Analysis and Observations: United too strong for Liverpool
Manchester United V Liverpool: Observations and Analysis
It was the much-anticipated return of ‘King Kenny’, yet there was little to smile about in the end for Dalglish. Manchester United were hardly convincing and failed to give the so-called king a royal drubbing – but they were to strong for the beleaguered visitors. While as a team, United only had their occasional sparkling moments, individually, they were excellent. Martin Kelly and Pepe Reina were the stand-outs for Liverpool, but those two only as their more offensive players rarely troubled United’s back four. This game did however highlight United’s problem – killing off teams.
Two decisions: One wrong, the other spot on: Howard Webb, often regarded as the country’s best referee, had a mixed day at the office. The pressure of such a high-profile game got to him, nothing, you would think, that should faze the person who officiated in last summer’s World Cup final. The penalty claim in the first minute was soft – Berbatov fell to ground too easily and so Webb had made a clanger in awarding the spot-kick. He did make amends on the half-hour, dismissing Liverpool’s Steven Gerrard for a rash, two-footed physical challenge that is simply not 21st century football.
All over after half an hour: With the dismissal of Gerrard after thirty minutes, so Liverpool’s hopes of winning this tie went with it. They lost their creative force, and their midfield presence – Torres struggled thereafter and so, despite a couple of decent moves into the final third, Liverpool had effectively lost the game with an hour to go.
Evans shows maturity and comes out on top. The Irishman was excellent. Given responsibility in the absence of Vidic to deal with Fernando Torres, the man Liverpool relied on far too heavily, he came out trumps. Indeed, Torres struggled alone – failing to muster a shot on goal and so Evans was largely comfortable. What was perhaps most impressive was the confidence showed by Evans, making numerous runs forward in a typical Vidic-esque manner. He might have even had himself a goal; hitting the crossbar at the stroke of half time. This may be the start of something…
Reina and Martin Kelly thwart United: Perhaps, United could have finished the tie off earlier had it not been for Martin Kelly, the rookie centre-back who was played on the right and Pepe Reina. Much credit should go to the duo; Kelly was excellent in the absence of Glen Johnson and Reina had denied Berbatov and co. on more than one occasion. Unfortunately, this was probably the only silver-lining for a fruitless Liverpool side.
United’s full-backs show much verve – again: United were hardly breathtaking in an encounter that was hardly enthralling – but they were impressive via the flanks, led by full backs Rafael da Silva and Patrice Evra who assumed an almost advanced position, creating chances and stretching Liverpool. Indeed, this is hardly a surprise – both have been instrumental and will remain so for the rest of United’s season.
Ratings: Kuszczak 7; Rafael 8*, Evans 8, Ferdinand 7, Evra 8; Nani 6, Carrick 7, Fletcher 5, Giggs 7; Berbatov 8, Hernandez 6, Howard Webb 7. Subs: Smalling 5, Owen 6, Anderson 5.