A big sigh of relief at the end of the game but why did we have to sigh at the end when it was so comfortable for so long in the match? It was because once Manchester United took a 2 goal lead, United decided to take the foot off the pedal and instead of passing forwards, United decided to pass sideways instead. United could have scored three maybe four maybe if United had decided to keep attacking and keep up the pressure on Liverpool. At the end of the match, we cannot help but feel satisfied and extremely delighted to have beaten our hated and hostile rivals, Liverpool in one of the most eagerly awaited matches of the English and world football calendar. I think all of us, Manchester United fans, could relate with Patrice Evra’s celebration at the end of the match because that is how we felt and given a choice, we might do the same.
Rationally, it might not have been a classy gesture or sportsmanlike behaviour from our stand-in captain but his reaction was a pure explosion of emotions. Uncannily, I am not sure if anyone had noticed it, but right from the start with the handshake episode, there was a resemblance of our yesteryear meetings with old foes, Arsenal. First the handshake that never was between Evra and Luis Suarez, similar to the non handshake between Roy Keane, Gary Neville and Patrick Viera at Highbury in 2006. At the end of the first half, it supposedly took four-five minutes for the players to get into the changing rooms which would remind everyone of the “Pizzagate” scandal at the end of Manchester United-Arsenal game in 2004. Finally, Evra’s celebration which concluded near his nemesis, Suarez was reminiscent of Martin Keown’s impression of Dracula as he flapped around Ruud van Nistelrooy at the end of a match in 2003 which the prolific Dutchman smashed a spot-kick that he had won against the bar and was involved in Viera’s sending off earlier in the game. Therefore, is Liverpool the new “Arsenal” for Manchester United? The one difference is that unlike Arsenal, Liverpool isn’t much of a threat to us in the title race at the moment.
Moving away from all of that, to the proceedings of the game, United dominated and grew from strength to strength as the match wore on. They didn’t start the match too strongly but they got stronger as the match wore on. In fact, at the start of the match, I was slightly worried that we weren’t playing at a higher tempo and with much urgency. The tempo didn’t increase by much as the match wore on but we slowly but surely starting camping in Liverpool’s half. We created two clear-cut chances but Paul Scholes uncharacteristically headed straight at Pepe Reina when presented with a free header and Danny Welbeck inexplicably decided to square for Wayne Rooney when he was better placed to shoot after being released by a slip ball behind the defence by Ryan Giggs. We started the second half with 2 quick fire goals by Rooney, took our foot off the pedal as we were coasting comfortably in the match and Liverpool got a lucky break when a free kick hit Rio Ferdinand and dropped invitingly to Suarez to stab home a consolation goal.
As it has happened in more than one game this season in a game where we have been dominating, we have grown too comfortable and complacent and risked allowing our opponents back into the match, undeservingly in many cases. It is a worry and will remain as such until the season ends. Why give us, the fans unnecessary tension and nail-biting moments when we could have sewn up the game earlier with a more comfortable score-line? Once again we have conceded a soft goal after conceding two soft ones against Chelsea. In his pre-match press conference, Sir Alex Ferguson did point out to the fact of the soft goals we conceded at Stamford Bridge, he should have noticed the one we conceded today and regard it as another soft one to concede.
Let’s end the article on a positive note and talk about the individual performances. David De Gea had very little to do in the entire game and could do little to stop Suarez’s goal but when called upon, he pulled off another stupendous save to stop Daniel Agger’s long range strike. With last week’s wonder saves against Chelsea included, the young Spaniard’s confidence must be gradually peaking. Jonny Evans put in another great performance and outshined his older, more experienced counterpart, Ferdinand. He put in a calm and composed performance and it is very nice to see him performing this well and he has been doing so for the past few games but had gone largely unnoticed. It must be some form of vindication for the Ulsterman having had horrific performances against Liverpool at Old Trafford in the past. I hope he gets stronger and better as the season continues. Antonio Valencia put in another great shift on the right wing ably assisted by a resurgent Rafael Da Silva who is hitting good form at the right time. Rooney and Welbeck’s movements were a handful throughout the game but the latter maybe could have done better with the chance and half-chance he had as well as some of his passing later in the game. Perhaps he was tired, let’s give him the benefit of the doubt. Scholes had another masterclass at keeping possession. These were the standout players but the rest weren’t poor at all. Not by a long mile. The only players who had a poor game were the ones in the white of Liverpool.
Awaiting for us next, would be an interesting assignment against Dutch giants Ajax Amsterdam in Holland in an unfamiliar competition, the Europa League. How would we do in that competition? Let’s wait and watch. I do hope we do well and win it; it will complete our collection of all available European cup competitions. Next in the Premier League would be a trip to Carrow Road to face Norwich City and it will not be an easy match at all as it is a tough place to pick up points there. We got to be at our best. Every game from now onwards will be nothing short of being a cup final and its importance would grow as the days and months go by.