LUCKY UNITED

Liverpool did not quite deserve an end to its brief unbeaten Premiership run in its match against its oldest rival at Old Trafford.

On the evening of the oldest rivalry in English football, Manchester United versus Liverpool, two banners at Old Trafford stood out. Visiting Liverpool supporters displayed a cut-out of the European Cup (now the Champions League Trophy) on which was inscribed tersely "5-2", indicating the more number of times the Merseyside giants had won Europe's most prestigious tournament than their fellow Lancastrian rivals.

Manchester United's home supporters, who have had little to cheer this season other than a Wayne Rooney-inspired Premiership win over runaway leaders Chelsea, replied: "It's time to start afresh."

The positive thinking of the Old Trafford faithful — one can aver to call them that despite their unhappiness at the club's takeover by "that Yankee Glazer" — was just about rewarded by a sloppy home side that is so unwisely referred to these days as the `Red Devils', the club's traditional moniker.

England's central defender Rio Ferdinand — whom Sven-Goran Eriksson referred to as lazy while speaking to an undercover journalist in Dubai — leapt to nod in a free-kick in the last minute of the match. Interestingly, Eriksson was present in the VIP enclosure at Old Trafford. The match was dominated by the Liverpool midfield trio of Steven Gerrard, Mohammed Sissoko and Xabi Alonso. Sir Alex Ferguson, who significantly and surprisingly was extended an invitation by club chief executive David Gill to manage the club next season at the end of the match, must thank his stars that Liverpool's two strikers, Djibril Cisse and Peter Crouch, were erratic and showed very little imagination and positional sense to take advantage of the supremacy gained in the midfield. Wayne Rooney, though, showed his brilliance in fits and starts but his bursts of creative vision went largely unsupported.

If Liverpool's 12-match unbeaten streak in the Premiership was cruelly brought to an end, the weekend also thankfully saw the end of Chelsea's 10-match winning streak. The West London club may have all but reduced the title race to one of academic interest. But, they were held 1-1 at Stamford Bridge by an inspired Charlton Athletic.

Two other significant results of the weekend were Arsenal losing away to Everton and Newcastle tumbling to a home defeat against Blackburn Rovers. With fans calling for his head, and the management also making similar noises, the end is well nigh for Newcastle manager Graeme Souness.

Compiled by N. U. Abilash