After 32 seconds Kenny Dalglish was reminded what a frustrating game this can be. After 32 minutes he must have been longing for that cruise ship; the chance to be back in a marina with wife Marina.
This was a tough re-introduction to the world Dalglish has been away from for more than 12 years.
Not enough to make his head explode but not far off given the dubious nature of the penalty that secured victory for Manchester United and the reckless nature of the challenge that then led to the dismissal of Steven Gerrard.
Spot on: Ryan Giggs puts Manchester United ahead in the opening minutes after Dimitar Berbatov won a controversial penalty
Manchester United (4-4-2): Kuszczak 6;
Rafael 7, Ferdinand 8, Evans 7 (Smalling
84min), Evra 7; Nani 6, Fletcher 6
(Anderson 63, 6), Carrick 7, Giggs 8;
Hernandez 6 (Owen 75, 6), Berbatov 6.
Booked: Fletcher, Anderson.
Liverpool (4-3-2-1): Reina 8; Kelly 7,
Skrtel 6, Agger 6, Aurelio 6; Meireles 6
(Shelvey 60, 6), Lucas 6, Gerrard 6;
Kuyt 6, Rodriguez 6 (Babel 60, 6);
Torres 6 (Ngog 77).
Sent off: Gerrard.
Man of the match: Ryan Giggs.
Referee: Howard Webb.
The two incidents determined the outcome of this disappointing tie, first in the way Ryan Giggs was able to seize the lead for United and then in the way Liverpool's chance of battling their way back into the contest was removed. Without Gerrard they lacked drive and invention from midfield, leaving Fernando Torres a forlorn, isolated figure up front.
Dalglish was heartened by the commitment of the players he had met only at 10.30 yesterday morning, and this was certainly an improvement on the sorry performance at Blackburn that proved to be Roy Hodgson's last game in charge.
But only now does the work begin for Dalglish as he tries to rebuild the club that, in the words of United manager Sir Alex Ferguson, were still on their perch when he left 20 years ago. Gerrard and Torres might be class acts but not many of these players would have secured a place alongside Rush, Beardsley and Barnes.
Even after losing to their fiercest rivals, Liverpool's interim manager could not hide his delight at being back. 'Brilliant,' was how he described his feelings after what has been an extraordinary 48 hours. 'Less than 48 hours,' he retorted.
Fall guy: Dimitar Berbatov was awarded a penalty after the striker tumbled inside the area, despite what appeared to be minimal contact from Liverpool defender Daniel Agger
He was, he said, sitting in the bar when the distress call came from John W Henry; a call that appears to have been followed by a message to the bridge to pull into the next port.
'The cruise ship was fantastic in letting us get off at Bahrain,' he said.
Presumably, the conversation with Henry was a brief one. Dalglish has been longing for this moment, long before he put himself forward for the job in the summer by withdrawing from the search for Rafa Benitez's successor.
He said it was 'a no-brainer'; the chance to address some 'unfinished business' with the club who remain such an integral part of his life.
Marching on: Giggs celebrates his controversial winner to dump rivals Liverpool out of the FA Cup
There was a buzz among the travelling supporters that has been absent all season and it was evident the moment Dalglish appeared from the tunnel and walked along the touchline with Ferguson. 'He said, "welcome back",' revealed Dalglish. 'And it's amazing how quickly the memory comes back to you.'
His team talk, he explained after paying tribute to Hodgson, concerned the need for unity, and the words he chose must have been rousing ones judging by the response. Gerrard might be 30 but the overwhelming desire to impress clearly played its part in his early departure.
Even Ferguson noted the fact that he is not a player one would normally associate with two-footed lunges, although the challenge that left Michael Carrick with a sore ankle also looked like an act of retaliation after seeing Rafael da Silva escape punishment seconds earlier for a similar clash with Raul Meireles.
Bad start: Sir Alex Ferguson had the last laugh as Kenny Dalglish suffered a disastrous return to the Liverpool hot seat
Dalglish bemoaned Howard Webb's decision but the referee was right. The game has changed since he was last here, especially when it comes to lunging two-footed challenges.
If Webb was right to dismiss Gerrard, he was horribly wrong when it came to awarding the penalty. The contact between Daniel Agger and Dimitar Berbatov was minimal at best; the collapse to the ground depressingly delayed by the Bulgarian.
It was symptomatic, perhaps, of an era when even referees like Webb are explaining to players that they have a right to go down should there be contact but something that remained unjust on this occasion.
Some 25 yards behind the action, Webb was in no position to see the incident clearly and the fact that his assistant did not raise a flag should have planted some doubt in his mind. But Webb pointed to the spot and Giggs did the rest.
Red midst: Liverpool are reduced to ten men after referee Howard Webb sends Steven Gerrard off after a reckless challenge on Michael Carrick
In the end, United just about deserved their fourth-round trip to Southampton. In Giggs, who made his debut for United a month after Dalglish's shock resignation in February 1991, and Rio Ferdinand they had the two best outfield players, and they also had the better of the other chances. While Jonny Evans sent a header crashing against a post, Pepe Reina somehow made four saves in little more than four seconds to deny Rafael twice as well as Berbatov and Patrice Evra.
This, however, was far from United's best and Dalglish will know as much. Had Gerrard remained on the field for longer than 32 minutes his side might have threatened more. In the end Fabio Aurelio went closest with a decent free-kick.
Dalglish praised Torres for his workrate, having focused on the Spaniard in his column in yesterday's Mail on Sunday. But reviving his spirit will be as important as making the changes that are sure to follow.
Another bad day at the office: Fernando Torres yet again failed to produce his best, easily dealt with by United defender Jonny Evans
Steve Clarke would be a sound appointment as a coach, while adding some strength to the squad would also be useful.
Yesterday Dalglish made some positive changes. No Paul Konchesky at left back. The return of Agger at centre half. Torres off after 77 minutes. All displayed the strength we have long associated with the man.
As he said, he will not know if he's still got it until he has tried. But in the eyes of the Liverpool supporters, and probably the players too, he already looks less out of place than his predecessor.
Making a fist of it: Manchester United should have scored more but found Liverpool goalkeeper Pepe Reina in inspired form
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