Man United 2 Liverpool 1: Lessons from a tense top-flight encounter

What did we learn from Manchester United's 2-1 Premier League victory over Liverpool at Old Trafford on Saturday?

Premier League, 11 February 2012, Old Trafford
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Man United
2 - 1
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Liverpool

Suárez the pantomime villain

The tone of what was always going to be a particularly feisty north-west derby was set by Luis Suárez’s refusal to shake Patrice Evra’s hand before a ball had been kicked at Old Trafford. The United captain reacted angrily and grabbed the Uruguayan’s forehand to remonstrate. Then, just 21 seconds into the game, Evra looked set to clash with Suárez, only for Rio Ferdinand to inadvertently block his team-mate’s path. Kenny Dalglish’s decision to start the controversial Liverpool striker, which brought a game already simmering to boiling point, should be questioned.

Enrique’s loses his tussle with Antonio Valencia

Jose Enrique was one of the contenders for signing of the season, with the Spanish left-back earning rave reviews thanks to a string of impressive performances. However, the former Newcastle United defender struggled to contain one of English football’s in-form players in Antonio Valencia. Enrique was unable to cope with Valencia’s pace, and the United winger broke past the Spaniard to the byline on several occasions in the first half and was fortunate to escape a booking for two reckless challenges on the Ecuadorian.

Rooney makes it a perfect six

Wayne Rooney’s two-goal haul ensured the United striker would make the headlines for the right reasons. The 26-year-old broke the deadlock in the 46th minute when he connected with Ryan Giggs’ cross to fire past Pepe Reina. It was a sweetly struck finish, providing a bit of quality in a game otherwise spoiled by tensions between both sides. Two minutes later, and Rooney was the beneficiary of Jay Spearing’s charity as the Liverpool midfielder was pickpocketed by Valencia, before the United striker tucked his finish under Reina to double the home side’s lead. Rooney has now scored at least once against all of last season’s top six.

Dalglish gets it all wrong

Dalglish’s decision to start Suárez was one talking point, but the omission of Craig Bellamy and Andy Carroll cost Liverpool. Sir Alex Ferguson knocked the Reds off their perch in 2011 and the United manager oversaw Dalglish’s dethroning at Old Trafford. The 60-year-old was left to rue his decision to omit the in-form Welsh striker, instead opting to start Stewart Downing, who disappointed once again. When Bellamy and Carroll were introduced as second-half substitutes, the away side looked to have more urgency. Spearing was also disappointing alongside Steven Gerrard and Jordan Henderson, with Charlie Adam’s experience and passing ability a big miss for the Reds.

United’s old guard exude calm

Ferguson’s decision to start Ryan Giggs and Paul Scholes paid dividends as United’s two veterans kept the defending champions title bid on track during a difficult afternoon. Scholes was assured in possession and provided a link between defence and attack, while Giggs was composed throughout. With the Red Devils moving a point clear of City, who make the trip to Aston Villa on Sunday, the experience of the pair could prove to be the difference in their bid to pip Roberto Mancini’s side to the title.

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