LIVERPOOL 0-1 MAN UNITED
Oh well. You can’t win them all. Sorry, Liverpool fans but no matter how you talk about this result, it just won’t make you happy. Look away now if you can’t stand reliving the frustration and horror of having to be defeated by Manchester United at Anfield.
The lead up to this game was rather less upsetting than previous seasons and I am quite certain why this is. The absence of Alex Ferguson. It’s a well known fact that Ferguson absolutely hated Liverpool and he would play mind games with us, most frequently from about a week leading up the fixture with Liverpool. You can be sure that in the 7 days leading up to the big game, Ferguson always had something to say.
He’d do interviews and make public statements in the short time before the day of the fixture between the two rival teams and would make sure that he put himself in a position where he could gloat abundantly if his team happened to be victorious. It was a lead up to him saying “SEE? I told you Liverpool weren’t as good as they used to be… we WON”. That kind of thing happened for many seasons and it made Liverpool fans even more determined to get a victory also, so we could knock Ferguson off his high horse and make him look stupid for saying the things about how his side was going to win. Ferguson had a way of making fans furious before the game had even started and extremely determined to make sure United saw the error of their ways if they lost.
Fortunately, Louis Van Gaal doesn’t seem to be very bothered about doing these kind of things, he’d rather just prepare his team and tactics and then do the talking on the pitch, as they say. I have not felt angry with the new Manchester United manager at all.
This game was quite even. There was no major difference in squad strength, we both had equally strong sides even in the starting 11.
Klopp would have Jordan Henderson back in midfield again, Nathaniel Clyne at right back, even Sakho in central defence. New loan signing Stephen Caulker would be available as a substitute and would make an appearance in this fixture, eventually. Nobody could say that Klopp could have used better players… the only “better” ones we have are currently injured and therefore unavailable for use. They’d be listed on the team sheet for a fixture like this if we truly could have put them in the squad. We make do with what we’ve got at our disposal right now.
The game started as you’d expect a Manchester V Liverpool game to start… with both sides seeking to take an early lead, but neither being able to. Defences were tight at both ends and nobody was going to concede an early goal to their bitter rivals from the NorthWest of England.
At times, Liverpool played rather defensively. Not as tight as Mourinho’s Chelsea, parking the bus. He used to have 8 “defenders” (though in reality it was 4 defenders and 4 midfielders playing at the back in the role of 8 defenders). But Liverpool still had 5 or 6 players in very defensive positions at times when Manchester United were attacking in full force. We seemed to understand the importance of adaptation in situations as they arise, never underestimating the strength of the opponent we were playing.
Liverpool were not without opportunities to score in either half. One player who became increasingly frustrating to watch as the game went on was Jordan Henderson. The guy had multiple scoring opportunities in both halves and just didn’t convert them into goals. Eventually, the fans started asking themselves if we should have possibly chosen another player that would be more likely to score from the chances that arise for them. I love Hendo so much, but there were just times when I wanted a player who could have increased the amount of goals we had instead of only increasing the “shots on target” statistic, which mostly is just a bunch of saved, blocked or missed goalscoring opportunities.
One player that really impressed me was James Milner. He seemed to be in the heart of everything that was going on, from assisting his teammates with passes to making important tackles as he continually challenged for the ball (and often winning it) and even acting as a striker at times. I swear he was in the penalty area more than Lallana who (at least while players like Origi, Ings and Sturridge are out injured) is really supposed to be one of the two “strikers” in a standard 4-4-2 formation, even though he’s naturally more of an attacking midfielder. Milner didn’t frustrate me as Henderson was. Milner made me feel happy and confident with his performance. He was part of our strength, not a weakness.
By the end of the first half, Liverpool had been in control of the ball just as much as Man United had, maybe a little more. We’d been to their penalty area and tried our luck multiple times. We hadn’t scored, but then again neither had our opponents. I thought positively at half time and my feelings were telling me that “one goal can probably win this game” and although it was our opposition who got the game winning goal, I was still right about how the game was to be won. It really could have been Liverpool with the three points by the end of the game, but it just wasn’t to be in this fixture.
The second half saw more of the same. The teams came back out to attacking and counter attacking. United get the ball, run down to Liverpool’s penalty area and see if they can get a chance to shoot and maybe score. Then Liverpool go and do the same, down the other end of the pitch. It wasn’t a particularly rough game, but there was a couple of cards shown by the referee throughout the 90 minutes. Smalling and Fellaini had both been pushing us around, shoving Liverpool players to the ground to win the ball and generally not playing very fair up until the point where the match official had warned them that they might be asked to leave the pitch if they continued as they were.
Liverpool’s attacks did continue. In a game where Liverpool did not score or win, it’s a little harder to choose a “Man Of The Match”, though in this case I will go with the player who continually attacked and almost scored on multiple occasions… Roberto Firmino.
The player who had scored twice in our 3-3 draw with Arsenal had yet again tried hard to provide more goals for Liverpool. We saw him make effort after effort on goal and from this player, I got more feelings of hope that he would score than frustration that he wasn’t scoring.
Make no mistake about it, our opponents defended well and perhaps he was just a little unlucky at times not to have actually put the ball in the net, but that does not take away from the finest performance our team saw in a competitive Premier League fixture. Some of the positives to take away from our defeat is that we saw some players play to the best of their abilities against a tough team, one of the best in the entire league. We also weren’t competing in a knockout competition with Man United, it was just one of the many (38) league fixtures and to be honest, you can always move up the table even after you’ve lost to one of the biggest teams like Man United.
I haven’t spoken yet about how we did lose, specifically. I’ll just go over how the only and winning goal of the game was scored, quickly.
Liverpool had conceded a corner around the 77th minute. Kolo Toure had just a minute earlier stopped Fellaini from scoring a rebound as his headed shot had hit the crossbar, but then Toure gathered the rebounded shot quickly and managed to eventually clear the ball over our crossbar. It felt like the danger was over, we’d just clear this corner and get on with the game and trying to either claim a point from a 0-0 draw or possibly score once (and also don’t concede) and win 1-0. Things were about to change, though.
The corner came in, there was a bit of a scramble for the ball, but eventually Wayne Rooney made enough space for a powerful shot that was blasted into the net from very close range. There really was no stopping it as once it had left his foot, it was almost instantly flying past our helpless goalkeeper who had no time to dive and save it. I do not blame Mignolet for this, it certainly wasn’t a “goalkeeping error”, it was just physics… the ball flew way too fast, from too close a range to save it from being scored. Nothing we could do about it.
Liverpool 0-1 Manchester United.
The game would continue for a further 12 minutes and a few extra minutes of injury time but the goal scored by the former Everton player and traitorous scouser who had left the Merseyside club to join Manchester United in 2004, was all it took to win the game. Liverpool would not equalise. Liverpool would try to get a goal but the same high level of defence that we’d seen for the 77 minutes before the goal was still there and maybe even tighter now. United would last until the end of the game and get their win.
Liverpool now continue through their fixture list and will soon be playing Exeter, in the FA Cup replay which will now take place at Anfield after we had already played and drawn in the city of Exeter.
[written by] Stuart Drewery.
I’m an Englishman (born and raised in Liverpool in the 80s). My whole family including my parents and grandparents were Liverpool fans so I was born into being a red.
I’ve seen Liverpool win the league (about 25 years ago) and I’ve been 100% loyal and committed while supporting the Reds through all the good times AND the bad times since the 80s