Forgive me, but it's difficult to analyze a match like this much further than letting out a loud, obnoxious "WOOOOHOOO". I'll do my best. Liverpool didn't just beat Manchester United at Old Trafford, they dominated them. The Reds were able to totally shut down their bitter rivals with a brilliant team display, scoring three goals without Luis Suarez or Daniel Sturridge at their best. On a grander scale, Liverpool proved once again that they're entering a new era of success, while United cemented the feeling that they are on the downfall.
With Liverpool set up in a fluid diamond formation, Joe Allen, Jordan Henderson, and Steven Gerrard smothered United's midfielders throughout the match, pressing high and winning back possession with regularity. Rodgers picked his starting eleven smartly, going with a rather conservative midfield to ensure that Liverpool wouldn't give up an early goal while keeping Coutinho on the bench as an impact sub. The decision to play Raheem Sterling more centrally than usual proved excellent as well, because Sterling is incredible no matter where he plays.
Predictably, the game began as most Liverpool-Manchester United matches do - rough, physical, and sloppy. Daniel Sturridge couldn't convert a couple mild chances and Joe Allen hit a volley right at David de Gea, however Liverpool's forward advances were always more threatening than their rival's. It became immediately apparent that Liverpool's fullbacks were key to any success the Reds might find considering United's affinity for bursting down either flank, and to their credit John Flanagan and Glen Johnson played pretty well.
Flanno was a little rash over the first 30 minutes though, and picked up a yellow after a string of fouls. That caused the Liverpool faithful to feel nervy about the potential for a second yellow, yet it was United's Rafael who nearly saw two cards in the span of two minutes. After foolishly taking out Gerrard, Rafael stuck his hand out to block a flick from Suarez in the penalty area, giving Liverpool their first spot kick of the game. Gerrard, as he's done all season, slotted cooly into the net, and Liverpool had the vital opening goal.
United likely wanted a drab match to quell Liverpool's lauded quick-strike counterattacks, but down 1-0, they were forced to commit bodies forward. As such, the first goal was extremely important for Liverpool because it caused a more open game and created space for the attackers. Sterling benefited the most from the shift in spacing, as he darted between gaps in the midfield to constantly worry United, who appeared a step slower than their counterparts all afternoon. Anchored by Gerrard, the Liverpool diamond continued to excel, passing around United to keep a healthy amount of possession.
Out of the tunnel for the second half, United were still in the match only down one, but that changed quickly when Phil Jones took down Allen for Liverpool's second penalty. Again Gerrard converted, and Liverpool were up 2-0 over United without a goal from open play.
After a long back and forth period of play that slightly favored Liverpool, Rodgers decided to bring on Coutinho for Sterling. The move was puzzling on the surface - Sterling dazzled in his time on the pitch - but up by two goals, it was smart for Rodgers to rest his budding star and get Coutinho's fresh legs going at United's tired back four.
The United front line was staggeringly poor throughout the match, and the Rooney-RVP combo failed to create anything meaningful besides a couple iffy free kick claims and a sad headed attempt on goal by van Persie. Problems for the hosts grew when David Moyes brought on Tom Cleverley and Danny Welbeck in the 76th minute for reasons unknown to me. One minute after the doomed double sub, United conceded a third penalty, this time from a Sturridge dive. Oh, and Nemanja Vidic was sent off. Fourth time that's happened against Liverpool. Gerrard struck the post with his ensuing spot kick, getting an inevitable miss out of his system at a harmless time.
After another batch of penalty shouts that Mark Clattenburg mercifully waved off and some more surprised remarks on how Rafael was still on the pitch after his last, last, last warning, Suarez capped the scoring with a curling effort around de Gea. 3-0 over United, and it feels so good.
|Shots (On Target)||17(7)||13(1)|
-Nice to see Lucas on. Even if he isn't a world beating defensive midfielder, he adds depth to the position and gives Rodgers another option to go with.
-Speaking of options, how nice is it to have someone of Coutinho's caliber on the bench?
-We're gonna be talking about the diamond formation a lot this week. I really like what it does for us in potentially difficult matches, and it suits Glen Johnson well, as he put forth his most positive showing in ages.
-Agger and Skrtel were solid.
-I'm pretty sure Rodgers brought Aspas on just to troll United.