Hours before Liverpool’s historic 7-0 thrashing of Manchester United, Graeme Souness produced a moment that caused a nationwide epidemic of whiplash.
As Anfield lay quiet, the proverbial calm before the storm, the former Liverpool captain was asked for his prediction about the upcoming match.
“Normally you would focus on what you have to do and where Liverpool are right now this game comes along at the pefect time,” said Souness, following defeats for top-four rivals Tottenham and Newcastle.
“What a perfect time to put a marker down, to shout all the Doubting Thomas’ up and damage United.” So far, so reasonable. Like a working-class family taking their seaside holiday in July 1914, there was no inkling about what was to follow.
“It’s a long time Kelly [Cates] since I’ve been this confident of a Liverpool win against United,” he said with the certainty that only a senior citizen can summon. “I just feel they’re going to turn up today. I think they’ll be bang on it today.
“You ask these two chaps here [Gary Neville and Roy Keane] if it’s easy to play here as a United player…this is a difficult place for United to come and I think the crowd will play their part as well.”
The aforementioned Neville and Keane struggled to contain themselves; while the former saw his eyebrows soar as north as Cumbria, Keane was overcome by sniggers. This was a United side that arrived at Anfield on an 11-game unbeaten run and won a trophy as recently as last week.
Standing on Souness’ right, Jamie Carragher’s reaction was even more instructive. Like a 14-year-old that’s just heard his science teacher audibly fart, Carragher coughed in a vain attempt to maintain a sliver of composure.
Nobody backed Liverpool with as much confidence as Souness today. In the aftermath of his utterance, you could conceivably envisage the other three pundits clubbing together and getting the 69-year-old sectioned.
Roy Keane and Gary Neville laughing at Souness being deluded…pic.twitter.com/L9LwEMPdCx
— Pure Roy Keane (@PureRoyKeane) March 5, 2023
By 6.30, as the sun had set over both Anfield and Manchester United’s faint title hopes, everybody owed Graeme the biggest of apologies.
Cody Gakpo, Mohamed Salah and Darwin Nunez all scored twice. Roberto Firimino, days after announcing his intention to leave Liverpool at the end of the season, netted past an almost-weeping David de Gea.
Andy Robertson, who has often played as if surrounded by an invisible vat of treacle this year, was excellent on the left flank. Virgil van Dijk was back to his imperial best. Even Jordan Henderson, surprisingly selected ahead of Stefan Bacjetic, performed with class.
“United, the senior players were… use all the words, embarrassing, didn’t show any leadership skills, particularly the senior players,” a simmering Keane admitted afterwards. “The goals they gave away were shocking.
“The players will be embarrassed, they’ll no doubt be ashamed of their performance. Particularly the second half when the going got tough, they just went missing. To give up that many goals.
“You’ve got to show some pride and some fight when you go two goals down. Man United didn’t show any of that.”
Neither he nor Neville held their hands up and admitted Souness called it right. Perhaps it was too soon after the joint-heaviest defeat in Manchester United’s history.
But the growing school of keyboard warriors that dismiss everything Souness says about football, presumably because he’s old school, should acknowledge he’s forgotten more about football than they’ll ever know.
We should listen to him more often.
By Michael Lee