Brendan Rodgers got his tactics spot on
The Reds boss won the tactical duel with his Old Trafford counterpart hands down. No contest.
United were put on the back foot from the first whistle and spent the rest of the afternoon there. Simon Mignolet was barely troubled.
Much of the credit should go to Rodgers for the way he set his team up. It was another day for the diamond – a repeat of the formation Rodgers deployed at Southampton, only withRaheem Sterling at the attacking ‘point’ rather than Philippe Coutinho. Steven Gerrard sat deep, allowing Joe Allen and Jordan Henderson to provide nominal width.
Moyes might have been expecting a more conventional 4-3-3 system from the Reds. Whatever, he had no answers to counter the fluidity of the visitors’ midfield and attack.
Nemanja Vidic and Patrice Evra were targeted by Liverpool as weak links. The Reds had plenty of joy in the spaces between centre-back and left-back, often ganging up on United with Glen Johnson, Henderson and either Sterling or Sturridge running into dangerous channels.
On the other side of United’s defence, Rafael was equally shaky. He was bamboozled by Luis Suarez for the game’s first penalty. Phil Jones got the wrong side of Allen for the second.
For number three, the searing pace of Sturridge – attacking Vidic in the penalty area – was too much for the United centre-back. Even though TV replays showed he made no contact with the Liverpool striker, his lunging tackle was just the kind which lures referees into pointing to the spot. Sturridge was denied a clear penalty when tripped by Carrick soon after, before Suarez set the seal on an emphatic win.
The players executed their manager’s plans perfectly. He’s a diamond geezer.
Steven Gerrard is still a penalty king – despite his miss
No opposition player has scored more Premier League goals at Old Trafford than the Liverpool skipper, who once again showed nerves of steel to thump two penalties past David de Gea.
OK, he missed the third but two out of three ain’t bad – particularly on a ground where the Reds have struggled in recent years, not winning a Premier League game there since 2009.
Gerrard’s second-half miss from 12 yards – his kick bounced back off the post with de Gea diving the other way – was a rare blip from the spot for the England captain.
He has now bagged 48 penalties for the Reds, and has converted 30 of his last 34.
His first today was almost unstoppable – thumped high into the inside netting of the Stretford End goal. He went low for number two, but it went right in the corner. Unerring.
The SAS are unstoppable
Can there be many better strike partnerships in European football right now?
Last season it was all about van Persie and Rooney. Earlier this season, Manchester City could not stop scoring as Aguero and co grabbed all the headlines.
Now, as the title race comes to the boil, Daniel Sturridge and Luis Suarez, wearing his knitted boots today, are the Premier League’s top guns.
Sturridge did not score today but he won a penalty – a dubious one, admittedly – and should have had another. Suarez won the first spot kick and bagged the game’s third goal with an opportunist strike, with Sturridge providing the (unintentional) assist.
The pair’s contribution was pivotal and they outshone van Persie and Rooney, the latter being forced into a deeper role to counter the Reds’ rampant attacking play. In terms of passes, Sturridge (32) and Suarez (30) were streets ahead of RVP (16). The Dutchman had only four shots – all off target. Rooney mustered just one shot on target. It was a sorry return.
The title momentum is with the Reds
Chelsea wobbled at Villa Park yesterday. Manchester City keep on winning but are far from the free-scoring goal machine they were in the early months of the campaign.
Joe Hart lost his head at Hull yesterday and skipper Vincent Kompany was sent off.
But the Reds? Unbeaten in the Premier League all year and now only four points behind leaders Chelsea, with a game in hand.
Last month, Brendan Rodgers memorably described his team as the “chihuahua that runs between the horse’s legs” in the title race. Well, those chihuahuas have a nasty bite and, after today’s display, Rodgers will have his work cut out on keeping a lid on any championship talk.
“Make us believe” read a banner in the away end at Old Trafford today.
The Reds players duly obliged and the championships chants were rolled out by the fans.
“We’ve shown today we’re genuine contenders and we’ll fight to the end,” vowed Gerrard after the game.
Reds fans are daring to dream and who can blame them after today? But there is still much hard work ahead if Liverpool are to end that 24-year wait for a title triumph.
Manchester United are falling off their perch
Liverpool were superb, but how bad were United? Reds fans won’t have the slightest bit of sympathy, but what was laid bare today was that David Moyes has some serious rebuilding to do. It’s not a bit of minor surgery either. He needs five or six new players if United are to reach the levels they hit under Sir Alex Ferguson.
Two new full backs, a couple of centre-backs, at least one dynamic central midfielder, and probably another centre forward. How much will that cost?