Why preview United at Anfield? It's all about the ref

Referee Martin Atkinson proved it once and for all on Tuesday night at Stamford Bridge. Forget the vastly experienced managers, the highly paid talented footballers. Matches AND Premierships are decided by little tin gods with the simple ability to blow a whistle. So what’s the point of even attempting to preview a game? It’s a complete waste of time because all logic goes out the window once the man holding all the cards decides that he has a God given right to settle the outcome of a game. Does it sound as though I’m still angry about Manchester United’s defeat at Chelsea? Bloody oath I am. Why shouldn’t I be when even opposition players, manager and former referees admit that some of Atkinson’s most critical decisions completely dudded United?

Referee Martin Atkinson proved it once and for all on Tuesday night at Stamford Bridge. Forget the vastly experienced managers, the highly paid talented footballers. Matches AND Premierships are decided by little tin gods with the simple ability to blow a whistle. So what’s the point of even attempting to preview a game? It’s a complete waste of time because all logic goes out the window once the man holding all the cards decides that he has a God given right to settle the outcome of a game. Does it sound as though I’m still angry about Manchester United’s defeat at Chelsea? Bloody oath I am. Why shouldn’t I be when even opposition players, manager and former referees admit that some of Atkinson’s most critical decisions completely dudded United?

So who’s to say that the clash at Anfield on Sunday will be any different, why bother making an effort trying to analyse what’s likely to happen when one man has the authority to play a crucial role in deciding the destination of a Premier League title while completely turning a game on it’s head at the same time – just as Atkinson did in West London?

Let’s instead look back at the sensational events at Anfield in March 2007 when United’s underrated defender John O’Shea delivered an injury time killer blow to Liverpool and virtually assure United of another title. The Irishman remembers that “The goal was one of the best moments in my career. It was a huge win for us and was a sickener for our rivals given how late we scored. Two months later we were champions

Wins over Liverpool don’t come much sweeter than this. On March 3rd four years ago, United staged the mother of all smash and grab raids at Anfield en route to the 2006-07 title. The Reds survived the late dismissal of Paul Scholes, for lashing out at Xabi Alonso, to snatch all three points through an injury time John O’Shea strike. The Irishman, on as a substitute for the injured Wayne Rooney, smashed home the loose ball after Liverpool goalkeeper Pepe Reina had parried Cristiano Ronaldo’s free kick.

Sir Alex Ferguson’s side had posed the hosts almost no attacking threat but, after weathering a second half storm, grabbed victory to go 12 points clear at the top with nine games remaining. Ferguson would no doubt settle for the same outcome on Sunday. Enjoy that O’Shea winner once again.

Liverpool – Reina, Finnan, Carragher, Agger, Riise, Gerrard, Alonso, Sissoko (Crouch, 79), Gonzalez (Aurelio, 60), Kuyt, Bellamy (Pennant, 69)

Manchester United – van der Sar, Neville, Vidic, Ferdinand, Evra (Silvestre, 63), Carrick, Scholes, Ronaldo, Giggs, Rooney (O’Shea, 73), Larsson (Saha, 67)

Will it be too much for the old ticker if United wins it in injury time again on Sunday?

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