With the end of the international break and much of the attention being centred around the furore created by Wayne Rooney’s red card, plenty more eyes would have been on Anfield for a tie that is considered by many to be one of the biggest in the league and, indeed, the world. Eyebrows were raised on finding that Rooney was to be left on the bench, with Danny Welbeck heading the attacking as a lone striker, Nani also being left back and Phil Jones given the responsibility of man-marking Charlie Adam in midfield. Rooney’s lack of a starting position was explained by him being devastated by his and may not have been in the right frame of mind for such an important game. However, based on the performance against Liverpool for Saturday’s lunchtime kick off, fans will be hoping that he is back and ready for the next game against Manchester City. For all the hype that surrounds it, the match generally failed to live up to expectations, with the first half producing a scrap lacking highlights in which Liverpool were perhaps the better side and United struggling to create meaningful chances and proving wasteful when they came about. Controversy was to follow in the second half when Rio Ferdinand was adjudged to have brought down Charlie Adam, conceding a free kick. Many have questioned the ease at which Adam went down, but contact was made regardless and the set piece was given. However, the goal that resulted could well have been avoided, with Ryan Giggs failing to stay on his post and Gerrard exploiting this fault to give Liverpool a 1-0 lead. Nani and Rooney were brought on immediately and Hernandez soon followed, and it was the “Little Pea” who would prove to be the hero of the day as he crept in to head home a corner with 10 minutes to spare. And so the scoreline would remain 1-1, with Liverpool perhaps creating the more dangerous chances in the closing moments, testing David De Gea who had been superb throughout the afternoon. So with that, here are five things that may be taken from the game.
1) David De Gea has silenced the critics
Despite being considered a “liability” and generally baffling many journalists as to why Sir Alex Ferguson had paid so much for him. However, the critics may well have been silenced after a performance that prevented United conceding more than just the one goal, producing a string of fine saves and looking as though he is settling in to his role as first choice ‘keeper. In fact some took to Twitter to back track on their earlier statements, attempting to justify their earlier criticism. Hopefully the young Spaniard weill continue to grow in stature at the club and prove himself a mainstay of the United defence for many years to come. For his efforts, he was arguably United’s man of the match.
2) Did United play for a draw?
On looking at the team sheet before the game, one could be forgiven for thinking Sir Alex Ferguson may have had one eye on the forthcoming fixture against Manchester City. Although leaving Rooney out may have made sense, there seemed to be a lack of attacking edge about the line up that was put out, with the impressive Welbeck leading the line on his own, and Anderson and Nani also failing to get to a starting place, and Phil Jones taking a marking role in the centre of midfield. This translated into the play itself, with United struggling to get a strong grip on the game and lacking an attacking threat until the big names came on later on.
3) Jones – different role, could work
It may have surprised some to see Phil Jones taking up a midfield role on Saturday afternoon, although this has been discussed as a possibility amongst fans for a number of weeks. His role appeared to be to keep tabs on Charlie Adam and generally provide more presence in the midfield, perhaps to break up play whilst also providing defensive duties. Although admitting himself it was a role he had not taken up in quite some time, it is possible that he will be given this responsibility more often, with his charging runs providing an extra attacking threat whilst also providing a commanding presence. It also will have impressed many coming back on after half time when many thought he would go off injured, displaying a courageous attitude that deserves mention.
4) Vidic should be back soon
With Luis Suarez constantly providing a threat and generally making a nuisance of himself to the United defence, it was felt that the back line could use greater solidarity than it currently has. Although Rio Ferdinand provides experience, it is Vidic who gives a commanding presence and organisation that the defence seem to be lacking right now. At times the back four looked a liability, struggling to cope with the Liverpool attack, as they have done at other times in recent weeks. Although by no means terrible one could that they have been lucky not to concede more on occasions. Were it not for the brilliance of De Gea, more may have been conceded. Although a draw was probably a fair result, there were times when one may have feared the result could have been worse.
5) Patrice Evra – not phased by the Kop
Saturday was a strong showing from United’s ever present left back, Patrice Evra. Throughout he did his job well one the left side, getting involved in attacking play and not getting caught out. Despite fierce criticism from Liverpool fans, particularly in the second half, he was not phased, continuing to fulfil his role in the face of chants of “cheat” and plenty of cheers when he was booked for complaining later on. However, the match was marred by claims of racism from Suarez towards Evra. It is unclear as of yet what transpired but one hopes that such remarks remain out of sport and have no place whatsoever.