Manchester United vs. Liverpool: 6 Things We Learned
Brendan Rodgers’ team never got going in the opening 45 minutes, with Robin van Persie profiting from his teammates being given too much time and space to give his side the lead within the opening 20 minutes.
Rodgers changed things around in the second half, but slack defending allowed Nemanja Vidic to double United’s lead when a header from Patrice Evra struck him and found the back of the net.
Daniel Sturridge had been key to Liverpool’s attempted turnaround, and he followed up Steven Gerrard’s effort to halve the deficit, but Liverpool ultimately slipped to a frustrating defeat, their fifth straight loss at the home of their old rivals.
Here are six lessons the Reds would have learned from their afternoon in Manchester.
Fortune Favours the Brave
Liverpool’s second-half display only made their performance in the first more infuriating, with the Reds doing everything in the second period that they should have done in the first.
Blame it on Rodgers if you want, but the Reds simply weren’t brave enough to take the game to a team who have had a tendency to concede the opening goal on several occasions this season. They ultimately paid the price.
Picking up that bravery to take on the top teams again will all be part of this new Liverpool—a Liverpool 2.0, if you will—and this was another chance missed.
Options Are Available
For so long this season there have been little to no options available for Rodgers to look to change things from the bench, but things were suddenly different here.
The appearance of Sturridge and surprisingly Fabio Borini on the bench, and later the pitch, suddenly gave Liverpool a different dimension.
These players can look to link with Luis Suarez—even on a below par day for the Uruguayan like this was—and if they can show enough attacking intent they will help transform things for the Reds in the attacking stakes.
This may have been a defeat, but it showed more promise than many wins this season.
The Value of Wisdom
The loss of Jose Enrique is undoubtedly a huge blow to a Liverpool side, who were reaping the benefits of the Spaniard’s raids down the left flank, but it will give fans more opportunities to see Andre Wisdom in action.
The teenager, who signed a new contract in midweek, gave yet another in a series of promising performances, and has indicated that he is certainly one for both the future and the present.
His development looks as though it’ll be a fascinating one to watch.
Daniel Sturridge Can Be a Game Changer
Forget appearances off the bench—Daniel Sturridge wants to be starting matches every week, and he showed the quality that should allow him to do just that at Old Trafford.
Sturridge altered Liverpool’s entire approach when he came on in the second half, and his willingness to link up with Suarez showcased an aspect of Liverpool’s play which simply hasn’t been there all season.
A second goal in two games will help matters too, and if he can keep this form up then he could be a fans’ favourite in the making.
A start against Norwich at Anfield next week looks guaranteed.
Lucas Leiva Still Isn’t ‘there’ Yet
It was always going to take a while for the Brazilian to get back to top form following almost a year out of competitive football, and Lucas Leiva has struggled somewhat over the past six weeks as he bids to reach old heights.
Perhaps he was a victim of the team’s poor display overall in the first half—with Joe Allen in particular not doing much to help him out—but Lucas looked off the pace as he tried to keep up with the impressive Manchester United pairing of Michael Carrick and Tom Cleverley in the centre of midfield.
Indeed it was Lucas’s removal at half-time which helped Liverpool get back into the game, as Sturridge’s arrival introduced more of an urgency which had been lacking in the first half.
As with everything to do with Lucas and Liverpool at the moment, patience is required in order to produce the best results.
The Pressing Issue
Pressing the opposition team when not in possession of the ball is a key quality that Rodgers has been looking to bring to this Liverpool team, but it simply wasn’t there in the first half at Old Trafford.
In recent weeks it has been Jordan Henderson who has proved to be the best at doing this task, but his omission put the onus on Gerrard, Allen and Lucas to perform this task in the centre of the field, but it didn’t happen.
United were given too much time to dictate the play, none more so than in the build-up to their first goal.
Liverpool missed a trick in not pressing them there and eventually paid the price.