x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Anfield not for the faint hearted as Liverpool send United out of FA Cup

There is nothing quite like Liverpool v Manchester United, as Andy Mitten found out when he watched the fourth-round FA Cup tie from the stands.

Dirk Kuyt, the Liverpool forward, is mobbed by teamates after scoring the winner against Manchester United.
Dirk Kuyt, the Liverpool forward, is mobbed by teamates after scoring the winner against Manchester United.

There were just 29 seconds on the Anfield scoreboard when Manchester United's Patrice Evra took a throw in by the Kemlyn Road stand. He did so to a cacophony of jeers as the Liverpool fans rose in unison with the Kop before accusing the United captain of being a liar.

Extensive evidence has proved otherwise, yet Evra knew what to expect after he reported Luis Suarez's racism during the October league clash between England's two most successful clubs. He was booed every time he touched the ball in yesterday's FA Cup fourth-round clash between United and Liverpool but appeared unfazed.

Liverpool have been unanimous in their support of Suarez, proof which could be found everywhere, from Suarez masks to scarves bearing his name being sold outside the Park Pub behind the Kop, to Uruguayan flags on three sides of the ground. Defensive, too, as the Kop sang: "We're not racist, we only hate Mancs," on a sunny winter afternoon characterised by unpleasant chants between rival fans.

The 5,100 travelling supporters - almost three times the number who attended October's infamous league game because of bigger allocations in the FA Cup - viewed the situation very differently.

They called Suarez a racist throughout, yet the Uruguayan wasn't their priority as they set off from Manchester, 30 miles to the east in England's north-west. They travelled by car or coach, with hardly a hint of United's red being worn. Being identified as a United fan in Liverpool is not advisable. Avoiding defeat at Anfield was the priority for the fans who were handed a printed letter from Sir Alex Ferguson after clicking their £48 (Dh277) match tickets through the turnstiles. The letter appealed for good behaviour and respect.

United have not won at Anfield since 2007. Ferguson's side may be champions, they may have surpassed Liverpool's once seemingly insurmountable 18-title haul last May. They may finish ahead of Liverpool season after season, but they no longer win at Anfield.

Liverpool fans know this. Their club can no longer come close to competing for the league title, neither with established foes like United nor the newly enriched like Chelsea or Manchester City.

Salvation comes in cup competitions and their fans were waiting for United with a Kop full of noise and flags which are used to campaign, glory in their past or remember fallen friends.

One giant banner read: "Expose the lies before Thatcher dies." Liverpool still demand justice for the 96 who died at the 1989 Hillsborough disaster. Another banner was raised in honour of Paul Rice, a hugely respected fan activist who died recently. Those home fans were encouraged by Liverpool-born Wayne Rooney's absence through injury and boosted further when Daniel Agger gave them the lead after 20 minutes. United equalised through Park Ji-sung 18 minutes later.

Anfield is not for the faint hearted when these two giants meet. Barcelona and Real Madrid may be a more glamorous tie played in front of a far bigger crowd, but there were just 65 Real fans in Camp Nou last week compared with the 5,100 United followers at Anfield.

Those visitors only add to the intensity and enmity, not that there was much noise from the away end after the substitute Dirk Kuyt, a past scourge of United, got an 88th-minute winner when a draw seemed the most likely outcome. United's Anfield hoodoo continues and Liverpool go in search of another trip to Wembley.

sports@thenational.ae