EPL: Liverpool 0-1 Manchester United - Match Report
Liverpool were clearly the better of the two sides in the first half, but failed to convert their chances which led to a goalless first half, with United failing to get a shot. However, a Wayne Rooney goal late into the second half completed Manchester United’s smash-and-grab, with Anfield disappointed having dominated the game.
Despite only one win in five, Louis van Gaal named an unchanged lineup for the contest at Anfield, which meant that Marouane Fellaine started in the middle of the park, while Anthony Martial started out wide with Wayne Rooney upfront, leaving Juan Mata on the bench for a second consecutive game.
Considering the magnitude of the occasion, Jurgen Klopp opted for experience, replacing Jordan Ibe with Lucas in the only change to the side that earned a 3-3 draw against Arsenal. This meant that Roberto Firmino started upfront, with James Milner playing wide.
Manchester United (4-2-3-1): De Gea; Young, Smalling, Blind, Darmian; Schneiderlin, Fellaini; Lingard, Herrera, Martial; Rooney.
Liverpool (4-3-3): Mignolet; Clyne, Toure, Sakho, Moreno; Henderson, Lucas, Can; Lallana, Milner, Firmino.
As the Anfield faithful rendered a lustfully sung version of ‘You’ll never walk alone’ as the players took the field, the stage was set for the most historic rivalry in English football. The passion from the crowd seeped to the players initially as just 8 minutes in, Lucas left Fellaini in a heap on the pitch after a clash of heads.
The focus returned to the footballing side of this fixture just minutes later, as Lucas lofted a wonderful long ball from deep that found Adam Lallana. The Englishman saw his headed effort charged down by David de Gea, but Lallana recovered to set up Firmino, but the Brazilian shot wide with De Gea scrambling to get back.
Firmino channeled the spirit of Steven Gerrard in the 12th minute, as he found James Milner with a Hollywood pass to the right wing, but Milner shot wide. Lucas and Fellaini resumed their hostilities minutes later with a scuffle over very little, but referee Mark Clattenburg calmed things down.
Liverpool continued to extert pressure, with United fashioning very little up front, as Ander Herrera’s 29th minute effort from range that looped wide was their first shot on goal. Liverpool were far more threatening and had their best chance to take the lead in the 30th minute; a blur of passes involving Lucas and Lallana set Henderson free, but the Englishman’s shot went narrowly past the far corner with Emre Can lurking.
Can turned provider in the 39th minute as he charged up the field as Liverpool countered, releasing Firmino but the Brazilian went down too easily in the penalty box as Martial tracked back and stole the ball. The fact that Martial was tracking that far back was representative of United’s dismal first half as Mignolet remained untroubled as the sides went into the break on level terms, with Liverpool the better of the two sides.
Manchester United were much improved as they started the second half, as Wayne Rooney countered with only Kolo Toure blocking his path to goal. The Ivorian stood strong and his clearing tackle fell to Martial, who dallied as the chance went a-begging.
Liverpool responded with a shot of their own, as Firmino beat Smalling for pace and shot from an acute angle as De Gea, who saved with his legs. Martial came close for United with a similar effort in the 56th minute, dancing past two defenders and narrowly shooting wide from an acute angle.
With the game struggling to come to life, Emre Can did his best to bring some excitement to the contest; but the German's stinging shot that was arrowed at goal was saved by De Gea at full stretch who recovered quickly to block the rebound from Firmino as well.
With the game descending into boredom, it was none other than Wayne Rooney who brought the game back to life. A corner in the 78th minute found the head of Fellaini, whose header cannoned of the crossbar, but Rooney reacted quickly to hammer home past Simon Mignolet, sending the United away fans, which included Phil Jones, Michael Carrick and Marcus Rojo, into raptures.
Jurgen Klopp brought on Christian Benteke in response, as Liverpool chased an equaliser in the final 10 minutes. The Belgian’s contribution, however, was a negative one, as he intercepted the ball of James Milner’s toes after Can had set him up for a clear shot on goal.
As the final whistle blew, Manchester United celebrated the three points, taking them to 5th on the table with 37 points while Liverpool fell to 9th on 31 points.