The game, and the portions before it, were steeped in emotion. A tragedy of yore was on the minds of the people. The game, in itself, was hardly one that befit the occasion. It was quite a plain game, if truth be told. A sending off dulled the game even further. There were a few moments in the game but for the most part, well, Anfield has seen better games between the two sides.
Liverpool went up; Gerrard, befittingly perhaps, scored the opener. United responded through a brilliant left footed Rafael shot and then won it through a Van Persie penalty that was, at best, a soft decision. Some thoughts:
Anders Lindegaard seems to be firmly United’s Premier League number 1.
Sir Alex seems to have finally decided that Lindegaard is the man to safeguard the Manchester United goal, in the Premier League at least. He looked commanding and the centre-backs seemed more confident entrusting him with the ball on many an occasion. He did not really have too many big saves to make but when he was called upon, he did give a good account of himself. Looks like de Gea will have to wait it out.
Rafael continues to impress
This chronicler has been lauding Rafael in pretty much every post-match post-mortem and the trend continues today. His defending seems to be more mature; he does not seem to lunge into too many challenges or at least not as many as before. His positioning seems to be coming along and his attacking play seems to be coming along well, as well. His overall game was good and the goal was beautifully taken; an icing on the cake.
The curse of the centre-back
The most eyebrow-raising aspect of the Manchester United team sheet was the missing of Nemanja Vidic. The official explanation was that his rehabilitation program did not allow for him to play these many games in this short a time frame. Surely, this game was much more important than the one in mid-week. Perhaps he did have a knock. Hopefully, it is not too serious.
Rio Ferdinand and Jonny Evans combined quite admirably and, in general, dealt quite well with all that Liverpool threw at them. The both of them, however, did seem to pick up knocks at various points of the game. Again, one only hopes that it is not too serious. With Phil Jones and Chris Smalling still some way off a full recovery, it is paramount that at least two of the three presently in the squad be fit.
The midfield still needs tweaking
United started with 5 in midfield – Giggs, Carrick and Kagawa in the center with Nani and Valencia on the wings. United started off excellently but within five minutes, Liverpool were bossing the game and from then on in, the United midfield hardly had a sniff until the sending off of Shelvey. The part that will worry Sir Alex the most will be the fact for the fifteen odd minutes until half time, after the sending off, it looked nothing like a eleven on ten game. Liverpool still comfortably dominated the possession and it was only after the break that United began to come into the game.
This was of course, due, in no small part, due to the introduction of a certain Paul Scholes into the fold. As ever, he brought order to chaos and Unites suddenly looked better. However, for the first 4 minutes even after his introduction, Liverpool were on top and even went ahead. As the game wore on, however, the pass-master controlled the game and ensured that United had most of the ball even if they hardly looked threatening.
Nani – the end of the road?
Pre-season, there were murmurs about Nani’s frame of mind and his state of settlement at Old Trafford. The first couple of games of the season were quite average but things seemed to be taking a turn for the better in the previous game. In this game however, he was so poor that Sir Alex opted to not even send him out after the half. His touch was poor, his tricks were not coming off, his passes were way off the mark and overall, he just looked utterly disinterested. Looks like it is one step forward and two steps back.
A couple of other things
Robin van Persie finally converted a penalty for Manchester United but the penalty woes are far from over. Reina did guess the right way but the shot had a bit too much power in it. Looks like United fans are in for nervy times yet, with regard to penalty kicks.
Kagawa seems to be taking a little bit more time to settle into the scheme of things. Perhaps today it was because of the insipid performance of Nani who he tried to link up with, but to no avail. The end result was that he looked quite out of place and as a result of that, van Persie was starved of service too. Kagawa and Giggs in the center simply does not work.