1) 3 Points, undeserved, but who cares?!
Sunday marked the fourth occasion in a row that United have beaten Liverpool. That makes for very pleasing reading. As for the circumstances of the match, United hadn’t a shot in anger towards the Liverpool goal in the first 45 minutes. It was an extremely flat performance, void of ideas. The second half started in the same vein with Liverpool peppering De Gea’s goal without success. United however did come to life midway through the second half, Liverpool possibly flattened from not converting any of their chances. A spell of pressure led to a corner, which led to Wayne Rooney grabbing the winner. In truth a set piece was probably the only way United were going to score, and in truth it was a very fortunate 3 points to pick up. However in games like these, particularly against Liverpool, it doesn’t matter.
2) Fallen Giants
In years gone by United-Liverpool was THE fixture on the Premier League schedule. Usually games between the two went a long way to deciding the title or at least the shape of the top, with one or the other usually contending. This particular game was a battle between 9th and 6th place in the Premier League. None of the sides contending the title (including Leicester City) would have been altogether bothered with the outcome.
The quality on show reflected the league positions, in truth. It was a very dull affair, severely lacking in quality. Liverpool were the better of the two sides, but when it is an ‘attack’ of Firmino, Lallana and Milner on the end of the chances you needn’t worry too much. Albeit I doubt United’s attack struck too much fear into Liverpool either.
In years gone by superstars such as Luis Suarez, Fernando Torres, Cristiano Ronaldo and, eh, John O’Shea would have dictated the outcome of this game. We had a few O’Shea’s on the field on Sunday but no Ronaldo’s or Suarez’s. 19 year old Anthony Martial looked the only star turn on the pitch capable of producing something and that is a signal of how the two sides have fallen over the last few seasons.
3) Dave saves the day, again
David de Gea once again underlined his importance to United and particularly Louis van Gaal on Sunday. For the first hour or so of the game Liverpool had a number of opportunities to take the lead, foiled only by our brilliant Spaniard. Had one of those chances been taken, surely more goals were on the menu. Dessert subsequently could have served up Van Gaal’s head on a plate, if pre-match reports are to be believed.
This week’s news of an impending transfer ban on Real Madrid will surely be music to the ears of United fans hoping De Gea will be here for a few more seasons to come. The fact remains however, that we can’t keep relying on De Gea’s brilliance to save us in games. The fact that he has been such a key man and is relied on so heavily is not a very good reflection on the rest of the side.
4) Turning point?
In the second half of last season a win at Anfield turned United’s season was part of a run which led us into the Champions League places and briefly looking like an unlikely title charge could occur.
For the same to happen this season, a few things need to change, I believe. This time last season our centre midfield combination was Carrick and Herrera. Although more susceptible to opponents breaking through the middle, this was a creative partnership that looked for the through balls and decisive passes. As effective as Schneiderlin is, he doesn’t have that ball in his locker… Or at least we don’t see it often enough. For that reason I feel that we could do with playing Herrera deeper alongside Schneiderlin or alternatively bring Carrick back in ahead of Schneiderlin for certain games where less protection is needed in front of the back four in order to create more up top.
We could also do with Rooney keeping this run going in front of goal.
5) Cracks remain
Stats will tell you that we have been on a decent run of late. What they won’t reveal is that the manner of the performances haven’t changed much at all since the rocky period over Christmas. I have been defending Van Gaal throughout this period of uncertainty, mainly because I’m not entirely convinced about the alternative options, but also because I felt we are close to being a very good side if the methods were tweaked slightly and if we had better attacking players.
However the past few games I have found myself feeling slightly emotionless towards United, which is pretty strange for me. I am no longer looking forward to the next match, because I know what will come. Yes, I would love to see how we would fare with better attacking players under Van Gaal, but those players may never come and this style might never be tweaked. I still maintain it’s a big risk changing guard mid-season but I want to be excited to watch United again and to be honest I’m fed up of watching this garbage.
I would be happy with Giggs until the end of the season and to re-evaluate from there. It’s certainly a risk in terms of results, but at least we’d be promised a more exciting style of football. Under Van Gaal at the minute we are promised neither.