Analysis and Observations: Liverpool power past incompetent United
Liverpool 3-1 Manchester Utd: Analysis and Observations
What is this clichéd rollercoaster that everyone speaks of? For Manchester United, there were no ups. Just downs, and a lot of them. Depressing to watch, degrading to watch, disappointing to watch, and discouraging to watch. The Premier League title is still in reach, of course, but the events that unfolded in this game alone could have damaging effects in United’s bid for the 19th league title.
Talking points are rich in this game. In such a high-profile game, it is compulsory to have a game-changer, and for the away side, theirs was in the shape of the player that has been most consistent throughout the season. Nani. But the feeling of joy was not etched on his face, instead misery and, perhaps most concerning, pain (quite literally). Indeed, expressions of pain on faces of those dressed in white were in unison.
Nani’s metaphorical rollercoaster was so down that it had been grinding along the ground and crashing into everything around it causing more havoc, more wreckage. First, with United already down a goal after Suarez’s moment of brilliance had allowed Kuyt to score, Nani inexplicably allowed Liverpool into relative comfort when he had attempted to find either a United defender or van der Sar with a backwards header that fell into the path of Dirk Kuyt to double Liverpool’s lead. But what was to follow, no one could quite believe – and the resounding effect it would have on the rest of the game.
In possession of the ball, Nani was challenged by Jamie Carragher. Theatrics followed, as per usual. Expletives were being tossed around, although aimed at Nani originally for what might have looked like play acting. But replays showed that Carragher’s ‘tackle’ was rash, and that he should have received a red. The winger, now on a stretcher, was tearful. United watched their creative force carried off – he was gone, and so, it looked, was United’s chance of salvaging something out of the game. Not on the wing, for the time being, but on a prayer.
So, indeed, United lacked any sort of cutting edge thereafter. They were decent in the first half, despite being 2-0 down, their highlight being Berbatov’s effort which had hit the post. After Nani was carried off, Rafael was shortly involved in some more handbag action – hardly justifying his inclusion over John O’Shea, who had been solid in previous games.
Dirk Kuyt nabbed his third, and Liverpool’s third, shortly after the break and then the game had reached something of an anticlimax. The game was over, long ago. What had started an up-tempo game with chances either side had petered out into possession football. Javier Hernandez scored a mere consolation; and if there were any positives to be had it would be that the goal in the dying minutes of the game was the Mexican’s tenth of the season. Out of 14 shots on target. Clinical, indeed. But, unfortunately, Kuyt was also clinical. All of Dirk Kuyt’s goals had come from no more than six yards out.
United lacked urgency in this game and Liverpool fully deserved their victory. They had conquered the table-toppers and their ineffective 4-4-2 formation. Nani’s disappearance into the tunnel signalled the end of the game. This long before the final whistle. Heck, the half time whistle hadn’t blown. Heads dropped. And so, Confidence dropped. And, then, points dropped. But United’s hold on the title race? Still in their hands.
<figure 1> Blame Michael Carrick all you want. It defies belief that, after such an incompetent performance from the whole team, many pointed the finger at Carrick who was hardly the worst of the beleaguered bunch. In fact, he was probably the best player on the pitch; or, at least, the least worst. He completed the most passes on the pitch, and although that barely tells the whole story nor is a reason to praise him by that fact alone, his chalkboard is impressive. Out of his more-than respectable total of 85 passes, most of the 19 unsuccessful efforts (marked in red) were ambitious forward passes that were simply snuffed out by Liverpool’s defenders, who were difficult to break down. Guardian Chalkboards
The report card. Van der Sar C; Rafael D, Wes Brown C, Chris Smalling C, Patrice Evra D; Nani E, Michael Carrick C, Paul Scholes C, Ryan Giggs D; Wayne Rooney E, Dimitar Berbatov C