AN interesting talking point arose in the Anfield press box as Liverpool and Manchester United did battle on Saturday.
Well, did battle in the modern-day football sense of the word.
Until Steven Gerrard scored, the match was more an exercise in athletics than the beautiful game. Where was the passion? Where was the local rivalry? Where were the crunching tackles? In fact, where were ANY tackles?
Don’t blame the two teams for that. Blame the authorities, whose intent on limiting contact in a contact sport has anaesthetised the game to such an extent that players at times don’t even bother to make a challenge for fear of the inevitable yellow card.
Sure, it allows skilful players to prosper. But skilful players have always prospered. In fact, overcoming – and going toe-to-toe with – the hatchet men is what set the truly gifted players of yesteryear apart.
Back then, Martin Atkinson would have surely suffered some form of RSI given how often his hand would be in and out of his pocket.
Nobody wants a return to the days when a clogger needed to practically decapitate an opponent to earn a ticking off from the referee. And this isn’t one of those ‘oh it was all so much better in the old days’ rants.
But come on. Ferocious battles are as much the fabric of the game as Barcelona’s pretty passing, half-an-hour of injury time at Old Trafford and Arsene Wenger’s myopia.
Let’s keep it that way.