Kenny Dalglish begins his reign in the Liverpool hotseat
“We are not going to be pleased to lose a match but the most important thing for us is that we got a great deal of effort and commitment from the players and that was matched by the supporters.” KENNY DALGLISH.
“Dimitar says he was definitely clipped. The replay shows he slightly touched him but the momentum is enough to bring the player down” ALEX FERGUSON
AT just after 11am on Saturday the mood on the Red half of Merseyside was joyfully buoyant.
News was quickly filtering around the city that prodigal son Kenny Dalglish had been appointed into the Anfield hotseat, ending Roy Hodgson’s beleaguered reign.
With the Kop’s favourite son now back in charge, it almost seemed feted that his first assignment would be facing up to his old sparring partner Alex Ferguson for a crunch FA Cup Third Round clash against Manchester United.
For a moment, it was almost just like the good old days.
Fergie, who had been preparing to warmly welcome his ally and friend Hodgson, must have found it hard not to reserve a growl for Dalglish, his old foe, as they shook hands.
But while in the 1980s, Liverpool ruled the roost in the north west with The King at the helm, times have certainly changed.
And if this 1-0 defeat proved anything, it showed that turning round Liverpool’s ailing fortunes will not be a quick fix, whoever the man is in charge.
Fast forward 24 hours from the celebration of Saturday, and it took a mere 32 seconds on the Old Trafford pitch for the Liverpool smiles to turn to frowns.
A debatable early penalty for Man Utd was an early nail in the coffin for Dalglish’s men from which they never recovered.
In effect, it was a game of two big decisions, with referee Howard Webb, a man never far from controversy, at the centre of both.
Just after the half-hour mark, he gave Steven Gerrard his marching orders for a late challenge on Michael Carrick.
While Webb might have got the sending-off right – the captain sliding in high and late on the midfielder – the penalty award in the first minute was undeniably harsh.
There could have been few complaints with Gerrard’s early bath, however, the captain lunging in on Michael Carrick’s ankles with both feet off the ground.
There was nothing malicious about the challenge, but following the letter of law, the red card was understandable.
Liverpool faced an uphill battle for the last hour of the game, but while the scoreline remained 1-0, they were always in with a chance of nicking a replay.
Despite positive changes from Dalglish to grab an equaliser – Babel, Shelvey and Ngog all being introduced in the second half – the Reds never really threatened the United goal while Pepe Reina was kept busy as the league leaders continued to press.
The Liverpool boss could be rightly proud of his players, and there will be easier challenges ahead than this.