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Reactions To Victory Over Liverpool

1. There we have it. United have beaten Liverpool home and away for the first time since 07/08. There was a huge gulf between the two sides at the start of the day, with United top of the league and Liverpool all the way down in 8th. Whilst Rodgers might claim there isn’t 24 points difference in quality between the two sides, the grim reality for Liverpool fans is that there really is. The league table doesn’t lie. United made light work of Liverpool in the first half and 3-0 or 4-0 would have been a fairer scoreline, based on the chances we had and the penalty that wasn’t given. I wouldn’t even say that United were playing that well but had completely dominated and David de Gea had nothing to do. Liverpool were let off the hook though and to be fair to them, were better in the second half, particularly the last 20 minutes. After Sturridge got the equaliser you had to wonder if they had another goal in them, particularly after Vidic was forced off with injury with over 10 minutes to play, but we held on and got the three points we deserved.

2. The biggest talking point after the game seemed to be the performance of Danny Welbeck. I’m a big fan of Welbeck and was amazed with how much he improved last season. This season hasn’t gone as well for him, which can be excused by fewer appearances and the fact he has regularly been played out of position. Yesterday, there was no doubting his work rate, with him chasing everything down. He had some involvement in the first goal and had a few chances himself, but I found him fairly frustrating. Whilst I’m not keen on the comparison I’m about to make, it has to be said. I don’t want another Carlos Tevez of the 08-09 season, who works his bollocks off but only scores a handful of goals. Welbeck is a striker and seems to be massively lacking in confidence in front of goal at the moment. Towards the end of the game Welbeck burst forward, getting away from two players, before stopping the ball just before the line. He had been in a position to shoot, but having taken it too far, he now needed to set up Van Persie for a simple tap in. Instead, he fell over, and took the ball with him. For me, that summed his day up. He would get himself in good positions, he would create space for himself and others, but right at the end he’d fuck it up. Whilst not an unreasonable levels, there were plenty of people in the crowd giving him a hard time, more than they were anyone else probably. I was amazed to learn on the way home that Gary Neville had given him Man of the Match. Whilst not wanting to criticise Neville, who is without question the best pundit out there with a brilliant football brain, I can’t get my head around how he thinks Welbeck performed better than anyone else yesterday.

3. What was less surprising was Robin van Persie scoring the opening goal. He has goals against Liverpool, City and Chelsea away, as well as Arsenal, and now Liverpool, at home. 17 goals and 6 assists from 19 starts. Incredible. It is interesting to note that we have had 16 different scorers this season in the league though, which is more than any other team in the league, so any accusations of us being a one man team are inaccurate. He’s scored 30% of our league goals, whilst Suarez has scored 43% of Liverpool’s. Van Persie’s goal was top class, with lovely one touch passing between Cleverley, Kagawa and Welbeck in the lead up, before Evra drilled across a perfect ball which Van Persie took first time, leaving Reina with no chance. Van Persie could have put us 2-0 up after Young played in a great ball not long after the opening goal, but he rightly assumed he wouldn’t have time to take a touch, and hit it first time just over the bar. In the second half, Antonio Valencia put in a good ball and Van Persie could only flick it behind him, and Reina had to be on his toes to save it. Robin is a great striker, clearly, but a brilliant footballer too. He is just fantastic on the ball, his feet are so fast, and I love watching him play. He’s a superstar. He said he chose ’20′ as a squad number because he wanted to win our 20th title this season. If we do, he is the driving force behind it, and already a favourite for the Golden Boot and Player of the Year awards.

4. When the team was announced, I was worried that we were going to be overrun in midfield. I assumed that Kagawa could drop back and help with defensive duties if necessary though. Then when they lined up, with Kagawa on the wing, not Welbeck as I had assumed, I was concerned. Whilst I had to applaud the manager for going two up front, it was a worry to think of what Liverpool could do with Gerrard, Lucas and Allen padding out their midfield. I needn’t have worried. Tom Cleverley and Michael Carrick absolutely bossed it in the first half. We were rewarded for our braver formation with less than ten minutes played in the second half when our defenders put us 2-0 up.

5. Welbeck was clear through on goal when Skrtel cynically brought him down. Was it a clear goalscoring opportunity? The home crowd thought so, chanting “OFF! OFF! OFF!” but there was no way Howard Webb was giving us anything yesterday. Thankfully, United went on to score from the resulting freekick, after an excellent delivery from Van Persie. As well as being the top scorer in the league, only three players have more assists than him. Evra got up well and his header flew past Reina. I was confused at the time to see Nemanja Vidic reel away with his finger in the air, whilst Evra ran off celebrating in the opposite direction. Evra’s header did take a deflection off our captain though, a crucial one I’d say, and the goal has been given to him.

