Analysis and Observations: Liverpool power past incompetent United

Liverpool 3-1 Manchester Utd: Analysis and Observations

Liverpool's Dirk Kuyt celebrates scoring his third goal against Manchester United at Anfield

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.

click to maximise

<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

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23 responses to “Analysis and Observations: Liverpool power past incompetent United”

  1. Larsen says :

    Not 24 tomorrow mate. At least the next 24 hrs is our.

    YNWA

  2. mcshattery says :

    generally a fair piece, except for the brazen glossing over of the Rafael tackle that was – like carra’s – a red card.

    bit what we’re seeing now is the luck united have had this season deserting them because they really aren’t that good.

    Thats not to say they won’t win the league though

    thanks

    mcshattery

    • The Gaffer says :

      Thanks for the comment. Didn’t talk about the Rafael situation simply because I didn’t want to take away from what should be an analytical piece – might have rambled on about Nani…

      I did think Rafael deserved a red, by the way 😉

      You guys deserved it, but these ‘YNWA’ comments a touch out of place on this site 😉

  3. richard says :

    F$%#@ your opinion

  4. wheres owen gone says :

    Fair assesment of our abismal performance. They out played, out thought and out fought us. We looked pedestrain. Give them their due they look far from the side that was playing for Hodgson. I am finding it hard to pick out one good performance on our side. But they seem to have found a gem in Suarez.

  5. AA says :

    Balanced article.I will give you that.

  6. Paul says :

    Fantastic Performance by United today!! Itchy cock (rooney) no where to be seen. Nani rolling round in agony yet finding enough energy to race to the ref to demand a red card, before collapsing to the floor again like he had just been shot! Oh and to top it off, Whiskey nose refuses to give any interview after the match! The bloke is a total looser! he cant hack getting beat by Liverpool, never has been able to!

  7. isnoor says :

    where did michael carrick passes go? were ambitious forward passes that were simply snuffed out by Liverpool ’s defenders, who
    were difficult to break down. when ever we play against a team with good defenders means carrick is useless since he neither attacked nor defend. and ur article title is IN DEFENCE OF CARRICK.

  8. Real Red says :

    AF what trash in not doing an interview. Well Won Liverpool. YNWA. Suck it Mancs

  9. Galade says :

    How embarassing..since i left college ive always watchd games at home.2day my boyfriend convinced me to go to a pub n watch and i did,and being superstitious i think i jinxed the team,lol..it was painful 2 watch..they say seeing isnt always believing n thts wat it was,i was shocked..my Wayne AWOL,maybe it was a body double..maybe Fletcher shouldve played.losin the game n Nani was a double blow..but am happy i saw Valencia!go MUFC

  10. fakesound says :

    Yes, we were beaten by the better side today, but we mustn’t forget we’re still top of the league, three points clear! Albeit small, we have an advantage and with every passing game, it’s one less for Arsenal to catch us. Arsenal drew at HOME to a team not competing to get into Europe, we lost AWAY to a team trying to do just that, we surely still have to be clear favourites.

    Today overall, it was a poor show all round for United, not one player impressed; but kudos must be given to Hernandez for scoring again though, when all looked lost.

  11. Becks says :

    Blimey, what an excellent, intelligent, well balanced piece of writing. Most unexpected when I clicked on the link. Btw not trolling, linked in via newsnow.co.uk. I would suggest Carrick suffers from Crab Syndrome, everything he does goes sideways, and would have started O’Shea over Rafael, as you say always solid against Liverpool.

    • The Gaffer says :

      Thank you for the comment. Not the only Liverpool fan to come from newsnow if blog analytics are anything to go by. Actually, concerned at the lack of United fans using it!

  12. luckystriker says :

    Disappointing and discouraging indeed.

  13. FootballFarrago says :

    Think Giggs played better than a D, he was at least trying to make things happen. Scholes D IMO. Also the centre backs deserve Ds, sure they’re not the first choice pair but they played poorly and didn’t organist the defence at all – they’ve gotta take responsibility for getting the midfield in position in front of them. Rooney’s E seems a little harsh, although he still is doing pretty much bugger all…

  14. Douglas Crockett says :

    Kind of ironic that your excellent discussion of individual performances was followed by Jonathon Wilson, the astute author of a book on tactics. The “tactics” employed by ManU were of critical importance IMO.

    The game was lost in center midfield. With both Giggs & Scholes in midfield (not many other options there) the team is slower and more susceptible to the pressing tactic that Liverpool employed. Accommodating the league’s leading scorer and Rooney up front came at the expense of the midfield. The end result was underutilization of the two strikers and the loss of the game in the middle of the pitch.

    With a weakened central defense, there was also a need for a defensive midfielder to offer protection to Brown & Smalling. ManU would have been better off with 5 midfielders. It worked last year, especially with Rooney. It’s hard to leave the league’s leading scorer on the bench but tactically the team would have been stronger for it.

    I fear for ManU without Nani. He has been the only path forward, absent the occasional cameo by Anderson, for much of the season. Increasingly teams have smothered ManU by doubling up on Nani. For some time they won’t even have to do that.

    While ManU did not overpay to strengthen their midfield in the summer or over the break, the omission may have been penny wise pound foolish and cost them the title.

    • The Gaffer says :

      Thanks Douglas…

      Agree that we should have, perhaps, gone five midfielders – in hindsight. At the time, agreed that the 4-4-2 would be ideal purely because Rooney has struggled on the left of late and is better in the centre playing off Berbatov. 4-5-1/4-3-3 is a difficult one; even if Rooney were to play in the centre with that system with Giggs and Nani either flank, think we might have struggled anyway. And there’s the other dilemma you correctly point out; do you drop Berbatov to the bench?

      Sitting on the fence here….

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