Man Utd vs Liverpool Match Review (Utd do the copy double over Gerrard and co.)By: Ian | January 14th, 2013
After a glut of fixtures over the festive period, Utd found themselves entering the match against Liverpool with a week long break behind them. The match between these two earlier in the season saw Utd run out 2-1 winners, but with Utd playing with a poor tempo throughout. Given everyone was now far more revved up with so many games in short succession, but sufficiently rested following the FA Cup tie against the Hammers, AND that Utd have managed to get the better of the most of the so-called ‘bigger’ sides this season, I expect good things from this match, along with a positive result. And, for once, all went according to plan.
I shall not report on the first fifteen minutes or so, because very little happened. There was a moment where Pepe Reina’s kicking was a little inaccurate, gifting possession away, but generally it was a tepid affair, neither side imposing themselves. The job of doing that fell to a midfield of Carrick and Cleverley, with Young and Kagawa also present behind Van Persie and Welbeck. Nice to see a standard defence of De Gea, Rafael, Ferdinand, Vidic and Evra as well. Despite the bland start, a chance, out of the blue, presented itself and was finished beautifully. Evra was found out on the left, marauding forward as usual, and he drilled in a low cross. Van Persie duly did what Van Persie does. He scored. More specifically, he got ahead of the defender and just steered the crossed ball under Reina. Great finish: 1-0.
The Old Trafford pitch is apparently going to be relaid in the summer (it’s showing its age) , and perhaps that contributed to what I saw as players seeming uncomfortable in possession on occasion, and losing it. Utd maybe somewhat used to it, but even Gerrard had his moment, presently the ball to Van Persie, but winning it back before the Dutchman could fire. The next chance saw RVP able to get a shot away, but over the bar it went. A bad pass by Allen gifted Welbeck an opportunity but team mate Agger slid in to prevent any danger. There may not have been any, because Welbeck’s shooting can sometimes be a bit erratic, as he proved with his next opportunity.
This is a bit one-sided, is it not? Well, yes, it is. That is because Liverpool’s possession in the area around the Utd goal was negligible in the first half. Suarez, Liverpool’s only striker as I see it, had virtually nothing to even consider, let alone work with. Fine by me, as Utd continued to press with a well-hit Cleverley volley going wide of the right-hand post (would have made a great goal). This was followed up by Carrick, revelling in his best season so far in my opinion, feeding through Rafael. The Brazilian was completely off balance, but he kept his feet, just, and managed to clip the ball towards Van Persie. The backheel attempt of the Dutchman showed great improvisation, but Skrtel stopped it going in with his trailing foot. Kagawa, in eagerness to get the follow-up, collided with Reina. The delay meant injury time went on a bit longer, but nothing happened to change the scoreline. A bit annoying though. With their keeper down, Liverpool played on, but Utd took possession at their own end, and then, and only then, did the referee stop play. The fans were annoyed, and rightly so. A). because this seemed a little unfair, advantage long over and B). because a fallen-down keeper makes the goal look a little bit bigger.
Second half subs saw Young, who’d taken an early heavy tackle, replaced with Valencia and Lucas making way for new signing Sturridge for Liverpool too. This did seem to pep the game up a bit, particularly with regards to Liverpool’s attacking intent. A chance was given to full back Andre Wisdom after Suarez finally got through, but wide it went as control abandoned the player. Utd responded fantastically well: with the second goal. A free kick just outside the box saw Van Persie drift in a left footed curl to the far post. Evra was there, and for a moment it looked as though he had his FIFTH goal of the season. Replays made it clearer that a slight deflection off Vidic was probably what had beaten the keeper and it was to him the goal was given. Both celebrated though, and why not? 2-0.
This was looking comfortable, but nervy times were back seconds later, as Gerrard bullied possession back at the Utd end. The shot on goal saw De Gea do well to save, but the parry was in a danger zone and it was sent into the back of the net by the oncoming Sturridge for a debut goal. 2-1. Utd should perhaps have regained the two-goal advantage soon after. Welbeck’s pass through didn’t go through, played too late, but the tangle did see the ball come to Kagawa. The playmaker curled a ball around, looking for the corner, but Reina tipped it wide. Liverpool took heart from this it seemed, as Johnson smashed the ball in, thankfully wide, and Sturridge tried to double his goal tally.
Evra became victim to the mysterious entity that was robbing players of possession through the first touch or the bad pass. The bad pass it was this time, but the chance fell to Borini, whose volley looked good, but sailed comfortably wide in the end. An equalising goal didn’t look that unlikely, and defensive changes were made as Jones and Smalling were brought on for Kagawa and Vidic (immense performance for the returning Serb). And so it was that the defence held out, despite final pressure from Sturridge and Suarez, with Van Persie trying his backheel trick again on a Valencia cross, with Reina equal to it, at the other end.
2-1 the final score, a copy of the scoreline and result from the away match. Utd were better value for it this time, particularly in the first half. Sir Alex said the defence looked a bit shaky towards the end, and it did a bit, but it held this time and that was all that matter. A decent performance that got the job done overall. It actually led to a TEN-point lead at the top of the table, but City won at Arsenal later on to reduce it back to the previous lead of seven. Still, that’s fine and handsome for now.
Midweek sees the replay of the West Ham FA Cup tie, with Tottenham away to follow on Sunday. Whether that tough league match has much bearing on the squad for the cup we shall see, but I am optimistic. For now at least. Utd are table-toppers, and the squad is working well.
Thoughts below. We don’t get many comments, if any, on these posts, so if you do read this, please do add something. TTFN.