By Nathan Thomas.
1. Hernandez the gift that just keeps giving
After a fantastic first season talk that Javier Hernandez might suffer what has come to be known as ‘second season syndrome’ had been bubbling under the surface however early signs seem to suggest that there will be no such occurrence. Hernandez notched an invaluable equaliser at Anfield on Saturday afternoon using his trademark predatory instincts to haul United back into contention. Before the Stoke game recently the Potters manager Tony Pulis was quoted as saying Hernandez could go on to emulate the great Denis Law. Of course it would be churlish of me to suggest that the Mexican will achieve this any time soon but his pivotal role within the United squad is becoming more and more pronounced by the game. Prior to Hernandez’s introduction from the bench at Anfield just prior to the eighty minute mark Danny Welbeck looked isolated, he led the line admirably with plenty of effort and passion as would be expected from a Mancunian playing at Anfield but it was too little effect. The introduction of the sprightly Hernandez seemed to change that, yes the game had opened up anyway after Steven Gerrard had put Liverpool in front but Hernandez suddenly caused problems for Carragher and Skrtel. Welbeck was now able to drop deep causing an unsettling movement in the Liverpool back four, although this new impetus of movement did not directly lead to Man United’s goal but Hernandez’s movement proved too much for Martin Skrtel and Chicharito took full advantage.
2. Credit to Liverpool but they are far from the finished article
For those of you out their chastising United’s 1-1 draw with Liverpool as a bad result you should maybe think carefully at that statement. Yes of course you want to beat your rivals, especially Liverpool but it is important to respect the calibre of the opposition and the cauldron of noise that is Anfield. Liverpool played well and may in part consider themselves unlucky not too have come away with three points after a flurry of late chances. Suarez is a fantastic player even if he does hit the deck a little too easily and you can never discount Steven Gerrard, however Saturday’s game only proved to highlight that although Liverpool will undoubtedly have a damn sight better season that last year they are far from the finished article. Up until the free kick which brought about Liverpool’s opening goal they had offered little, okay neither had United but Liverpool were at home, they should have been expected to take the game to a United team containing a fair few inexperienced players. Mid-way through the second half Liverpool probably looked the more likely of the two teams to break the dead-lock but they were hardly hammering the door down. If this had been United at Old Trafford I would have been disappointed with the lack of impetus shown from the home side prior to their goal which some will say came from a dubious free kick (for what it’s worth I think the referee got the decision right, it was no more or less a foul than when Agger fouled Berbatov at Old Trafford last year which resulted in a penalty). In that respect I could understand why Ferguson opted not to make changes earlier which would have been so easy, with Liverpool not offering much it was clear that Ferguson was hoping for a smash and grab victory similar to the last two times we won at Anfield (O’Shea 1-0 06/07 and Tevez 1-0 07/08) however it was just unfortunate that Sir Alex was just preparing the substitutes when Gerrard struck. Liverpool were effective in patches however they do not look like title material for me, it’s always tough at Anfield as undoubtedly they raise their game and the fans sing themselves hoarse but I have no doubt that we will comfortably beat them at Old Trafford.
3. Great to see Jones starting in midfield, but was it the right game to put him in?
I along with a large bulk of the United supporting faithful have been desperate to see Phil Jones playing in midfield. I expected his chance to come sooner rather than later however I did not for one minute expect him to be thrown in at the deep end at Anfield of all places. One thing it did do was to test his positional discipline as he was tasked with the job of marshalling Charlie Adam’s forays forward. He did this admirably well only once losing his man which did almost result in a goal for Liverpool but David De Gea made a good save from the advancing Suarez. Although his deeper role may have prohibited his customary charging runs through the field I believe his game time at Anfield will have done Jones the power of good. As impressive as he has been in recent weeks he has been slightly guilty of leaving his fellow defenders lagging at the back when he has advanced forward, more-so when he has been playing at Centre-Half. Being employed in a shackling role will have improved Phil’s discipline in the midfield as he begins to learn the craft of when to go and when to stay. I would attest that at the moment Phil Jones’ most effective position is at right-back as this enables us to utilise his defensive and attacking ability to the largest extent, at a young age complacency is bound to creep in and playing wide right allows him slightly more margin for error than if he was operating in the spine of the team. On a personal note I am undecided as to which position I see Jones’ long term future but his versatility will be an asset for years to come.
