Man United 2 – Liverpool 1: Sir Alex Chooses Control Over Classic

Thoughts on the Man United 2-1 Liverpool

There are days when you want a swashbuckling, buccaneering performance, taking the opposition by storm and wiping the floor with them. Since Liverpool’s dramatic 4-1 win at Old Trafford, Man United fans have been wishing for such a performance against the Merseyside rivals. Sir Alex, the games most seasoned campaigner, knows that emotion can be a liability in a key game like this. And in today’s game, the emphasis was always on control over flair. And though the game was no classic, it was always about control, and from the point when Man United equalized, we were always in control.

1. Vidic won an important victory over Torres and banished some demons. Torres had 2 great chances apart from his goal, but both were fox-in-the-box opportunities that had little to do with Vidic. Even for his goal, Torres should have been picked up by Ferdinand or Neville. Vidic did pick up a yellow card but managed to stay on the pitch comfortably. Did not get caught out of position, made his usual quota of headed clearances and it looked like it would be Torres who might not make it through the game.

2. In fact, Torres was lucky to not pick up a booking for scuffing the penalty spot, which given his other booking means he was a lucky boy to stay on the pitch.

3. Which brings us to the penalty. It could be argued that it was a poor decision because the foul happened outside the box. But the best explanation probably came from Michael Owen, in the Sky commentry team. Mascherano’s objective would be to impede Valencia as much as he could outside the box but let go before Valencia reached the box. Valencia’s plan would be to keep running till he reached the box and go down once he reached if Masch was still holding on. A fine balance, and if Masch held on to Valencia for a split second too long, he would concede the penalty. As it turned out, the ref thought he had. Not too many observers seemed to object to that. Reine went early as he does, and made a terrific save going the right way but unluckily for him parried it back into Rooney’s path for a simple tap in.

4. Great come back after having been stunned by an early Torres goal. The one excellent move that Liverpool strung together pretty much all game, saw Gerrard slip the ball down the right, for Kuyt to reach and cross. Torres had slipped his markers and found the space to rise majestically and power a header into the corner.

5. Ji Sung Park spent most of the first half looking like he was having an off day but a vastly improved second half saw him increasingly strong on the ball, effective with his passing and of course, in the perfect place to dive in to Fletchers cross for the winner.

6. Darren Fletcher, man of the match and provider of the match-winning cross, and Carrick, made sure that Gerrard never had time or space with the ball and snuffed out Liverpool’s biggest threat. Fletcher has missed United’s last 3 games against Liverpool and Liverpool have won those 3 games. Enough said!

7. Valencia and Nani were instrumental in keeping Insua and Glen Johnson tied to their defensive duties and unable to venture forward to help the front two which cut off the supply lines.

8. Rooney had a quiet game in front of goal, but he got on the scoresheet, and made himself more than useful across the pitch through the game. He also created space for Park’s goal and provided excellent possession in the United half in the last 20 minutes of the game. When Rooney was on the ball, he couldn’t be shaken off.

9. Liverpool had more than one reason to try to win this game. Prevent United’s title #19, stay in the race for 4th place, retain bragging rights by doing the double. None of them really worked. Perhaps Liverpool’s thursday exertions against Lille proved to be a factor.

10. Benitez did actually abandon his defensive mindset and throw on Babel, Benayoun and Aquilani while keeping Gerrard and Torres on, but the United rearguard held firm, barring a couple of late chances that both came from Gerrard darting in and squaring the ball from Torres. Uncharacteristically, Torres missed both of them and the scoreline stayed at 2-1.

11. Bench-strength was a good indicator of the quality of personnel available to the managers. United had by comparison brought on Giggs and Scholes, and had Berbatov available as well.

12. 2 shots on target for Liverpool gives a good indication of the control exerted by United on the game. It was a measured performance, and the need of the hour.

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