Which was more embarrassing - Manchester United's defeat, or Liverpool's?
Manchester United 1-6 Tottenham Hotspur.
And Aston Villa’s drubbing of Liverpool. (I’m deliberately omitting the score to annoy Manchester United fans.)
But it started early yesterday morning (SGT) with the 0-3 home defeat of Leicester City at the hands of West Ham. Yes, West Ham – who were in a relegation battle last season, finishing just above Aston Villa.
Granted, the London side showed some promise a week ago, hammering Wolverhampton Wanderers 4-0. But Leicester were clear favourites to win at home after their 2-5 slaughter of Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City at the Etihad on Matchday 3.
WATCH: Guardiola speaks after Man City's 2-5 defeat to Leicester
So it was a bit of a shock for me that Leicester and Jamie Vardy weren’t able to get a single goal last weekend. But I also suspect the reason for West Ham’s new-found form is that manager David Moyes – who is suffering from mild symptoms of Covid-19 – has been working from home.
Then came the fun fixture for me – Manchester United v Tottenham Hotspur. These two great sides which have an enormous following each are capable of doing the most embarrassing things in front of their fans. But while Spurs have been doing that for as long as I can remember, United have lately become so used to losing that they’re a joy to watch for Liverpool fans.
But as a neutral, I felt that the referee and his VAR were terribly unfair to Manchester United in sending off Anthony Martial for patting Erik Lamela’s chin. If Martial had to be sent off, then it would only be fair to send Lamela off as well, for starting the nonsense. Lamela’s raised arm on Martial was a lot more violent than the Frenchman’s gentle caress of the Argentinian’s face, so I’m quite appalled that Martial was red-carded for “violent behaviour” while Lamela received only a caution.
WATCH: Mourinho reflects on Spurs' thrashing of United
As an impartial neutral, I would have given Martial a red card – for not slapping Lamela hard enough. But I would have given Lamela a red card, too. And slapped him after that – for acting as if he had been struck by lightning and being an embarrassment to Latin culture.
Seriously, if you’re a professional footballer making millions of dollars in wages a month, please, be a footballer. Play football. You can go into acting when you’ve retired. Like Eric Cantona. Or Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.
So that sending off of Martial led to the collapse of United, who eventually lost 1-6 after taking the lead in the second minute through a Bruno Fernandes penalty.
But before the mirth of Liverpool’s fans had died down over the massacre of their rivals at Old Trafford, the Reds would pull off a similar stunt against Aston Villa.
Jurgen Klopp showed the world a new tactical formation: he ditched the 4-3-3 formation for a very radical and progressive, never-before-witnessed 0-0-10.
It failed miserably.
And gifted Aston Villa debutant Ollie Watkins a hat-trick. The defending champions eventually lost 2-7 – the first time they’ve conceded seven goals since 1963.
United fans were delighted at the silver lining. But considering the Red Devil’s form and fortune of late, every Liverpool defeat has been a United silver lining. It could have been more than that had United not been so soundly thrashed by Spurs at Old Trafford, but it did soften the blow.
Today, United fans will argue that the Liverpool defeat at the hands of Villa was more embarrassing than their capitulation to Jose Mournho’s Spurs.
WATCH: Kane delighted with Spurs' ruthlessness against United
“Fools lost with 11 men,” said United fan Roy gleefully, his tear-streaked face – from crying earlier after United’s loss – lit by an incandescent grin. He was so filled with joy that I might have believed him if I’d just recovered from a coma and he’d told me that United won the Treble. And he wasn’t even acting.
For the fact that Liverpool are defending champions, I’d agree. Liverpool’s loss was the bigger one also because United were reduced to 10 men.
Liverpool fans might argue that, like United, their team also suffered a refereeing decision that could have changed the course of this weekend’s historical result: When they were a goal down, Mo Salah was brutally smashed to the ground, yet the referee refused to award Liverpool a penalty and the VAR acted like he didn’t care.
However, I get the sense that Liverpool would have lost by 7-3 even if that penalty had been given.
But whether Manchester United or Liverpool suffered the worse loss this morning is something fans can continue arguing about until next season.
There are more important questions to ponder.
Like, how good were Spurs? (They were excellent.) Or Aston Villa? (They were superb, and I hope Watkins is remembered for his debut hat-trick rather than just being a participant in the slaughter of Liverpool.)
Sure, United and Liverpool were rubbish, but we should take nothing away from Spurs and Villa.
However, the question I’d really love to explore is, was this weekend just a blip? Would order be restored to the universe after the international break?
I think that would be the case for Liverpool. This was a shocking display from the champions on a night when Aston Villa could do no wrong. But Liverpool were missing Alisson badly. The Liverpool defence plays very differently when Alisson is behind them, and my feeling is that Adrian was worth about four Villa goals.
WATCH: Klopp congratulates Villa after Liverpool rout
Alisson, who damaged a shoulder during training, is not expected to be back in time for the Merseyside derby straight after the international break, so Everton could take advantage and learn from Villa’s masterclass at breaking the champs. But Liverpool will have learnt their lessons, too, and should improve by then. So no need to sack Klopp yet.
How about Manchester United?
After their surge in form with the inclusion of Bruno Fernandes in their ranks last season and a good run straight after Project Restart, the Red Devils fizzled in their last four games though they managed to scramble across the line for third place.
The struggle continues and Solskjaer appears increasingly out of his depth. The Norwegian would have struggled even without Martial’s dismissal, but with a man down, there really wasn’t any hope. While he is likeable and very loyal to Manchester United, perhaps he should leave on his own accord in favour of someone more capable to take over as manager.
Otherwise, Ed Woodward should do Manchester United and its fans a great favour: Sack Solskjaer, and then double United fans' joy, by sacking himself.
One thing’s for sure, though: Liverpool’s mirroring of United’s performance (at least, in the similarity in margin of loss) is perhaps just a sign that the two great rivals cannot live without each other.
As a neutral, my hope is that Manchester United will quickly improve so that they can start competing realistically against Liverpool. Yes, a real contest. Not a case where the two magnificent sides try to outdo each other in defeat.
Otherwise, we should just change that famous Liverpool anthem to: You’re Never Whacked Alone.