Man United 0 Liverpool 3: Four talking points as Reds continue title march
Man United 0 Liverpool 3: Four talking points as Steven Gerrard inspires the Reds to victory over Old Trafford
Steven Gerrard has taken part in his fair share of full-blooded north-west derbies during a decorated Liverpool career. The latest edition in the Manchester United-Liverpool rivalry proved no different and Gerrard was a commanding presence throughout. Brendan Rodgers has lavished praise on the 33-year-old for his performances in a deep-lying role, and while the Liverpool manager has been over effusive in his praise of his skipper’s impact in the new position, Gerrard came into his own against United. Marouane Fellaini and Phil Jones felt the full brunt of a gusto Gerrard tackle as the Reds skipper embodied the passion of traditionally England’s biggest game. But there is also a need for calm heads in such high octane clashes – and the England centurion remained composed, especially after his first-half booking. He distributed the ball to younger legs in the shape of Joe Allen and Jordan Henderson as he designed United’s downfall. When Luis Suarez won a first-half penalty, Gerrard edged closer to the club’s all-time penalty scorer with his seventh Premier League penalty of the season. It got even better for the midfielder when he beat David De Gea from the spot again early in the second half before squandering his chance to score a hat-trick of penalties. Is Gerrard daring to believe his wait for a league winner’s medal is over? His post-match interview would have you believe so.
Disjointed United midfield
Former United defender Gary Neville stressed how disjointed the Red Devils midfield was in the first half at Old Trafford. With Adnan Januzaj and Juan Mata hugging the left and right touchline, Allen and Henderson were able to exploit the space infield to find Daniel Sturridge, Raheem Sterling and Suarez. It was a strange selection decision by the United manager who has often deployed the more defensively astute Antonio Valencia or Ashley Young out wide this season to help protect his full-backs. Presumably feeling under pressure to get a result against United’s most bitter of rivals, Moyes decided to go for a more attacking approach to appease disgruntled fans who see no signs of a strategy under the new Scot in the Old Trafford hot seat. The gamble backfired spectacularly.
Genuine title contenders?
Are Liverpool genuine Premier League title contenders? It is a question which has been asked regularly over the past couple of months after routs against former leaders Arsenal and derby rivals Everton at Anfield. Rodgers, Gerrard et al have all stressed that the Reds are merely seeking to secure as high a finish as possible. But could their 3-0 victory at Old Trafford be the turning point? Liverpool dominated the Red Devils from the first minute and such an emphatic performance against the defending champions and at a ground which has traditionally been a testing one for the Merseyside outfit is a huge statement. Arsenal and Manchester City are out of the Champions League, with the latter also exiting the FA Cup. So, Liverpool aren’t the only side with the advantage of having little or no distractions in the title race. What Rodgers does have at his disposal are four of the Premier League’s form players in the shape of Gerrard, Sterling, Sturridge and Suarez. Keep that quartet firing, Liverpool have a real chance. It would be fitting too if the Reds could end the wait for the Premier League crown after coming so close in the 2008-09 when they last won at Old Trafford.
Moyes’s United future
The Moyes Out bandwagon is gaining more and more momentum, and crucially, the United manager is doing himself no favours. While a head coach must accept responsibility for setting his side up in an ineffectual manner, as Moyes did against Liverpool’s mobile midfield, the Scot had the chance to change to outcome of the match before Gerrard broke the deadlock. However, the 51-year-old failed to make his midfield more compact and it was only a matter of time before Liverpool ceased being wasteful in front of De Gea’s goal. Any successful manager needs to be reactive to certain scenarios in games, especially against opposition of such stature and a game of such significance, but Moyes failed to make a change until the 76th minute. That failure was staggering considering Liverpool’s dominance. It took Sir Alex Ferguson 25 years to knock Liverpool off their perch, but has Moyes really taken less than six months to topple the Red Devils off their own? The United boss needs more from his players but he, too, must step up and prove he is worthy of such an illustrious role.