Manchester United cruised past a hapless Liverpool side as Brendan Rodgers’ men slipped to a frustrating 3-0 defeat against their bitterest rivals. Goals from Wayne Rooney, Juan Mata and Robin Van Persie ensured United’s recent form continued and they have now registered six wins on the trot. Elation and optimism was what could be felt by the Old Trafford faithful after their team ensured that their resurgence is not just temporary, they’re very much on course for a place among the elite in the league and are firmly headed on the correct path.
Although the performance which United racked up was not entirely convincing, the three points at the end of the match was all that mattered. Here are the five notable takeaways from the gratifying fixture.
#1 Wayne Rooney is the heartbeat of Manchester United
Even though he has threatened to leave the club a couple of times, even though he hasn’t been perfectly consistent in his tenure at the club and even though he’s often singled out for United’s shortcomings, you cannot deny the fact that Wayne Rooney is the backbone of Manchester United. The diminutive English striker started in a deeper role in midfield and anchored play from the middle of the park emphatically.
One of his passes midway through the first half to Antonio Valencia on the right flank was absolutely sublime and had traces of Paul Scholes in it. The awareness which the 29-year old exuded when transitioning from midfield to the edge of the box while scoring the opening goal of the match was a testament to the kind of player the former Everton youngster has matured into.
The pressure of captaining club and country has not weighed on him which has been instrumental in illustrating that not only does Rooney possess ample amount of talent, but he also has a commendable quantity of temperament too.
#2 David De Gea is the best in the business
A plethora of pundits and United fans voiced their apprehensions on the sacking on Chris Woods, the goalkeeping coach under the tutelage of David Moyes. In a season were lackluster performances, injuries, under-performing players and dressing room feuds had taken center stage, the only positive were the performances of David De Gea. Even though United finished 7th last season, the outcome could have been worse had it not been for the brilliance which the Spaniard showcased in between the sticks for the Old Trafford outfit.
However, Louis Van Gaal’s appointment bought about a wave of changes and one such change was Frans Howek replacing Woods as the goalkeeping coach. Hoek came in with a massive reputation having assisted Van Gaal at Barcelona, Bayern Munich and the Dutch national side and boy has he delivered.
De Gea recently hailed Hoek as ‘one of the best coaches he has ever seen’, and it looks like the two have got along like a house-on-fire. Hoek has singled out De Gea’s frailties and worked on them which has catapulted the latter’s value in the transfer market. With clubs circling around like sharks around the Spanish national, it is only a matter of time before Ed Woodward ties him down to a long term contract.
#3 Carrick’s calmness does the trick…AGAIN!
In his first press conference as Manchester United manager, Louis Van Gaal had questions hurled at him from all directions regarding the injury Wayne Rooney suffered at the time. Clearly not pleased with the importance being bestowed on the English striker, he dropped the bombshell which said that Carrick will be out for three months. At first, it didn’t seem much of a big deal but the resplendent and ridiculously calm displays Carrick has been emblazoning have forced us to think that his presence could have added a much needed panache and assurance in the middle of the park in the opening stages of the season when United were clearly struggling.
The industrious English midfielder started in defense for Louis Van Gaal on Sunday and didn’t disappoint with his performance. He touched the ball 59 times whilst maintaining a whopping succession rate of 90.4%. Even though Carrick is not the kind of player who tries to woo the crowd by doing the spectacular, he is always acting in accordance to the duties dished out to him.
And that’s the primary reason as to why he is held in high regard by his teammates. United striker Robin van Persie said after Sunday’s game that Carrick made the difference at the back because he was so confident on the ball and helped to calm the whole defence. That sums it up.
#4 Phil Jones steps up to the plate
As soon as the United starting eleven was unveiled, the question on everybody’s lips was, ‘Where is Marcos Rojo?’
Soon later, Louis Van Gaal explained that the omission of the Argentine center-back was due to an injury he sustained in training a day before the crunch clash. This meant that Phil Jones would need to be called upon as a replacement for the injured Rojo and he starred in his comeback for the club. There have been many false dawns in Jones’ United career so far but that can also be credited to the fact that he wasn’t played regularly in his favored center-back spot. However, with the departures of veterans like Vidic and Ferdinand, the onus was on Jones to step up and finally translate his potential into promising performances.
The former Blackburn Rovers defender started the season on an extremely positive note and was United’s best defender before his old foe came knocking at the door, an injury. Jones has often been criticized for the manner in which he tackles his opponent. And, more often than not, he comes out of the challenge as the casualty. However, his return to first team action was a glitzy affair as the defender made a total of 11 important defensive contributions. He made 3 successful tackles, made 6 timely interceptions, won one aerial duel and blocked one shot. One would only hope that the defender carries the momentum further in the season and enjoy an injury-free campaign ahead.
#5 Louis Van Gaal is a master tactician
Very often, the reason managers are sacked from their jobs is because they’re blamed for not having that ‘winning mentality’. Just having a glut of superstars in your team doesn’t guarantee success, you need to have a manager who can influence the mind of the players which spurs them on to go out there and churn out a positive result, even if you’re the underdog. Louis Van Gaal was roped in by the United board for this very reason. David Moyes was blamed for failing to realizing the magnitude of the job at his disposal and for ‘not knowing how to win’ but, in Van Gaal United have an experienced campaigner who is well versed with the travesties of the sport.
Many critics have been amused by United six game winning streak simply because of the fact that they’ve not been up to the mark as far as their performances are concerned. United have looked rusty and sloppy when on the ball and still look considerably vulnerable in defence and that was blatantly evident in the match against Southampton. However, their clinical nature in front of goal and ability to seize that one moment of magic instilled in them by Van Gaal helped to to ‘rob’ Ronald Koeman’s and secure three points. As mentioned earlier, Van Gaal has rotated his squad brilliantly and has handled the ‘injury curse’ which has ravaged United’s squad very professionally. Even though not entirely plausible, the Dutchman’s reign has given hope that he very much possesses the ability to bring back the good time at Old Trafford once again.