IF ever there was a ‘glass half-full or glass half-empty?’ moment it was in the aftermath of the Manchester United game last Sunday.
If you were of the pessimistic persuasion, you had plenty to feel grumpy about: a 10th defeat in 11 games at Old Trafford, a timid first half performance, United’s gingham shirts.
On the other hand, if optimism is your natural bent, there was much to cheer you too – a rousing last 35 minutes, a promising link-up between Suarez and Sturridge, Patrice Evra getting booked while protesting his innocence.
Yes, there was something for everybody in this game.
If this match was supposed to be a measure of how far we’d travelled, the first half suggested that it was the footballing equivalent of a couple of stops from the Pier Head.
It took United about 15 minutes to realise that this wasn’t going to be the usual physical battle, and that they could play their normal passing game without too much interference from the opposition.
If there was any pressing going on, it must have been in the Old Trafford laundry as there was precious little evidence from the Liverpool midfield.
With Gerrard withdrawn into a deeper role, Allen, Downing and Sterling had all the physical presence of a triple toffee sundae, and United began to tuck in.
Seemingly unable to set up any type of passing movements in our opponent’s half, we left Suarez isolated and frustrated and failed to offer any threat to the United goal whatsoever.
The second half obviously didn’t start very well either, but the reserves of will and courage which Liverpool had kept skilfully hidden in the first half suddenly revealed themselves and the rest of the match was a much more pleasing experience.
Not for the first time this season Rodgers changed things around during the interval to great effect.
While this might beg the question of why he didn’t get it right from the start, there appears to be nothing wrong with his ability to read a match and make telling adjustments to formation and personnel.
The arrival of Sturridge and the restoration of Gerrard to the centre of a midfield four raised the tempo and the spirits of the side, and suddenly United looked unsure and vulnerable.
The early signs are that Sturridge will be able to complement Suarez, and provide a cutting edge to supplement the Uruguayan’s dazzling artistry and zeal.
His quick reaction to slot home the rebound from Gerrard’s saved shot was just what we have been missing for a while now – the clinical execution of the clear chance. Written off by many before he’d even played a game for us, you won’t find me criticising him for being greedy – all good goalscorers are.
Nobody in the ground would have been surprised if we’d equalised, which was a measure of our recovery. The sight of Old Red Nose breaking up play with defensive substitutions as the clock ticked away was irritating in the extreme, but a sure sign of his concern.
Fans’ reactions at the final whistle are always a good barometer of the team’s performance, and I heard little complaint around me at the end, only encouragement and support.
That we’re still some way behind United is what Basil Fawlty would call ‘stating the bleeding obvious’, but there was surely cause for optimism on show here – the glass is being topped up not drained away.