Pep Guardiola would never compromise his principles and park the proverbial bus, but a baying mob of Scouse scum made doubly sure it was never going to be an option.
The pre-match attack on City’s team coach – which rendered it non-operational – will be viewed as a victory by loutish Liverpool fans and, who’s to say, probably by many associated with Liverpool FC past and present?
It certainly served the Anfield cause, and let’s face it, it was an open secret that such an assault was planned – it’d been all over social media for the past fortnight.
Of course Liverpool were quick to distance themselves from such undignified scenes, apologising ‘unreservedly to Pep Guardiola, his players, staff and officials caught up in the incident’.
Such an apology was about as much use as a one-legged man in an arse-kicking competition.
One can only surmise if, behind closed doors, the Anfield hierarchy were less than perturbed about the well orchestrated attack.
The statement went on to say: ‘The behaviour of a number of individuals was completely unacceptable…’
It had the same shallow ring as comments from BT Sports pundit and Liverpool ‘legend’ Steven Gerrard.
Slippy G, claimed it was unfortunate that ‘one or two’ had overstepped the mark, when seeking to whip up an intimidating atmosphere. Try one or two thousand and it’d be closer to the truth.
As the feral hordes let loose their bile and venom, they epitomised why some Liverpool fans are despised. They’ve well and truly earned their tag of being ‘offended by everything and ashamed of nothing’.
Merseyside Police did their bit to add to the mayhem, inexplicably announcing the change of route for the coach into Anfield – giving Rent-A-Mob the heads up – before failing, abysmally, to give Pep , his staff and players, safe passage to the ground.
After the inevitable battering of the coach – more than likely to have unnerved some within the City party – Merseyside Plod condemned the attack as ‘appalling’.
No Shit Sherlock!
By heck, there’s not much gets past the cops in Liverpool is there? Merseyside Police have, of course, sought to exonerate themselves of any blame.
The announcement of the re-routing of the coach was also accompanied by a statement from Liverpool urging supporters ‘to gather to show their passion and support for the team…in a friendly, respectful and considerate manner.’
Was it the intention of the club’s PR department to take the p*ss, or did something get lost in translation?
What did they expect from fans who are the antithesis of how the Liverpool loving media like to portray the Anfield faithful – as a fair and good humoured bunch?
UEFA have charged Liverpool with four breaches of their disciplinary regulations relating to the setting off of fireworks, the throwing of objects, acts of damage and crowd disturbances.
But UEFA, being UEFA, won’t review the case until the May 31st at the earliest.
One wonders if things would be moving at such a snail’s pace if European Football Royalty like Real Madrid or Barcelona had been the victims of such an attack?
UEFA would be saying the English hooligan disease had returned and impose swift and serious sanctions on Liverpool, but hey…it’s only those newly-moneyed upstarts from Manchester, so why bother?
Whether the ‘welcome’ impacted on City’s players is something only they and Guardiola can say, but it sure as hell didn’t do them any favours – and how it showed.
Jurgen Klopp’s side proved to be a class act on the field – the polar opposite of the skanky Scouse hooligans on the streets outside the stadium.
They were deserved winners, it would be churlish to pretend otherwise.
That said – and at the risk of sounding like a post match Arsene Wenger interview – Mo Salah was fractionally offside for the first goal, Leroy Sane was just onside when providing the assist for Gabriel Jesus’ disallowed goal, and Raheem Sterling had a definite penalty when Robertson took the City substitute’s legs from under him.
The result could have been very different.
Hindsight is a wonderful thing, and the fact that the in-form Sterling was on the bench and Ilkay Gundagon started, proved Pep can’t always get it right.
Guardiola is normally bang on with his selection and tactics, how else would City be enjoying the most successful season in their history?
Sadly the lack of attacking width down City’s right hand side – aligned to every player producing a sub-standard performance – meant Liverpool were never on the back foot.
Clueless City capitulated in a fashion which completely belied their status as Premier League Champions-Elect. It’s an unpalatable but inescapable truth that Liverpool have more than had the measure of City at Anfield in 2018.
An away goal would have been a massive lifeline going into what now looks like Mission Impossible – or at best – Mission Improbable, at the Etihad on Tuesday night.
But all is not lost and City and their supporters must have the belief that this quarter final can be salvaged and turned on its head.
The upside is City are more than capable of scoring three against any team, especially with a fit again Sergio Aguero seeking his 200th goal in City colours.
The downside is Liverpool are just as likely to score at least one, meaning City would have to score five, to progress.
Much could depend on who emerges unscathed from the respective Manchester and Merseyside derbies on Saturday.
Salah limped off last night with what looked like a groin strain. Could that keep him out of the match with Everton and then City?
Pep, quite rightly, said he was prioritising the Champions League quarter final above a potential Premier League clinching win over United.
It still holds true, but such was the manner of the loss, City need a morale boosting victory to lift the air of gloom that has suddenly enveloped the supporters.
It’s bizarre and wrong on so many levels but, if City don’t beat United and then fail to claw back the 3-0 deficit on Tuesday night, the season will begin to feel tainted – a glorious triumph petering out into anti climax.
Come hell or high water City will claim their third Premier League title in the last seven years, smashing several records on the way. They’ll also lay down a marker that the best is still very much come from Pep’s predominantly young, and rapidly developing, team.
Premier League success – so often the priority of the fans – may have to suffice this year, but the elusive Champions League crown remains the Holy Grail for Sheikh Mansour, Khaldoon Al Mubarak and City.
Pep still has a year left to run on his three-year deal– it may be enough to see City rule Europe – but an extension beyond 2019 would surely be welcomed by all parties.
It’ll be a perverse measure of City’s achievements and the fans expectations, if winning the title by beating United at the Etihad is seen as anything other than spectacular.
As for whether or not Klopp’s lot cop for it next Tuesday…well that can wait.
By David Walker
This blog is dedicated to Steve Wilson – a wonderfully brave Blue who passed away on Sunday – and #TeamWilson, his adoring family, who continue to raise thousands of pounds in his memory, for Macmillan Cancer Support.
RIP Steve and ‘Go Sarah’ in the London Marathon!
www.readbutneverred.com @ReadButNeverRed @djwskyblu