Following the setback incurred by the 3-1 defeat away at West Ham last weekend, I had believed that the honeymoon may have been over for Kenny Dalglish. The team had been outplayed by the Hammers, the defence had looked frail and Luis Suarez had looked isolated up front. My mood had returned to one of gloom and doom and resignation.
The arrival of Dalglish had merely signalled a false dawn, I had thought, and we were back to square one. However, I am delighted to say that yesterday I was proved gloriously wrong.
Right from the kick off against arch rivals Manchester United at Anfield, the desire and passion to win the game was evident for all to see. The pass and move, pass and move style of play was back, and sometimes the football Liverpool produced was delightful to watch.
Three months ago, if somebody had told me I would soon be writing that last sentence, I would never have believed them, but it’s true, some of the football the team played yesterday was arguably beautiful.
The fact that the opposition were out of sorts and were missing key players in Vidic and Ferdinand should not detract from the quality of Liverpool’s play.
It’s probably extremely rare for a player to score a hat trick, as Dirk Kuyt did yesterday, and NOT be man of the match, but as I’m sure Kuyt himself would acknowledge, that honour belonged to Suarez. His mazy run, taking on several United defenders to set up Kuyt’s first goal, will live long in the memory, but that was only part of it.
There were other outstanding performances, too. Steven Gerrard, an injury doubt before the start, was his usual superb self, and alongside him in midfield, the much-maligned Lucas Leiva was magnificent. We are now beginning to see what it was that Rafa Benitez saw in the Brazilian when he first signed him and then kept the faith after bringing him into the side and selecting him game after game.
However, a few words must be devoted to the hat-trick hero himself. He has had many critics lately, and a few have been particularly vociferous in their claims that he does not deserve to be in the side. Personally, I think Kuyt belongs to that increasingly rare breed of players who just get on with it and don’t complain.
He has been played out of position for most of his Liverpool career, but has just got his head down and done his best for his team, week in, week out. Yesterday he showed everyone what he can do when he is played as an out and out striker, the role in which he plays for his country. No doubt his critics will say of his goals yesterday: ‘oh, they were only tap-ins, anyone could have scored them’.
That would be doing the Dutchman a great disservice. Gary Lineker made a career out of scoring goals just like those Kuyt netted yesterday, and I am sure that the master goal-poacher from Liverpool’s glory days, Ian Rush, approved heartily as he watched from the stands yesterday.
Dare I say it that Liverpool arguably look much better as a unit since Fernando Torres left, they are working so hard for each other, and yesterday Kuyt was the epitome of that. Before the game, any Liverpool fan would have bitten your hand off if you had offered them a 3-1 win, but by the time the match was into injury time, such was their team’s dominance that there was a little stab of disappointment when, at 3-0 up, United scored a consolation goal.
So, with Arsenal now only three points behind United with a game in hand, Liverpool may even have had a say in the ultimate destination of the Premiership title this season. If United miss out by just one or two points, points they dropped yesterday, then to paraphrase another ex Anfield man, the Liverpool fans would ‘love it, just love it’.