Liverpool visited Old Trafford this afternoon and left with all three points and gave the old foe a footballing lesson in the process. Brendan Rodgers’ men simply had too much for the home side who looked a sorry shadow of the side that ruled the Premiership less than a year ago. So alarming has been the regression from the current, and soon to be replaced Champions. The visitors opened the game brightly and never really looked like losing. The home side failed to turn up until after they went 0-1 down to a Steven Gerrard penalty. And then promptly left again after that.
Rogers named an unchanged side to the one that triumphed over Southampton a fortnight earlier and it looked as if they meant to carry on where they left off. Liverpool harried and pressed their hosts in the early stages to assert their dominance. The breakthrough came on 33 minutes after good work from Daniel Sturridge on the right flank to find his strike partner Luis Suarez in the home side penalty area with an inch perfect cross-field pass. Suarez controlled perfectly before the hapless Rafael needlessly handled the ball to give referee Mark Clattenburg no choice but to point to the spot. The United defender had already earned himself a yellow card for an earlier infringement, but for some reason, Mr. Clattenburg chose not to send him off.
United had it all to do and for the remainder of the first half, showed glimpses of the pressure they’re so used to exerting on visiting sides. The home side had arrived at last. This period brought about their only shot on target up until then, and indeed, for the remainder of the match. Their sole threat Wayne Rooney forcing a brilliant save from Simon Mignolet, pushing the ball away to his right to avoid a certain equaliser. Liverpool held firm as the United front line pushed forward and to bombard crosses into the Liverpool penalty area for the out of sorts Robin Van Persie. The home sides efforts were easily thwarted by stout defending from the LFC back line.
As far as any resistance from the home side went, that was it. David Moyes looked like a rabbit caught in the headlights of a marauding red juggernaut, and the expectation was that he would change things at half time as any beleaguered manager would do in the face of such a compelling onslaught. Clearly he felt his team would continue the second half as they ended the first and that an equaliser would come. They didn’t, and neither did an equaliser. Within two minutes of the restart, Liverpool extended their advantage in similar style to how they got it. The tireless Suarez found Jordan Henderson on the edge of the box. His weighted pass found the run of Joe Allen who was bundled over in spectacular fashion by Phil Jones. Again, Mr. Clattenburg pointed to the spot. Again, Gerrard converted coolly to send the visiting fans and players into raptures. Liverpool were now 0-2 up.
To make matters worse, a further penalty was awarded to Liverpool after Nemanja Bidic brought Sturridge down in the box to earn himself a red card and reduce the home side to 10 men on 70 minutes. Gerrard was unable to convert on this occasion as his effort crashed against David de Gea’s right post. There was no way back for United at this point, and it showed on the face of each and every man, woman and child in the stadium – from both sides and, not least that of Moyes. It took him another five minutes to reply, making a double substitution. Tom Cleverley and Danny Welbeck on for Marouane Fellaini and the ineffective Adnan Januzaj. The move only served to confirm what trouble the home team were in as Liverpool put the game beyond any doubt, had there been any at this point.
Following a period of sustained possession without reply, Sturridge picked out Suarez with a through ball that couldn’t have been better timed with the best Swiss watch. The Uruguayan gratefully controlled the pass and swept it past the helpless de Gea to complete the 0-3 score line. A result which must raise questions over Moyes ability to take the Red Devils forward. Perhaps shadows of Sir Alex Ferguson’s early tenure in the job, but it’s time for Moyes to crack the whip and knock his troops into shape. They simply weren’t at the races today and the body language of Robin Van Persie makes one wonder where he’ll be playing his football next season.
Tactically, Brendan Rodgers called it absolutely spot on. Glen Johnson was restored to right back and Jon Flanagan moved over to the left. Henderson partnered Allen in the central roles with Raheem Sterling playing just being the front two. The movement between the front players and the industry of the two central midfielders won this game for Liverpool. It’s equally fair to say that United were poor but credit must go to Brendan Rodgers men for the grit, akin to some excellent pressing and passing to boot. Liverpool have retained second place and are perfectly placed for a determined assault on the title.
I think most people would have noticed there was a banner being held up from the travelling support, it read: “David Moyes is a tactical genius”. Albeit that sarcasm is the lowest form of wit they say, sometimes, it’s worth the descent.
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