Before covering any of the sketchy match details, I knew that there would be something strange about this FA Cup tie between England's two most successful teams; No calls from my Grandad or Uncle about how Man U would slaughter Liverpool as they had, apparently, done earlier this campaign. No Gary Neville comments about how Kenny Dalglish's first match back would be his worst. No Nani comment saying that he is among the best players in the world. And no Wayne Rooney in the line-up...
I began to wonder whether (1) Man U were actually expecting to win this one outright and whether (2) Liverpool would play twice as hard as they had in the Blackburn defeat (probably worse than the Wolves defeat, and most definitely cost Hodgson his job).
My both of these pre-match wonderings were confirmed in only the 2' with Berbatov's blantant dive and Howard Webb's precarious position on the field, only followed by Liverpool's out-playing of Man U for the remaining 20+ minutes, until, Captain Fantastic being sent off for a 50-50 tackle in the midfield with Howard Webb being in another position that was un-advantageous to make such a call.
To those that say it was United's win from the start, there is some truth to that statement, as we have seen from the officiating, but it is unfair to say that Liverpool did not try. Yes, Johnny Evans' header to the post was closer than any of the Liverpool attempts (some pretty horrible ones from Meireles and Cole), but when playing 11 on 10 (and the referee makes 12), a opportunity from a corner was simply not enough. A penalty being the only decisive goal against your fiercest rivals, at home, while they have just appointed a new manager a day before and your team is sitting 1st and theirs is 12th? Man U fans surely don't really care that they played poor, just that they won. This is how their whole campaign this year has been and I will be the most disgusted person if they win the title. Sending on Michael Owen, who probably wasn't the most in-form striker on the bench certainly didn't confirm any nail-in-the-coffin victory for United.
In a way, the penalty was both the best and worst thing that happened to Man U. Giggs's shot was great, even though Pepe read it, but Berbatov's flop was the worst decision for penalty in looking at some of the other appeals throughout the game. No referee wants to give more than one penalty to any given team throughout one game, even though I wouldn't put it past Webb. And in a way, the Gerrard sending off confirmed our fate, as he is one of the players the Kop faithful have always trusted to get some come-from-behind goals (a-la FA Cup final 2006 a.k.a. the 'Steven Gerrard Final', and Istanbul in 2005).
If you're a Man U fan reading this, you're probably disgusted that I just brought up some history, but that's what this rivalry is built on. You've also probably wrestled with the fiction of Berbatov's dive in the box and that Fletcher also went two feet studs up in the tackle and DIDN'T win the ball (watch the replay).