Hands up who expected all the action during Liverpool’s match with Manchester United to come after the final whistle? Liars.
Despite the fixture’s reputation for tedium, most observers fully expected Jurgen Klopp’s table-topping Reds to sweep United aside.
And, considering United had been thrashed at home by Bournemouth and eliminated from Europe in the past week, even the travelling away support shared the general pessimism.
But football often makes a mockery of such apparent certainities. In a game that would’ve sent a glass eye to sleep, United were dogged enough to keep Liverpool at bay and secure a goalless draw.
Despite not impressing anybody with their quality, United were rightfully pleased with their afternoon’s work. Meanwhile, something had snapped inside Virgil van Dijk’s head.
“100%,” Van Dijk said afterwards when asked whether Liverpool had tried to win the game on Sunday.
“If you see how we played the game, we had most of the ball and created some opportunities. There was only one team trying to win the game.
“We want to win every game of course and that is why it is frustrating. Sometimes we shot too easily and could have passed on the overlap. The right decision was sometimes lacking.
“We carry on of course but it is frustrating because we were superior in all aspects. In the end, they are buzzing with a point and we are disappointed with a point.”
Superior except in putting the ball in the net, Virgil? An action-starved Keane perceived the Liverpool’s defenders comments as the metaphorical red rag to a bull.
Roy Keane on Van Dijk’s interview: “Maybe that bit of arrogance backfired on him today.”
— Daniel Hussey (@DanielHussey2) December 17, 2023
“A lot of arrogance coming out of him, dissing United like that,” he started. “He said ‘only one team wanted to win, Manchester United are buzzing with the point’.
“Man United are in a difficult place, like Liverpool were in a difficult place for many years. So maybe that bit of arrogance backfired on him today. That’s arrogance … you shouldn’t be disrespecting clubs like this.”
Fellow pundit Daniel Sturridge, eyeing the camera like Tim Canterbury, tried to defend Van Dijk. To the surprise of nobody, Keane was not having it.
“United were under huge pressure, they sat in and played to their strengths they had today,” he claimed.
“It wasn’t great to watch United today, but if you offered them a draw they would be delighted with it, and Liverpool disappointed.
“But arrogance comes into football when you are disappointed with a draw and sometimes you have to take a draw, you can’t win every game of football even if you have all these chances.
“The bottom line is that the most important stat is the byline. Every week we get stats thrown at us but it is about putting the ball in the back of the net.
“So never mind ‘Man United are buzzing’, Liverpool had opportunities and they didn’t take them. That’s their own fault and nothing to do with Manchester United, or the way Manchester United were set up of Manchester United injuries or whatever.
“I’ve come to Anfield many times with Manchester United and, let me tell you, they were very pleased with a draw. I didn’t like his message there … I think he is out of order.”
Having waited like a coiled spring for something to talk about, Keane pounced upon Van Dijk’s annoyance like a recently released hostage tucking into a KFC bucket.
And he’s right – United were under no obligation to play attacking football and make things easy for Liverpool.
Whilst eye-bleeding is one of the kinder descriptors of their performance, fans will have been warmed by the lesser-sighted resilience their side showed at Anfield.
And who cares that the main action came after the final whistle had blown? We weren’t about to let that popcorn go to waste…
By Michael Lee