As it turns out, Liverpool’s returning regent, ‘King’ Kenny Dalglish, enjoyed approximately 30 seconds of unwavering clamour and adulation on his return to the dugout – which surely amounts to one of the shortest-lived managerial hooneymoon periods since OPTA records began – thanks chiefly to Manchester United striker Dimitar Berbatov‘s early (and supremely consumate) rendition of the ‘Bulgarian Shuffle’ that allowed veteran Ryan Giggs to effectively settle Sunday’s FA Cup tie between the two sides from the spot before most corporate fans had finished their pre-match apperitifs.
During the very first minute of the match, referee Howard Webb saw fit to jut forth his considerable mandible, puff forth his considerable chest and press forth with yet another one of his ‘Hollywood’ Old Trafford moments by handing United the aforementioned (and ill-obtained) penalty – thus precipitating 92-and-a-half subsequent minutes of lumbering, bustling toil and tedious ball retention, specked hither and thither by a few scant moments of genuine ambition.
Dalglish was quick to rail against Webb after the game, calling the decision to reward Berbatov’s beguiling Balkan waltz with a penalty kick as ‘a joke’:
“I’ve seen the replay and, unless they have changed the rules, it is not a penalty. The penalty decision was a joke.”
Liverpool’s plight was further compounded when captain Steven Gerrard was shown a straight red card for an over-zealous, two-footed lunge later in the first-half.
Dalglish’s seemingly compliant response to a video replay of the incident was televised during the game though, after the final whistle, the veteran Scot was rather more damning of Webb’s second match-swaying decision:
“The other one, I can’t see that as a red card either. In the dressing room before the game someone said to me the game hasn’t changed that much and I said I thought it had become a non-contact sport. Maybe I was right.”
‘Non-contact’ being a rather appropriate turn of phrase there, eh Mr Berbatov?
Shortly after Giggs had nudged United into the lead, incensed Liverpool substitute Ryan Babel (who later entered the fray mid-way through thr second-half) took to the internet to voice his frustrations from the bench by sourcing a mocked-up picture of referee Webb sporting a United shirt and posting the following pithy tirade on his Twitter account:
“And they call [Webb] one of the best referees? That’s a joke. SMH.”
‘SMH’ being a Twitter-savvy abbreviation of ‘shaking my head’.
The decision to release his inane ramblings into the ether almost instantly landed Babel in hot water with the FA, who subsequently vowed to probe the Dutch wingers’s actions.
Tail firmly between legs, Babel later added (via Twitter once again):
“My apology if they take my posted pic seriously. This is just an emotional reaction after losing an important game. Sorry Howard Webb.”
The FA duly responded once again by restating the fact that Babel can now look forward to hearing from them at some point within the next couple of days.
What a [email protected]
In other Liverpool related news, the club have confirmed this afternoon that Jose Mourinho‘s former No. 2 at Chelsea, namely the highly-respected Steve Clarke, has been added to the backroom staff at Liverpool as a ‘first team coach’, with Dalglish himself telling the club’s official website:
“Steve is a great addition to our backroom team and I’m delighted we’ve been able to bring him into the club.
I am looking forward to working with Steve alongside Sammy Lee (Liverpool’s incumbent assistant manager) and our other technical staff.”
Given his track record (if memory serves, he even began to make West Ham’s defence look somewhere approaching ‘competent’ last season) Clarke’s appointment may just prove to be the best signing Liverpool have made since Fernando Torres joined from Atletico Madrid way back in the primordial mists of 2007.