6. Webb infuriated the home crowd throughout the game, for missing seemingly obvious fouls on our players and blowing his whistle every time a Liverpool player went down. Several nasty or cynical challenges went without punishment, encouraging Liverpool players to keep trying their luck. Whilst it’s dangerous to hand out yellow cards too early on in games like this, it would have sent a message to our opposition. In the last minute of the first half we had a great chance to double our lead after Rafael made a fool of Johnson and got the ball across to Van Persie. He could only flick it on but as Kagawa charged in to put in the rebound he was bundled over by Wisdom. The angriest the crowd got was probably the reaction to this, after Reina had gone to ground. Liverpool attacked and had the ball around the box, whilst Reina was clearly flat out in the Liverpool goal. The referee didn’t stop play and no Liverpool player kicked it out. Once their move broke down and United were on the attack, Webb blew his whistle. He had been happy to let Liverpool play on and try to score though. Gerrard was guilty of several fouls, the late and cynical type which break up an attack, the kind Paul Scholes gets booked for every time, and not one of them brought a yellow card for Gerrard. After all the fuss about Webb giving United favourable decisions, it was clear he had no intent of sending any Liverpool player off, for fear of perpetuating the myth.

7. Cleverley made more passes than anyone else yesterday, followed by Michael Carrick. Cleverley also made more passes in the final third than anyone else too, with a 92% accuracy rate, which is very impressive. Whilst played out of position, Kagawa had a great game too and I was disappointed to see him subbed off. The tide had started turning by that stage so it made sense to bring on the more defensive-minded Phil Jones, but Kagawa had been linking well with our forwards.

8. Whilst United had been rewarded for going 442, Liverpool suffered because of Brendan Rodgers’ more conservative tactics. They offered next to nothing up front and David de Gea had nothing to do until their goal, with an hour on the clock. Suarez had a wild shot in the first half, before Wisdom slipped at the crucial moment and shot miles wide in the second half. The first save De Gea had to make resulted in the goal, with Rio Ferdinand blocking his view, but him still managing to get a hand to Gerrard’s shot. There was nothing he could about the rebound though, that fell straight to Sturridge. The player who couldn’t make it at City and Chelsea then ran to the Liverpool fans, doing the ’5 times’ salute, which is just brilliant. He’s made two sub appearances for them and they haven’t played in the European Cup since 2009, when they failed to get out of the group when finishing 6 points behind 2nd placed Lyon, and 8 points behind group leaders Fiorentina. But yeh, knock yourself out celebrating success you contributed nothing to, in a competition your team are nowhere near good enough to even qualify for anymore. Had Sturridge played from the start though, maybe we would have been looking at a different scoreline. It was Cleverley who lost the ball in an awful position in the lead up to Liverpool’s goal, with him and Carrick losing their grip on the game a bit. Both Sturridge and Borini hit wide of the target shortly after, prompting a rare appearance from Sir Alex Ferguson on the touchline. Then Suarez broke through in to the box and somehow Rafael managed to stop him, but the ball fell to Sturridge a few yards out, and thankfully, he struck over the bar. Not long after, Sturridge hit the side netting, and we were really up against it. After doing nothing for an hour, Liverpool really turned it on for the last half an hour, with three strikers on the pitch. They were aided further by the injury of Vidic, who was replaced by Chris Smalling. Thankfully we held on for the three points though and they were deserved, given our domination for the vast majority of the game.

9. It feels absolutely brilliant beating that lot, even when they are mid-table nobodies, and whilst it would have been nice to have battered them after that first half showing, the defeat was made all the more painful for them after being given hope from Sturridge’s goal. As a result of the game we’ve now amassed 55 points which is our biggest ever tally at this stage in the season. It also indicates a steep improvement over recent years. Last season we were on 51 points after 22 games (behind City on 54), the season before it was 48 points, and the season before that, 47 points. We’ve played a lot of our most difficult games already, with City, Chelsea and Everton still needing to come to Old Trafford as we’ve played them all away, and are looking in a great position. We’ve got a trip to White Hart Lane ahead of us at the weekend, which could be tough when you consider they beat us at home, then a string of relatively easy fixtures. It’s looking good.

About Scott

Scott is the editor of Red Matters - 50 Years of Supporting Manchester United and an author of Play Like Fergie's Boys and Not Nineteen Forever. He writes for ESPN, The Metro and Bleacher Report. Follow @R_o_M on Twitter.

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  1. Marq says:

    Thats my point, he had a poor 30mins, and people like Denton use that to judge him and justify himself. If Young had a poor run as long as Valencia is now having, I wouldn’t defend him. But that is not the case. People who cant see that, are just sad

  2. iced earth says:

    Speaking to MUTV today, Ferguson said: “Actually, Vida’s knee is okay. It was concussion.

