On Sunday I was at Anfield to witness a below-bar Manchester United performance. It was a game I knew we wouldn't win if Torres played. Unfortunately he did, and inspired Liverpool to a 2-0 over their fiercest rivals. For me, the Reds needed the win much more than their Mancunian counterparts, because a loss for Liverpool would surely have prolonged their 19 year wait for the title... and sent Rafa Benitez packing.
So, broken arm and all (long story), I sat myself in the hallowed surroundings of the Bill Shankly Suite pre-match praying that Jamie Carragher continues his poor start to the season and lets his Scouse compatriot Wayne Rooney in for a few strikes on goal. I was also praying I wouldn't be sniffed out as an undercover Manc, but I think I pulled it off with the odd dodgy "Showned La'd" at the end of every sentence. Then, after bumping into the literally larger than life Eamon Holmes, I realised I was not the only plastic Manc in the home end today. And with my nerves put at ease I made my way to my seat based in the classy Centenary Stand, padded seats and everything.
Minutes into the game and I soon realised it wasn't Carragher I should be expecting the mistakes from, it was the world's most expensive defender Rio Ferdinand. In fairness, he wasn't alone in having a stinker of a game, his partner in crime Nemanja Vidic made Dirk Kuyt actually look like a decent centre forward for once. In the end the Serbian quite rightly put himself out of his own misery and took an early bath five minutes from time for the third game with Liverpool in a row (has to be a record!).
But whilst I am certain Vidic will bounce back from his annual stinker against Liverpool, I am much more concerned about Rio. His loss of form this season has been surprising to say the least and is serious cause for concern. The way in which Fernando Torres out-sprinted him to put Liverpool ahead was unlike Ferdinand, a defender whose high acclaim stems from that very attribute. When Torres struck, I couldn't help but think back to 2001 when Jaap Stam was showing similar nervous signs at the back for United. In the end Fergie had seen enough and offloaded his most experienced defender, citing the reason as Stam having 'lost a yard in pace'.
Time will only tell if my theory is proved right. But with young Northern Ireland startlet Jonny Evans waiting in the wings, Ferdinand's place at the heart of the United defence isn't as secure as some might have believed.
Watch this space...
PS: I never did get my hands on an LFC beachball. It was probably a good thing seeing as the joke of the day arrived in the 94th minute when that great player called 'Egg-Nog' scrambled any plans Manchester United had to poach a late equaliser at Anfield... and leave Sir Alex with egg on his face!