Manchester United recorded a league double over Liverpool by beating them 2-1 at Anfield on Sunday. After Juan Mata scored twice, Daniel Sturrdige’s late goal reduced the deficit for Liverpool. But, it wasn’t all about the goals as the headlines will mainly focus on Steven Gerrard’s stupid Red card. Let us look at the five talking points from the game :
Spaniards are the real deal
Both Ander Herrera and Juan Mata have been struggling to pen down a regular starting place in the teamsheet. After there recent good performances, both were on the squad to face Liverpool. Van Gaal starting them both in the same team was paid off as they were the architect for the opening goal. After delightful exchanges between United players, Herrera picked a peach of a pass to find Mata. The former Chelsea man controlled it beautifully before putting it past Mignolet with his wrong foot. It was not just the goal, but their overall play was treat to the eye. The understanding between the duo was incredible. Both of them hold a key role in the final exchanges of this season for United in their quest to top four.
Fellaini does it again
From being a fringe player last season to being United’s main man, Maroune Fellaini’s transformation has been extrordinary. In recent weeks he has been United’s trump card. If Plan-A fails, Fellaini is pushed up-front and crosses are aimed at him. Considering Fellaini’s heading prowess, the approach has worked. However, Fellaini has improved his overall game and has been more than heading in the recent weeks. He chests the ball really well to bring others into the game and his distribution has also improved really well. His first-half touch map (as shown in the below picture) against Liverpool showed how good his movements was on the night. He was always available to receive the ball and help his team from there. What an incredible turn around for a player who many thought will be the first player to leave the club last summer!
What a substitution !!!
The fans have been crying out for Steven Gerrard in the first half to turn their teams fortune in the match. After Liverpool midfielders were unable to overcome United domination in the middle of the park, Brendan Rodgers granted the wish of the fans by bringing on Gerrard as a half-time substitute. In the space of 45 minutes, the possible fairytale conclusion in his final clash with Manchester United turned into a nightmare. Gerrard looked to have desperately stamped on Herrera in frustration. Referee spotted it and off went Gerrard. Manager’s are judged on their decision and this would not have helped Rodgers. He might have costed Liverpool the top four places just like how his costly slip against Chelsea cost them their title last season.
Rooney’s Anfield drought continues
Its been 10 years since Wayne Rooney scored a goal at Anfield and that drought continues atleast for time being as he yet again failed to score in his side’s 2-1 win at Merseyside on Sunday. Throughout the match the English captain struggled to find his match rhythm as Rooney’s passes was wayward on the night. However, he got a gift in injury time to end his drought when Emre Can brought down Daley Blind in the penalty area. However, Rooney failed to take advantage of the opportunity as his mediocre penalty was easily dealt with Simon Mignolet. After a terrific result on the night, Rooney missing the penalty may have been the only regret for United fans.
United’s brave approach paved the way for success
In the interview before the match, Van Gaal said his team will play only one way and that is to have a go at the opponents from the start. It was exactly how United did on the night. After last weekends impressive performance against Tottenham Hotspur, the Red Devils carried on in the same fashion at Anfield. They started to press Liverpool high up the pitch, deep in their half and it was rewarded as Liverpool struggled to hold the ball properly and gave it away far too easily. United’s good start was rewarded with a goal through Juan Mata. With the high pressing helping United produce great results in successive weeks, Van Gaal may follow this trend for the rest of the season.
Image courtesy: Dailymail, Dailystar and BBC