    “He had a little bit of concussion but he’s okay and fine. He trained yesterday and was good.

    “There are no other serious knocks really. I think they’re all pretty good. Obviously, Young has got a dull knock, a little bit of a strain on the knee, but it’s nothing serious.

    “I think he’ll be back next week. Maybe not for Tottenham but, the week after, he should be okay.”

  3. denton davey says:

    United Till I Die @ 13:40: “Which brings us to Cleverley. He was class out there, which is scary when you consider that his games for United’s first team have only now caught up with his number of games for Wigan.”

    Good point – the professional manager/coach see these guys training and engaged in very intense game-preparation so they’re able to get a better sense of their upside as well as their “compatibility” with others in different formations.

    In the case of YoungTom, it’s compatibility, his ability to complement MC16, that is his best quality: he’s not especially skilful, he’s not especially fast, he’s not this or that – for sure, he’s not got the physicality or talent of Paul Scholes BUT his partnership with Carrick brings out the best in MC16 whereas when MC16 is partnering TheGingerNinja he’s a shadow of the force we see when he’s paired with YoungTom or Anderson or DarrenFletcherinho (in his football genius mode).

    It’s interesting in this regard to contrast Cleverley with Nani who is especially skilful, who is especially fast, BUT who is very much a non-complementary player since he tends to look to himself rather than to his team-mates.

  4. denton davey says:

    Marq @ 15:05: “people like Denton”

    OK, I’ll bite – who are these “people like Denton” ?

    Both you and Wayne responded to my analysis of AY’s contributions – negative and positive – against LiverPoo by ignoring the “evidence” I presented. Instead, what the two of you resorted to was a low form of insult, claiming that I am a persistent critic and not a true “supporter”. That’s just weak.

  5. King Eric says:

    wazza – Fuck off you armchair cunt.

  6. Marq says:

    Even I didn’t say Young had a good game against Liverpool.

    You see, I am not defending him, did I try to argue that he had a good game? No. I am asking for him to be given a fair chance, that is all.

    And for God’s sake, let go of the 4 “misses”, nobody has yet agreed on your opinion that it was a clear cut chance. They never even made the highlights. If it was really that bad, would it not be all over youtube and people laughing at it? So far you are the only one banging on about that, and it is making you sound like a broken record, playing something only you understand

  7. d_arblay says:

    Completely agree about Welbeck. He was dreadful from start to finish and I was adamant from half time that Hernandez should replace him. For the majority, I thought he performed with all the style and sophistication of an intoxicated amatuer, unaware as to exactly what sport he should be playing. No doubt he is young, with great potential but does have the tendency to be erratic, and I don’t feel I’ve ever seen him perform as badly as he did yesterday. With Rooney in his place, it might well have been a mauling.

  8. United Till I Die says:

    @Denton – alright mate?

    I agree about Cleverley complimenting Carricks game, but I have to disagree about him not being “especially skillful” as you put it. Don’t forget that Carrick wasn’t on the pitch for the 8-2 over Arsenal. It was Ando and Tom in the middle, and they were brilliantly skillful even though it was pretty much the first “proper” fixture they started together. Tom does a LOT more than compliment Carrick imo.

    Most people think of players taking defenders on and beating them when they think of skill, and they’d be right. But when we see Scholes and Giggs (or even Beckham tbf) knocking the ball from one end of the pitch to the other and landing it on a penny, or clipping the ball with the outside of the boot from the left flank to the right, so it curves past defenders, etc, to me thats just as skillful as 3 step overs and a nutmeg. Its just a different skill set, but its nonetheless impressive and effective.

    So with Cleverley, I think his range of passing defo makes him a skillful player. That boy can pass the ball like a Brazilian mate, but how many English players move the ball like he does in a central midfield position? Maybe Wiltshire, but thats it. Im not saying he’s the finished article, imo he has to work hard at his game if he wants to avoid being another English dud when he’s older, but right now he’s an exciting player with a good passing range and good movement. He’s at the right Club to develop much further, and big games like LFC will only make him better.

  9. denton davey says:

    United Till I Die – I don’t think we’re very far apart regarding YoungTom’s skill level but it seems to me that he’s simply not going to get into the UTD squad unless he was skilled – that’s essentially the price-of-admission. Professional footballers – even players in the lower divisions – are “ridiculously” skilful but to be a success at a big club like UTD, the guy has to have much more in his locker.

    What I was trying to get at in my comment is it’s not his on-the-ball skill level (which isn’t at the highest level like Giggs or Scholes or Nani or KagawaBunga or RVP) which makes him a valuable UTD player but, rather, his ability to bring out the best in MC16.

