had a good run, creates space and drills his shot not too far wide of Reina's left post. Even Evra had a chance to score, from a late corner with a Berbatov-esque bicycle kick. Alas, he didn't score.
Probably one of the more tense 3-stoppage-minutes I've had watching United, while leading. But in the end, relief came when Howard Webb blew for full-time. On to the next round, chaps!
Something I've found with the way we were playing, at times, is that there isn't that urgency you usually get with Cup games. As if the players don't quite get that it's a knockout competition. If you lose, you're out. You don't get another chance. And this is a pretty big match. It was frustrating to say the least:
That being said, if enough is enough to win then I don't blame the players. It tosses up the question of whether you want to win or whether you want to win playing beautiful football.
Best Player was, by a long way, our goalscorer: Ryan Giggs is doing what he's done for the last 20 years. Indeed, if I didn't know any better, I would've thought he was just reaching his peak.
It's astounding, it's admirable, it's fantastic. Can someone PLEASE give this man a knighthood!
But his sparkling performance only masked another mediocre performance by United. We should have put that game to bed — especially since Gerrard got sent off and Liverpool should have had their main vein slashed.
More needs to be done for us to really convince, I fear. A win is a win, sure, and I've maintained this position throughout the entire season, but there's still that part of you, as a football fan, where you want to see it won because the opposition were well and truly outplayed.
The Wait for the Draw
I think the draw is meant to happen later on today, so the wait isn't very long. A look at who's still in, who's out and who the potential surprise packages could be:
- Sheffield Wednesday
- Brighton (who knocked out FC United of Manchester, the bastards)
- West Ham
- Reading (who knocked out West Brom)
- Arsenal/Leeds (Because of a Theo Walcott, self professed DIVE which won them the equalising penalty?)
- Aston Villa
- Leicester/Man City
- Stevenage (who beat Newcastle 3-1, like so convincingly.)
- Burton Albion
- Southampton (knocking out Blackpool)
- Notts County (who knocked out Sunderland)
- Leyton Orient (knocking out Norwich, and yes, this is an upset.)
- Torquay (ousting Carlisle, a bit of an upset there.)
- Crawley Town (non-league)/Derby (just crap)
So yeah, there are still heaps and heaps of teams in it, but already there have been some upsets, but that's just the beauty of the cup. Absolute beauty.
Ain't it beautiful?