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Nerves, songs and the lock-in – What it was like as one of 9,000 Liverpool fans at Old Trafford

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It wasn’t to be for Liverpool once again at Old Trafford, but a marker was laid down for an even bigger trip to come in three weeks’ time.

Despite their ongoing decline since Sir Alex Ferguson’s retirement in 2013, Liverpool have often struggled to get the better of their enemies at the other end of the M62.

A total of 9,000 made the trip to see if we could buck the trend and book a place at Wembley for the second time this season, on a day which held so much promise from the outset.

 

A day filled with potential

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - Sunday, March 17, 2024: Liverpool's captain Virgil van Dijk leads his side out before the FA Cup Quarter-Final match between Manchester United FC and Liverpool FC at Old Trafford. (Photo by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

We headed towards Manchester in a car of four shortly after midday, with the favourites tag feeling like more of a burden on the shoulders than a blessing.

With so much of the top flight littered with teams based down south, it is one of the shortest trips you can make as an away supporter.

It leaves you with less time to ponder the possibilities – both good and bad – but I personally looked at the bookmakers’ odds that morning and can confess that it left me feeling uneasy.

We arrived around an hour-and-a-half before kickoff, and given the fact we’ve become used to not anticipating a hospitable welcome from the locals we headed straight into the ground and onto a vibrant concourse.

The increased allocation meant that plenty who are often unable to attend away games got an opportunity to experience a big one, and plenty were keen to make the most of it.

Wataru Endo‘s new song has been quick to catch on having circulated on social media in recent weeks, and that was by far the most popular tune in the buildup to kickoff.

Luis Diaz was also serenaded from the bar, but as we took to our seats those lingering doubts began to circle in my brain again.

Those doubts intensified when the hosts made a surprisingly positive start, with their fans clearly up for the fight having been humiliated by us on a number of occasions in recent years.

 

Emotional rollercoaster

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - Sunday, March 17, 2024: Manchester United's Scott McTominay scores the first goal during the FA Cup Quarter-Final match between Manchester United FC and Liverpool FC at Old Trafford. (Photo by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

The goal was a hammer blow, and precisely the sort of thing the manager will have been talking about avoiding in the dressing room before we got underway.

The Reds did then get themselves a foothold in the game and started to demonstrate the gulf in quality that has become unquestionable across the past few seasons.

We needed to make it count before the break, but what we got was beyond anything we could have hoped for.

It is hard to beat goals before half-time, particularly in a tough away ground. It might in fact be my favourite time to score a goal in those circumstances.

Having been teased with a disallowed equaliser earlier on, Alexis Mac Allister sent us into dreamland with a goal that was no more than his efforts have deserved this season.

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - Sunday, March 17, 2024: Liverpool supporters celebrate during the FA Cup Quarter-Final match between Manchester United FC and Liverpool FC at Old Trafford. (Photo by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

The celebrations that ensued meant we didn’t spot the board go up for injury time, and so the minutes after Mohamed Salah put us in front felt like an eternity.

A mate of mine had nobly volunteered to go to the bar for the half-time refreshments seconds before this chaos took place, a decision I dare say he quickly regretted making.

The half-time concourse was a much different place than it had promised to be five minutes earlier, with the celebrations reminiscent of Philippe Coutinho‘s away goal in the Europa League back in 2016 despite not being quite as conclusive.

 

Revenge needed

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - Sunday, March 17, 2024: Liverpool's goalkeeper Caoimhin Kelleher looks dejected as Manchester United score the winning fourth goal, in extra-time, during the FA Cup Quarter-Final match between Manchester United FC and Liverpool FC at Old Trafford. Man Utd won 4-3 after extra-time. (Photo by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

How we lost the game from that point remains a mystery, let alone failing to even reach penalties.

The Reds toyed with their bitter rivals throughout the second period and at times it looked as though they themselves had given up hope.

Their press was non-existent and Liverpool looked capable of putting the tie to bed at any given point, but alas.

The Reds shot themselves in the foot, not for the final time in the game, and allowed the absolute plumb that is Antony to hand Man United a lifeline for which they themselves probably couldn’t believe their own luck.

Harvey Elliott then looked to have restored common sense into proceedings with his deflected effort before the break in extra time, but Man United were somehow able to turn the game back on its head with goals that I am yet to watch back, and have no intention of doing so.

It was a sickening way for our FA Cup campaign to conclude, particularly given the nature of the game and the opposition, but it is worth remembering that there are still bigger fish to fry.

One of those fish comes at the same venue three weeks from now, where Liverpool’s players will undoubtedly feel as though they have a score to settle against a visibly inferior counterpart.

The traditional Old Trafford lock-in was an expectedly sombre affair, but there were brief shows of defiance with renditions of ‘We are Liverpool’ and ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ as we waited to be let out by the police.

Regardless of the result, they are not a good side and you can’t convince me otherwise. We’ll be back on April 7.