4. Decision to bench Rooney ultimately vindicated
Despite a shocking week for the Liverpool born forward I think few would have predicted Rooney to start on the bench against Anfield. His three game Euro 2012 ban has clearly affected Rooney deeply which only goes to show his passion for the national team in spite of some of the moronic comments I have been reading that have been directed toward Rooney in the past week, yes he was stupid and should not have done it but he didn’t kill anyone! However, despite a tumultuous week I was amongst many who expected to see Rooney leading the line come Saturday afternoon, I was even as bold to say Rooney would ‘definitely score’. I genuinely did, how often have you seen it before, Rooney chastised by the media and either fans of England or other clubs only to go and score a sensational goal in the following fixture. He did it only last year after controversy surrounded Rooney again after he elbowed Wigan’s James McCarthy and then went on to score the opening goal against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge in the following fixture, that’s just the way he works. At Anfield he had to make do with a place on the bench, whether or not his head wasn’t in the right place or Ferguson didn’t want to subject him to ninety minutes of inevitable abuse one can only guess but I support Ferguson’s decision to do what he did. He was able to bring Rooney for the last fifteen minutes and he helped United salvage what could prove to be an incredibly important point come May.
5. Ferdinand answers in critics
Another Englishman who has endured his fair share of negative press in recent weeks is Rio Ferdinand. A constant topic in the news after events in his personal life and then even more-so after being dropped from the England squad, a reaction that I believe was completely over the top. When Capello picked the England squad two weeks ago Rio had been out injured and had only just returned to play fifteen minutes against Norwich at Old Trafford albeit he did play ninety minutes against Basel the previous Wednesday. As for Capello why should he not pick players who have been playing on a more consistent basis, it only makes sense that the Italian will want fully fit players rather than players on the road back to optimum fitness. For some to question Ferdinand’s ability because of this belies belief, I even heard one United fan say he is the weak link in the United side, I could not disagree more. He may have lost that extra yard of pace he had in his younger years but his reading of the game and his positional sense are second to none and you can’t teach that, only experience will bring it. To hear ridiculous rumours such as Ferdinand going to play in the MLS League make me laugh, Ferdinand showed against Liverpool he still has the ability to play for Manchester United for at least another season after this one. He marshalled Suarez to great effect and I would argue that he led the back four better than Patrice Evra has done in recent weeks, that experience at the back is essential if this young team is to progress. During the summer United sold John O’Shea, Wes Brown and could only watch on as Gary Neville and Edwin van der Sar retired. Four experienced mainstays of the United defence departed in one foul swoop so to even notion the thought of moving on more is a joke in itself. I for one cannot understand why some do not rate Ferdinand, for me he is one of the best English defenders of the last ten or twenty years, he is a relaxing, cool presence on the back four which will be of huge benefit to the likes of Jonny Evans, Chris Smalling and Phil Jones who are still learning their trade much as Laurent Blanc played that role to a young Rio back in 2002. Although some may have reservations of the amount of media based ventures Ferdinand gets himself involved in as long as it does not affect his game on the pitch I have no qualms what so ever. Ferdinand is still very much aware of the fact that it was football which enabled him to enjoy the finer side of life and it is football which he loves the most. Each time I watch him play he gives 100% for United and I believe it still grates with him that he was unable to take up the United captaincy because of all to regular injuries over the past two seasons. For me Rio is the man and alongside Vidic will continue to guide United to more success for the next couple of years.
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