5 Things We Learned: Liverpool 1-0 Manchester United
1. RVP left isolated
Despite conceding inside four minutes United responded well and could easily have levelled had the ball fallen in just the right place. Van Persie hooked over from six yards and then just couldn’t quite connect as a low cross flashed in front of goal, evading his sweet left foot by inches.
It seemed only a matter of time before the Red Devils would create a clear cut opening and the Dutchman would be the one benefitting to strike at Anfield once again. However as the first half wore on the service dried up and United’s talisman was left cutting a frustrated figure, going in late on Daniel Agger and picking up a yellow card before clashing with Gerrard.
The second half continued in the same vein as David Moyes’ men controlled possession without providing their main man with a decent opening. When a chance did finally arise in the 88th minute van Persie snatched at it, skewing a right footed effort wide after good work from substitute Javier Hernandez.
There is no doubt that Robin is one of the best strikers in the world but if he isn’t provided with the service then the Reds will struggle to score, especially in the big games. Two matches against two quality sides have resulted in zero goals scored and although it’s not time to panic yet, there is reason for slight concern.
2. A creative spark was lacking
Michael Carrick and Tom Cleverley did a good job of shielding the back four and kept possession well for United as was shown by the ratio of 59 to 41 in United’s favour. They looked calm and composed, however when they tried to go forward attacks kept breaking down as Lucas and Gerrard ensured that a link between the midfield and van Persie couldn’t be established.
Wayne Rooney’s injury was a big blow to the Reds especially after his energetic performance against Chelsea last week. He might not be 100% fit still but he would have driven United forward and his passion could have provided extra bite.
There was also a lack of vision and incision from out wide. Ashley Young was denied space and his final ball was lacking at times, while Giggs, despite showing some great touches, never quite got up to speed in the white hot atmosphere. Antonio Valencia provided some energy but it was more of a case of what if for United’s wide men.
3. Kagawa left kicking his heels
Shinji Kagawa travelled with Japan to the Confederations Cup over the summer and when he was left out against Swansea, then an unused substitute against Chelsea, the belief was that he still wasn’t match fit after not having a proper pre-season.
However this weekend David Moyes confirmed that the Japanese playmaker was match fit but chose Nani over him for a place on the bench against Liverpool on Sunday.
That decision seems more perplexing two days after the game. As I have already alluded to United lacked a creative spark and Kagawa, sitting just off van Persie would have provided this. His balance, touch, and ability to pick out killer passes would have given the Reds the perfect link between the holding midfielders and Van Persie, however he was overlooked. Tactically Moyes missed a trick here.
4. Defence was disciplined
People will point to the poor marking for Liverpool’s opening goal as Daniel Agger and then Daniel Sturridge won successive headers to give Brendan Rogers’ men the lead. However apart from that one lapse in concentration which proved the difference, the Red Devils were extremely comfortable.
David de Gea didn’t have any saves to make and Sturridge, who looked very sharp in Liverpool’s opening two games, was subdued by Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic. The back four also kept Chelsea at bay with relative ease. If United can keep their defensive discipline and at the same time click going forward, then the goals, victories and points will come.
5. Too early to judge
Yes the Reds have failed to score in two games and plenty of critics were out for United after suffering their first defeat of the season at Anfield, however it is far too early to criticise.
Moyes still needs time to mould the team into his own and get them playing the way he wants them to and the Red Devils have the same points total as they did from these three games last season.
Crystal Palace are next up for the Reds and they have the perfect chance to send out a clear message of intent in front of a packed Old Trafford. Three points there is a must and even the most optimistic fan might have cause for concern if the Eagles aren’t downed in two weeks time.