Belfast Telegraph

Billy on the Box: The dunt for Sky's red-hot October

By Billy Weir

If you are Hannibal and about to read the following line, look away now - not all plans come together in the way they should.

I hasten to add that is Mr Smith and not Mr Lecter or indeed the man with the elephants, but unless you were being nibbled in a cell or shovelling pachyderm poo in the Alps over the last week, you could not have failed to notice that there was a football match on Monday night. A big one, and we're not back with Dumbo here.

It was Red Monday, Liverpool playing host to Manchester United, but that was merely the final curtain, as all week Sky bombarded us with features, archive material and build-ups aplenty as the Lancashire rivals prepared to lock horns.

What would please Mr Smith is that Sky's A Team were reunited, or re-pooled depending on your hue of red, with Jamie Carragher and Gary Neville teaming up again.

More: Turn to channel 404 for some demolition derby action on the 401

This meant stints on Soccer AM and Fantasy Football, the best part of the latter being the pair looking at snapshots of their time in the M62 derby down the years, Neville's fine and ban for badge-kissing a particular highlight.

"I got fined 10 grand and banned for two matches," he said.

"Worth it?" asked Carragher.

"Absolutely. Worth 120 matches," chortled Neville and hopes were high that the present-day red factions would see this, or even catch up on the Premier League Legends series on Sky where Carragher and Neville featured in Monday night's preliminaries. Sadly not.

"The eyes of the football world are locked on Merseyside for one of the biggest games in club football anywhere," began Monday Night Football presenter David Jones.

He did his best to stoke the fires, extolling their 38 title successes (that would be 20-18 to United, ahem) and over a century of rivalry and I was already kissing an imaginary badge on my imaginary shirt and ready for war.

"Available in Ultra HD or customers with a Sky Q 2TB box, to watch press the red button or go to the Sports EPG or for more information on Sky HD go to," he added and my enthusiasm for life, never mind football, had drained.

"We had to be here for this," he said as we realised the studio had left the studio to become a studio at Anfield and there was another man beside Carragher and Neville, Ryan Giggs, who we were told wasn't appearing in this fixture for the first time since 1991, when HD wasn't a glint in the Sky man's eye.

The chat and banter was good before Neville left us to make his way to the commentary box and, like his playing days, Giggsy's delivery left a lot to be desired when there wasn't a quality full-back covering his back.

Commentator Martin Tyler told us that "everyone here is on the edge of their seats, the latest chapter in this red-hot rivalry and it's livvvvvveeeeeee" but after a while it was hard to tell.

Two saves, one header and nothing else to talk about really as we drew a blank.

"It wasn't really supposed to be like that, was it?" said Jones in apologetic fashion. Even Jurgen Klopp, who is normally good for a laugh, struggling to find any positives.

"It's the first clean sheet - yippee! We got a point against Man Utd, it's not the worst thing in the world," he said, but it was hardly Shankly-esque in its manner.

Jose Mourinho seemed to be morphing into Louis van Gaal when he started his post-match summation with "I think it was a very difficult game for them and for us but I think it was more difficult for them than for us" as we all wondered if there was a red button to find out what the hell he was wittering on about.

But right at the end, the first and only shot across the bows came from Jose, a wee dig at his hosts, concluding that "they are not the last wonder of the world".

It was too little, too late, with Neville pinpointing the reason.

"Liverpool in the first half looked like they'd been watching the build-up for five days and it got to them," he said. They weren't the only ones…

For the record, they play again on January 15, or Scarlet Sunday as it will probably be called on Sky. We can but hope that it is slightly better, or there's 12 foot of snow in Salford.

Belfast Telegraph


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