ON the day when a giant mosaic spelt out the message at an emotional Anfield, it was perhaps inevitable the brandishing of a card should prove most telling.
Having stated he didn’t have to tell Liverpool supporters how to behave against Manchester United, perhaps Brendan Rodgers should have instead had a word in the ear of Jonjo Shelvey.
The youngster’s needless red card changed the course of yesterday’s clash between the bitter North West rivals and leaves Rodgers still seeking his first Premier League win as Liverpool manager.
Shelvey was dismissed for an unwise lunge at Jonny Evans six minutes before the end of a first half dominated by a Liverpool side determined to produce a performance befitting the occasion, as Anfield paid tribute to the Hillsborough victims in their first home game following the shocking revelations of the independent report into the disaster.
This wasn’t the day for such controversy. Nor was it the day for Shelvey to jab an accusing finger at United manager Sir Alex Ferguson on his way down the tunnel.
But the smirk on Ferguson’s face as Shelvey disappeared from view was confirmation his own pre-match comments had produced the desired effect.
Speaking on Friday, Ferguson bemoaned the fact United are rarely given penalties at Anfield and are too often on the wrong end of red cards on their visits.
It was curiously inevitable, then, that their winner should come from a spot-kick, harshly awarded by referee Mark Halsey but efficiently despatched by Robin van Persie eight minutes from time.
Liverpool deserved better. The more impressive team even when down to 10 men, Rodgers’ men shrugged off their numerical disadvantage to forge ahead seconds after the interval through Steven Gerrard only to be pegged back within five minutes by Rafael da Silva’s classy finish.
Yet the harsh reality is Liverpool lost. They remain in the bottom three. They have now only won six of their last 23 home league games. They have taken just 25 points from their last 27 Premier League outings.
Throw in injuries to Fabio Borini, Daniel Agger and Martin Kelly, and the worry lines already being carved into Rodgers’ forehead will deepen further.
At least there were signs the supporters are beginning to warm to the Northern Irishman, the Kop chanting his name for the first time in response to taunts from the United end of “Going down”.
Yesterday, though, wasn’t just about football.
The game had been preceded by a magnificently-orchestrated tribute to the Hillsborough victims in Liverpool’s first home game since the independent findings into the disaster revealed the cover-up and smear campaign against 96 supporters who died in 1989.
Both teams walked out in tracksuits with the number ‘96’ emblazoned on the back, after which Bobby Charlton presented a bouquet of flowers to Ian Rush to be placed on the Hillsborough memorial.