    In a sense, YoungTom is a jack-of-all-trades and it seems to me that that makes him more complementary than, say, TheGingerNinja whose skill level is off-the-charts but whose foot-speed and turning-circle have both become inadequate so that MC16 has to play as his “minder” – in my mind, that results in a kind of subtraction by addition when SAF chooses to play the Carrick/Scholes.

  10. denton davey says:

    Marq @ 17:52: “I am not defending him, did I try to argue that he had a good game? No. I am asking for him to be given a fair chance, that is all.”

    So, I take it that you don’t disagree with my analysis of his performance on Sunday.

    With regard to a “fair chance”, I think we are bound to differ. The guy first has to prove to scouts that he’s UTD-quality and it would appear that he did that because otherwise when SAF ran-the-rule over him he wouldn’t have splashed-the-cash. BUT it’s a big difference from being a big-fish-in-a-small-pond at Aston Villa to being able to hold-his-own among the world-class players at Manchester United. In that sense, he’s been given lots of game time and been working at Carrington for 18 months however, it’s my opinion – which I’ve been challenged to back with evidence (over and above the three/four point-blank misses in the previous matches).

    In responding to your challenge, I watched the first half of the LiverPoo match on Sunday and made notes of all his positive and negative contributions (obviously I didn’t make any notes on inconsequential actions). That’s what I reported on yesterday @ 23:55, for all to see and to make up their own minds if I was being one-eyed, fair-or-unfair.

    You might also be interested in what another guy wrote about his 45 minutes on Sunday:

    “The only negative from the first half was Ashley Young! Never a Manchester United player and 18 million! This guy has been in the EPL for about 7-8 years (not too sure) and is 27 years of age which should be the time when you come into your peak as a winger/attacking mid. I counted Young give the ball away 14 times in the first half! (watch the game and count for yourself, its not difficult because he basically gives the ball away 90% of the time he gets it). His touch is poor, he cant beat a man to save his life, he doesn’t score goals, he doesn’t assist much, he constantly puts our players under pressure with his ridiculous back and side passes due to his inability to turn his defender or create space for himself to pass forward. Basically in my opinion he sorely lacks the technical ability and footballing intelligence to make it at Manchester United.” {UNITED RANT, Jan 14 @ 11:21 a.m.)

    I have no idea who “Merchant” is – but he’s not me !

    To be sure, “Merchant” is harsh – maybe he’s old-school like me – but I think that he’s sugar-coating nothing, just telling-it-like-it-is.

    In fact, the commentators on UNITED RANT tend to be much more “critical” than those on RoM but “Merchant” was not alone in his displeasure with AY’s performance on Sunday.

    Finally, I don’t get the notion that to be a fan (or a supporter) it is a requirement to set aside all critical remarks and support these guys in the red shirt, regardless of how they perform.

    I want to see UTD win #20 this year and # 21 next year as well as winning two more CL titles so that those jibes from Merseyside can get shoved down their collective throats since they’ve been knocked off their fucking perch – and you can quote me on that !

  11. Bohemet says:

    Here is a reaction for you after the easy 3 points against the pool

    Must be the lowest form og human beeing that guy

  12. Marq says:

    Fair enough, but you dont have to get started with trying to find people who supports your notion that Young is not good enough, because I am pretty sure I can find plenty of people who believe he has his role to play. So it will never end.

    If the only negative of the first half was Young, the only negative of the second half is the whole team, Rvp included. There are ups & downs in a game, let alone a season, so give the players a break, there will be good days & bad days for players, however good they are. Young has had his good days this season, against big teams for that matter, so don’t just remember the bad days, give him credit for the good days as well. I am just sick of people making it sound like he never had a good game ever in a United shirt, which is not true. Its a glass half empty or half full question. I see it as half full, because he has contributed what he could and in many cases, it was enough. Perhaps for you its half empty, and because it expect it to be full, you become disappointed.

    For me, United has never been about players who are all glass full, we have always been about having a team of commited players, who in the eyes of some supporters, are players who are half empty, coupled with 2 or 3 real stars. That is why I find it absurb that there are people who use the term, not United class. Of course there are instances of players not really being good enough, such as Djemba & Chadwick, but Young, and certainly Berbatov does not fall into that group

  13. NBI Red Onion says:

    Young is a squad player who tries hard and defends well. He lets Evra get forward and Evra is a better attacking player than he is in terms of retaining possession, one touch passing, crossing and getting in the box. He has more goals and assists too this season. Young has a role in the squad but is he the best winger out there that United can get. No. He is no Giggs or Becks. But he covers defensively for our LW who is world class in attack.


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