Wow! Did that really happen? Manchester United beat Liverpool? At Anfield? If someone told me we were going to win in such a manner in such an emotionally-charged day, I would have laughed in their face. I’m still bemused partly because of how poo
r we played but that’s how football is sometimes. As Giggs and Fergie mentioned, we’ve played well there and come away with nothing. 5 games in and we’re sitting pretty in the table. Although I haven’t been happy with the performances thus far, it’s hard to complain about the results. I will say, thought we were quite lucky yesterday.
Ferdinand – Rio was imperious against Liverpool. Carrying a knock through the match yet his focus and concentration never seemed to waver. He put Suarez in his pocket by aptly dealing with any tricks the Uruguayan tried to pull. Injuries have hindered Rio from being at his best, but yesterday was another illustration of his class as a center-back.
Rafael – Despite a few defensive lapses, he was one of the few players who could hold their head high after a dreadful team performance. His willingness to attack and intensity caused Liverpool problems and his positivity led to the much needed equalizer. The boy’s only 22 and he’s gradually showing more maturity in his game. If he keeps it up, he’ll have that right back spot to himself.
Lindegaard – Thought he had one of his better performances and it’s quite clear he’s not hear to “pick his nose”. Some supporters have complained about the rotation but for now, it seems to have spurred both goalkeepers on. De Gea performed well in midweek and Lindegaard performed well yesterday dealing with anything that came his way. There was little he could do for Gerrard’s goal.
1st Half – Not sure what our gameplan while watching that half. We were truly abysmal and although we rarely have played well at Anfield in recent times, it was alarming how we failed to keep possession and build a rhythm once again. Nani was at his frustrating best as he couldn’t get to grips with the match playing loose balls and making erratic decisions. Some wonder where his head is at (contract issues?), hopefully he can sort it out soon as I still seem as an important part of the squad. Giggs wasn’t offering any support to Carrick and didn’t position himself well to get us out of a jam. His tendency to play the killer pass led to unnecessarily ceding possession Liverpool. He wasn’t the only culprit and as various members were sloppy in possession, it invited more pressure onto the midfield and backline. It was quite telling that our first real passage of play occurred after Shelvey’s sending off. Once again, in a game where we needed to be narrow and players in closer proximity, we decided to be expansive and it left our wingers and forwards isolated. There was too big of a gap between our midfield and forward line and it limited Kagawa from really creating much when the ball was played to him. Our inability to attack as a unit made us look like a poor outfit and even though it wasn’t as bad compared to first viewing, it still wasn’t pretty.
2nd Half – In the second half, we weren’t much better. There was about a 5-10 minute period where we got on top of Liverpool after they scored. Once we equalized through Rafael with a beautiful strike, our urgency dropped and we became content with stroking the ball around the pitch. Scholes’ introduction helped bring some familiarity to our play but 10-men Liverpool still found ways to effectively break forward and trouble our backline. It was even more frustrating witnessing Liverpool have so much joy with the ball despite their numerical disadvantage. There were sporadic bits of play which were promising as Carrick chose to foray forward a few times. Once Rodgers made a tactical substitution through Henderson to tighten up the middle, Kagawa became even more isolated and we persisted to play through the wings despite our lack of success. As both teams began to tire, tactical organization became more of a must as each pushed for the winner. Through Valencia’s surging run, we got a penalty and Van Persie held his nerve to slot home and seal the 3 points. It was a poor match overall from both teams but Liverpool were clearly the better side. Struggling to impose ourselves on 10-men Liverpool highlights how poor United was collectively. For a system which depends on the wingers providing some type of creative output, we looked out of ideas and quite predictable. I’d argue if Liverpool still had 11 on the field, they probably would have went on to win and we’d be lamenting over another poor performance at Anfield.
Fortunately, a lot of things went our way in the match and we can celebrate a momentous victory. It wasn’t pretty; by Sir Alex’s own admission, we were quite poor after mentioning to the reporter he didn’t want to know what he said during the half-time team talk. Despite this turgid performance, hopefully the coaching stuff can figure out some better solutions to deal with a team who chooses to press us high. It’s been our Achilles heel for some time now and it needs to be rectified as we head into a tough run of games. Sir Alex mentioned how the experience in midfield helped win the match but it’s time we don’t always rely on Scholes or Giggs in games such as these. It’s quite obvious their legs can’t handle and it hindered our play and tempo. With Newcastle coming midweek and Spurs this coming weekend, we have an opportunity to put things right and push on. Onwards and upwards!
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