With what many fans are considering the final game of a extremely challenging set of fixtures, Manchester United find themselves up against their biggest rivals once again after their unfortunate loss at Anfield.
The Red Devils have just come off difficult trips to Stamford Bridge, The Emirates and in the Fa Cup, both at Anfield and the Etihad Stadium. Considering the amount of injuries the first team has had to cope with, Sir Alex has somehow managed to drag his side through the trenches and kept the club within touching distance of title leaders Manchester City during that hectic period. A win today would even be enough to see us take top spot with City having a game in hand.
Our recent come back against Chelsea was nothing short of extraordinary as Chicharito completed a 30 minute cameo where we somehow managed to snatch a point after being 3 down away from home with less than 40 minutes left to play.
Next up however was arguably our biggest game of the season for various different reasons. Most notably however is the return of Liverpool striker Luis Suarez to Old Trafford after he was banned for 8 games after racially abusing Manchester United left back in their last encounter. Also, during most recent tie at Anfield, Evra was booed by the Kop at every given opportunity. His crime? Being racially attack by a Liverpool player.
De Gea starts in goal after his match winning performance against Chelsea as Sir Alex names an unchanged back 4 with Rafael filling in at right back alongside Rio, Evans and Evra. Valencia also starts after his surprisingly disappointing performance last Sunday. Paul Scholes and Michael Carrick occupy the central midfield area with Ryan Giggs pushed out to the left instead of Ashley Young who doesn’t make the bench. Up front Sir Alex starts both Wayne Rooney and Danny Welbeck after he looked set on giving Hernandez a rare start.
Both Pogba and Cleverley make the bench after the former had a fantastic 20 minute cameo against Stoke whereas the latter has been unfortunate with injuries but looks set on making his long awaited comeback soon, if not today.
The game started off at a very fast pace with Liverpool attacking from the off. Defensive blunders early on involving Rio and Evra nearly cost United if it wasn’t for Johnny Evans who read the play brilliantly and cleared the danger. The first half didn’t create too many chances when you consider just how open the game was, coming mostly from misplaced passes and clumsy defending from both sides. The best chance of the first half fell to Paul Scholes with what could have been a brilliant goal after a delightful cross from the evergreen Ryan Giggs. Scholesy will be gutted he didn’t do better with the header from only 5 yards out but instead he could only direct the ball at the keeper’s hands.
United started off the second half in top gear with Wayne Rooney putting us a goal up after Ryan Giggs’ cross was deflected into his path. Rooney was the fastest to react to the loose ball and smashed it passed the hapless Pepe Reina. You have to wonder how many more goals we would score if we had someone who could take corners properly. This was one of the rare occasions in which our set pieces have gone beyond the first defender and it came as no surprise when we managed to score from it.
Wazza scored his second only moments later after Antonio Valencia’s won the ball back after pressuring high up the pitch, intercepting, and then playing Rooney in with a perfectly weighted ball which he calmly slotted in between the goalkeepers’ legs.
At that point, it looked like it was going to be all United with Liverpool on the back foot and looking shaky in defense but our strikers struggled to find the killer goal to put us 3-0 up. Wayne Rooney could and maybe should have got his much deserved hat-trick after a clever dummy by Paul Scholes on the edge of the box.
With time ticking away and Liverpool desperately throwing men forward, they eventually managed to get themselves a goal from a set piece. A combination of bad luck and poor defending allowed Luis Suarez to grab a goal which kept his side in the game with just under 10 minutes to go.
United defended deep but were very sloppy with the ball. All three of Carrick, Welbeck and Scholes were guilty of needlessly losing the ball when under pressure from the opposition. Late on, a defensive header from a corner fell to Glen Johnson whose shot from 35 yards was saved well by David De Gea after the ball moved and dipped wildly in midair, but the Spanish youngster pulled off a match winning save to make sure the Reds go top of the league for the next 24 hours at least.
1. Luis Suarez is a vile human being
After calling Evra a ‘Negro’ 7 times and telling him he doesn’t want to touch him because he is Black, Luis Suarez went on to reject the Frenchman’s handshake prior to kick off. Patrice showed he is the bigger man by offering his hand, yet the Uruguayan continued to behave in the most unacceptable manner throughout the game. Not only did he clearly attempt to kick Evra, who laughed at the players attempt to hurt him, but he even shot the ball straight at the United dug out after the half time whistle. Manchester United really have shown their class over the course of this saga while Liverpool continue to behave in a manner in which even their own fans have started to turn against them with many fans calling for Dalglish to step down and for Suarez to leave the club; and rightly so.
2. We’re not that bad
After 25 games into the season, we find ourselves top of the league having played Chelsea, Liverpool and Arsenal twice, as well as beating City away, and outplaying Liverpool at Anfield in the Fa Cup – Not bad. We still have two tough away games against Spurs and City but its safe to say we’ve just come off the back of our hardest run in with 5 wins, a draw after trailing by 3 goals away at Chelsea and an unfortunate loss against the dippers in the Cup after outplaying them for most of the game; It’s only going to get easier from here on out. Considering the ridicules number of injuries we’ve picked up throughout our season, it really is a miracle we are in the position we find ourselves in. All credit goes to Sir Alex and his tireless troops.
3. Wayne Rooney is back
Anybody who follows me on Twitter will know just how stubborn I am. Nearly 18 months after the transfer rumors involving Wayne Rooney and Manchester City, and I still haven’t gotten over him wanting to leave us and join our city rivals just so he can earn a bit more. I wouldn’t say I disliked him, but my support for him really isn’t the same as it once was. I used to support Wayne Rooney and Manchester United. Now I support Wayne Rooney because of Manchester United. I doubt I’ll ever love him as a player compared to how I did before, but this season he really has gone some way to make up for the whole thing. Big performances and big goals against Spurs, City, Chelsea, Liverpool and Arsenal have made me wonder if I can hold my grudge against him any longer. Hopefully not.
4. David Dea Gea is the answer
In one of his quieter games, he didn’t have much to deal with today but he still looked quality when he was called upon. Whenever he was passed to, he looked calm and composed with the ball and always tried to pass it to a United player instead of clearing it carelessly like most keepers would. Class.
His most notable moment in the game came in the dying seconds of the match where a thunderbolt strike from Glen Johnson looked like it was heading under the bar and in, only for De Gea to push it up and over with his fingertips. It was a match winning save which will hopefully silence his critics for the time being. Amazing what a little bit of confidence could do for a young goalkeeper.
5. There is more to come
Although I am amazed with how well we have coped with the absence of many key players this season, I still can’t help but feel we haven’t played as good as we could, with us often grinding out results instead of us beating our opponents convincingly. However, with the return of several key players from long term injuries, you would hope that we can only go on and get better. Both Ashley Young and Thomas Cleverley look set to play in our midweek game against Ajax, with the possibility of Paul Pogba even getting some game time to help with his development. Phil Jones , Chris Smalling and Nani all look set to recover from their niggles that have ruled them out recently as well, so hopefully once we have a fitter, bigger squad, we can go on and win our 20th title.