Manchester United beat their old foes Liverpool 3-2 at Old Trafford Sunday, thanks in all parts to Dimitar Berbatov. The Bulgarian gave United fans what they've been waiting years for with a hat-trick to stave off Liverpool's late fight back. But even with the win, Sir Alex Ferguson has real problems in his side.
Berbatov gave his team a 2-0 lead by the hour mark, and the Reds weren't doing anything to counter that. They lacked creativity and had barely gotten to the edge of United's penalty area. Then, a silly foul on Fernando Torres by Jonny Evans gifted the Reds a penalty which Steven Gerrard duly put away. A few minutes later John O'Shea committed a foolish foul on Torres and was very lucky not to be sent off. Gerrard's subsequent free kick went through the wall and into the back of the net with such ease, you forgot what team Liverpool was facing.
Gerrard's were the first goals the Red Devils have allowed at home this season, but they've been anything but impenetrable, and they've had a habit of relinquishing leads late in the game. This game could've been another one United let slip if O'Shea had been sent off, but he wasn't and Berbatov was there to score the winner six minutes from time.
Ferguson has to be worried about how weak his defense has been so far this season, and there's no real excuse for it. Young, inexperienced teams are expected to lose leads and make mistakes, but Manchester United has more experience than any other team in the Premier League. Experience centered around winning and maintaining leads for that matter.
Another thing that would've angered Ferguson was Nani's behavior. He had some good moments and had a cracking effort come off the inside of the bar, but he spent most of the game rolling around on the floor. He flopped so many times and was lucky not to see a card for a flop in the penalty area when Daniel Agger was barely touching him.
On the other side, Liverpool's problems have been known for a while now. The team lacks width and failed to really cause problems in United's penalty box all game because of it. Maxi Rodriguez for some reason doesn't have the pace he had last season, and with Dirk Kuyt out injured he'll likely have to play as Ryan Babel and Milan Jovanovic are both left-sided players.
Most worrying however, is the fact that Torres' poor form is still making headlines. He's had a hard year with injuries but he's had plenty of time to recover from the one sustained in the World Cup Final, and Liverpool relies on him too heavily for him to play like this anymore. He had no life about him once again, but to his credit, he didn't get much service until the penalty. Most alarming is that Liverpool hasn't showed real threat going forward all season.
However, it was a bad pass from Torres that gave United the ball back on their own penalty box which led to a corner and Berbatov's winner. Earlier it was his poor marking that gave Berbatov the opening goal off a free header from just a few yards out. Torres hasn't been himself, but the injuries just aren't a viable excuse anymore.
In all, these aren't the kind of games Liverpool should be expecting to win to get to fourth place, even though it could've ended differently had O'Shea been sent off. But the Reds can't continue to play a lackluster game and just wait for something to happen to them. The top teams need to make things happen.
United meanwhile can't keep pushing its luck, and Rio Ferdinand returning isn't really the most assuring thing given his own injury record.