Katie Taylor completes a fairytale in New York as Neville reaches fever pitch

TV View: Gary makes a meal of his commentary as United take on Liverpool

 Jesse Lingard of Manchester United celebrates  after scoring during his team’s match against Liverpool  at Anfield. Photograph: Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

Jesse Lingard of Manchester United celebrates after scoring during his team’s match against Liverpool at Anfield. Photograph: Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

 

It was, perhaps, the moment when Marouane Fellaini’s attempt on goal knocked over a steward sitting on a stool behind the corner flag that saw Gary Neville arrive at the end of his tether.

The stages of that journey are familiar enough by now; they’ve been much the same whenever Gary’s worked on Manchester United games this season. He starts out nervously hopeful. Then there’s the high-pitched shrieky phase when he can’t actually believe what he’s seeing – eg “WHAT WAS LINDELOF THINKING?!” Then there’s a hint of despondency, before he can take no more.

This then leads to statements like: “They’re all over the place, they’re like spaghetti Bolognese”, as he said of United’s rearguard at Anfield, and that was even before they conceded the second and third goals, by which stage they were just minced meat without any of the tastier flavourings.

Fellaini, as it happened, was one of the few United players Gary credited with having a positive impact on the game, praising him for successfully breaking up Liverpool attacks for a spell, although he did add that he was also successfully breaking up United attacks with the quality of his passing.

“There isn’t a central midfielder at the club who can actually pass a football,” he concluded, the only (occasional) honourable exception being Paul Pogba, but he was sitting on the subs’ bench, possibly googling Turin estate agents to pass the time.

Pre-match, Gary had fulminated about Jesse Lingard launching a clothing range in the days before the game when his mind should have been fully focused on the Anfield task in hand. “Did you buy any of his clothes?” he asked Sky’s special guest for the day. The look he gave Gary would have killed your average house plant.

“If there was a good, strong dressing-room that wouldn’t be tolerated,” said Roy Keane, for it was he. “People say you should have other stuff outside football – I don’t think you should, football should be your number one priority. Focus on the game: don’t hide behind your cars or your tattoos or your girlfriends or your agents, play the game! You can do all that stuff when you retire!”

It was the only time Gary chuckled all day, as Roy’s aversion to young people today and their flashy ways showed no sign of abating, but the light relief ended as soon as the game started.

No way José

Come full-time the shots-on-target count resembled a Leinster scoreline in the Champions Cup – 36-6 – prompting Geoff Shreeves to ask the Mourinho man: “Can you fix this?” José is many things, but Bob the Builder is not one of them. The consensus from the panel was: “No he can’t.” Unless the United board give him a billion to buy, say, Virgil van Dijk. “I don’t think you’d get the ball off him in a telephone box,” as Graeme Souness put it.

Gary aimed the bulk of his ire at the United board, while Roy was more aggrieved at the persistent inclusion in the line-up of a player whose name he always follows with question and exclamation marks. (“ASHLEY YOUNG?!”)

Jamie Carragher hadn’t even the heart to chortle at the United old boys’ despair, instead nodding in a sympathetic way as they emoted, evidently viewing their club as as big a threat to Liverpool’s ambitions this weather as, say, Dagenham and Redbridge.

A gremlin or two, then, to be sorted out down Old Trafford way, but happily none were present at Madison Square Garden.

“Outside the ring she’s like Gizmo, inside she’s a green monster,” as Matthew Macklin said of our Katie Taylor when she beat Eva Wahlstrom after 10 rounds, winning every one of them, her hands moving so speedily during the contest that they were rarely visible.

Katie had arrived in the arena to the tune of Fairytale of New York, and all we needed for the Bah Humbug crew’s heads to explode was for Eva’s entrance to be accompanied by Baby It’s Cold Outside.

Because she was a bit busy, Katie couldn’t attend RTÉ’s Sports Awards on Saturday evening, during which they had to fit Ireland’s sporting 2018 in to two hours. For achieving that feat, they probably deserve an award themselves.

And what a ridiculously excellent year it was too. If Mystic Meg had told you 12 months ago that our women’s hockey team would do enough in 2018 to beat our Grand Slam-winning, New Zealand-beating Irish rugby lads to the team gong, would you have said: (a) “Ha, good one!” or (b) “Ha, ha, good one!”?

How could you not love sport?

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