Jurgen Klopp’s side looked the likelier to score at Anfield, but the Man United skipper saves the day for Louis van Gaal. Wayne Rooney struck with Man United’s only shot on target to claim three points at Liverpool – and save Louis van Gaal’s bacon.
The Red Devils skipper scored his first goal at Anfield for 11 years to secure the win despite another disappointing display. Tempers flared early on when Lucas reacted to a Marouane Fellaini challenge in a quiet first half for both sides. David De Gea made a fine save from Emre Can just after the hour mark and parried Firminho’s follow-up as Liverpool pressed for an opener. Sakho then head a chance to head the Reds in front, before Jordon Ibe replaced Adam Lallana. Then Rooney struck with the visitors’ first shot on target in the game to secure three points. More after the cut…..
Here are five things we learned from the game:
1) Animosity on the pitch… but not off it
For all the animosity between Manchester United and Liverpool and there was lots on the pitch, with Lucas apparently taking a personal and precise dislike towards Fellaini there seemed to be a genuine warmth between two managers. Louis van Gaal didn’t test Jurgen Klopp’s fiery temperament on the touch line mind, preferring to remain stoically seated virtually throughout the game, but the pair embraced as though old friends before kick off, and shared what seemed liked an extended comedy riff to the amusement of both. Maybe it was something on how the hell have they swapped the top of the Bundesliga, from when they last met as Dortmund and Munich managers, to a mid-table clash in frozen northern England?
2) Man United’s tactics continue to baffle
That though, was about as warm as this got in this contest, which rarely thawed, never mind reached the boiling point contests between these two sides normally sustain. United’s tactics didn’t help, as they seemed pathologically reluctant to commit forward in numbers, and were content instead to pass the ball slowly across the pitch, even when they seemed to have the chance to break swiftly.Liverpool though, appeared to anticipate as much, and set out with a 4-3-3 formation that morphed quickly into 4-4-2 and too easily slipped into 4-5-1, which created a dour midfield struggle for a good hour of the game.
3) Real Madrid should be kicking themselves over De Gea
Even so, the home side did create some opportunities with their – at times, it has to be said – slick interchange of passing between Firmino, Lallana and Milner. They really should have done better in the first half when Lallana, Firmino and Henderson all probably should have converted, but that is ignoring the obvious and psychologically challenging barrier of David De Gea though, who seems to intimidate forwards with his mere presence. He made three fine saves here. Again. Without him, United would surely be a mid table side this season, just as they would have been last season. That was some business not selling him last summer…or some appalling decision making by Real Madrid.
4) Klopp a little slow to change things up
In such a gritty, turgid contest, it was a puzzle why Klopp didn’t try to change things around a little earlier, and revert to the Benteke option especially with Blind playing at centre half for their opponents. There was a moment midway through the second half when Liverpool finally overloaded United on the far post, Milner delivered the perfect cross; and Mama Sakho mistimed his jump woefully to head over. Say what you like about Benteke, but had he been on the pitch then, he’d have been in that position and would have got above the ball. He is a goalscorer, and given in this game the home side so desperately required someone to finish off their superior approach play, it was mystifying why he wasn’t used sooner.
5) Set pieces still Liverpool’s woe at the back – and you wonder how
Which of course gave Manchester United a foothold in the game their unimaginative play didn’t truly deserve. The goal, when it arrived, came from a set piece – obviously with this Liverpool side – and the only surprise was that it took Van Gaal’s side SO long to work out that their opponents are vulnerable when you swing the ball into the box. Seriously, have they not watched any tv for the past 12 months. Match of the Day? You wonder what video work they can be doing when their first four set pieces were all directed away from goal instead of swinging it into the mixer. When they finally did (and even then only from a short corner) they scored. It’s not rocket science is it?