As far as fond memories against Liverpool go, Berbatov’s hat trick obviously stands out – but only for its absurdity.
A crumpled pack of Gitanes in a world of e-cigarettes, the debonair Bulgarian never scored against half-decent teams, let alone a match-defining treble but the bicycle kick felt like a microcosm of Berbatov’s prodigal gifts – economical, nonchalant and weirdly half-assed, an overhead kick scored from an invisible velour armchair.
The ecstasy, of course, was its tragedy. For 90 minutes, in a career-gilding transit of Venus, Berbatov became the player we always wanted and knew he’d never be again. One of those weird cheery-cry moments, like when Keira Knightly grins at Andrew Garfield on the beach in Never Let Me Go and he tries not to cough up a kidney.
More pertinently, in over 20 years of watching Manchester United and Liverpool games, the only other moment I can remember is Cantona sliding down a pole and Torres making Vidic fall over, which I’ve tried to repress.
Liverpool have, frankly, been a bit inconsequential for ages having finished above Manchester United only twice in the 24 years since they won the league. All our pivotal, memorable, games have been against Chelsea, Arsenal, Manchester City and the Euro grand dames.
Typically, in the year Liverpool challenge for the title, we’ve not just abdicated the throne but joined the chugging proletariat outside the top four.
Frankly, it’d be a disgrace if we did finish above this free scoring, fluid, Liverpool team but for now, chasing miracles feels weirdly invigorating. We don’t recall the comfortable, expected churn of success but its unexpected, emotional deviations.