MANCHESTER UNITED 1-1 LIVERPOOL
The result of this leg might have been 1-1, but Liverpool came out as winners of this game. We’d done enough in the first leg at Anfield to secure a victory because once we’d travelled to Manchester and even scored an away goal, qualification was deserved. Liverpool are through to the Europa League Quarter Finals.
Our manager was not shying away from using the best players in our squad. We had Daniel Sturridge starting in a strikers position and in defence, we saw Clyne, Lovren and Sakho. The biggest shock was to see James Milner filling in for the currently injured Alberto Moreno at left back. Milner is typically a midfielder but did very well at the manager’s request to provide extra defensive strength in our Europa League fixture. Nobody can deny that he’s versatile. We’ve seen Milner go forward in attack, provide assists for goals and also score himself but he’s capable of even getting back when we’re short of players and need him to stop our opponents scoring.
The first half was quite even, nobody was dominating. Liverpool had their chances and United also played just as well. The first goal came just after the half hour mark, when a break from Anthony Martial in the penalty area saw a debateable penalty given. Martial had drawn Nathaniel Clyne to his area, forcing him to make a challenge for the ball and when that challenge came in, Martial seemed to throw himself down to the pitch and the referee had unfortunately interpreted the dive as a genuine foul. Which it was not. I don’t lie about these things, I’m just here to give you the facts about the game and the fact was – Anthony Martial seemed to throw himself down to the pitch after what was a relatively harmless tackle, with little to no bad intentions from Clyne.
Martial would then step up for the spot kick and put the 12 yard shot into the left side of the net. Mignolet dived the wrong way. Manchester United 1-0 Liverpool. However the aggregate scoreline was still Manchester United 1-2 Liverpool. Due to the two goal victory at Anfield, United had certainly not done enough to truly “take a lead” over Liverpool just yet.
United’s goal scorer Anthony Martial is officially the world’s most expensive teenage footballer, with a value of £36M. Even their “wonder-kid” would truly have to bring something more wonderful than just a penalty kick to help Man United qualify. A hat trick, at least.
Martial’s goal wasn’t very worrying, to be honest. The fact that United had to score three goals (if Liverpool did not score at Old Trafford) to outscore Liverpool on aggregate (3-2) meant we wouldn’t lose even if we didn’t score… all we’d have to do is not concede twice more. If Liverpool did manage to score an “away goal” United would also have to score a 4th goal, to beat us 4-3. A 3-3 aggregate draw would have even allowed Liverpool to qualify, using the away goals rule which Atletico Bilbao just used to qualify for the Europa League Quarter Finals.
United looked more confident after their goal in the 32nd minute and leading up to half time, they probably thought they’d be leading at the break. But they’d have thought wrong. In the the last minute of extra time in the first half, Liverpool would that important away goal I was talking about – the one that meant United would HAVE to score 4 goals if they wanted to qualify now.
The goal came as Emre Can passed out a ball to Coutinho, who’d ran into the United penalty area already. Unlike Martial, Coutinho doesn’t want to get into the penalty area to dive and hopefully win a penalty kick, he almost always wants to shoot and score… or sometimes to provide his teammates with an assist from close range. This time, he would shoot and score from inside the 6 yard box as he had a 1 on 1 close encounter with David De Gea.
De Gea seemed intent on saving Coutinho’s shot – so much so that he had run off his goalline to meet Liverpool’s player. But interestingly, when he brought his arms up to save the shot he had to be thinking that Coutinho would try shooting to the right since that’s where he put his arms and hands up to as he attempted to make a save at first (and then he’d edge a little closer and bring his arms down low), but the Brazilian did not make the choices the United goalkeeper had been expecting him to. Coutinho chose to shoot to the left hand side of De Gea, a small area of the net that was hard to put the ball into after De Gea had closed down the available areas to shoot at (trying to shoot to the right or down low would have ended with a save by De Gea), but Coutinho’s shot lifted over De Gea to the pefect location as it found the net with precision placement. Half time would be called for very shortly after this goal and our manager must surely have been smiling at his team as they met Klopp in the changing rooms at Old Trafford.
Man United 1-1 Liverpool (Man United 1-3 Liverpool on aggregate).
The goal by Coutinho had eased Liverpool fan’s worries, if they had any at all before we had scored and after we’d conceded to United in the first half.
Before the game had even kicked off, United’s manager Louis Van Gaal had been interviewed and made an outrageous statement that surely, he now regrets saying (as it was proven untrue). He said “United can score four goals, even if Liverpool score an away goal at Old Trafford”. He then went on to state that as United had scored four goals against Danish side FC Midtjylland, they would be able to recreate that again and score the same amount of goals against us. Err… just one problem, Van Gaal. We are better than Midtjylland and much less likely to concede four times. WE ARE LIVERPOOL FC!
We also have Simon Mignolet. He receives a fair amount of criticism at times when Liverpool concede goals or perhaps lose games but honestly, his defensive records speak for themselves and make clear the high quality of player we have. He’s kept clean sheets for Liverpool on countless occasions and the times when you’re too busy concentrating on who Liverpool’s goalscorers were as we won, you may not have noticed that Mignolet was also part of the winning team and was the guy between the goalposts, who had been saving shots that could have been goals (but weren’t) all game so that we may all enjoy our victory. He deserves credit. Lots of credit. There is no better goalkeeper at Liverpool right now, we’d surely have to transfer another goalkeeper into the club if we wanted anyone better than Mignolet. He’s definitely one of the best goalkeepers in the Premier League (only a few can equal his clean sheets records) and of course, still one of the best goalkeepers in the Europa League. In this game specifically, Mignolet was not to blame for the penalty that was given (Clyne was the one challenging Anthony Martial for the ball in the penalty area before United were awarded their penalty) and tried his best to stop it going in, once the penalty was taken. I was however, still singing and chanting his name at various points throughout the game.
Mignolet put in a good performance and at times, made crucial saves which saw United fail to score as he denied them. His confident shot stopping gives confidence to fans that we’re “safe at the back” and then we have the deserved belief that Liverpool can just continue to focus more on scoring than maybe conceding. Fans need to feel that, nobody likes to be scared that your opposition could score at any moment. from any attack. With Mignolet in goal, that’s not gonna happen.
As the second half began, our team and our fans and our manager already all knew what United had to do for qualifcation to the next round of the Europa League in the next 45 minutes was very hard to achieve. We surely would be able to stop them from scoring three more times. They could score once or twice more and still not qualify. However, they would not do that even. We’d not concede any more goals at Old Trafford. The United fans will likely call this a “draw” to hide their shame and make out like they weren’t losers but Liverpool were definitely winners as they won over two legs, by full time we’d beaten our local rivals Man United 1-3 Liverpool on aggregate.
The second half saw more rough play, nothing incredibly unusual for a Liverpool V Manchester United fixture. However, Marouane Fellaini had been making these kind of fouls since the first leg at Anfield. He was seen in that game, elbowing Emre Can in the face.
Shortly after that game, Emre Can would give an interview and speak about the incident. Can played it down and casually shrugged it off – “these things happen in competitive fixtures”, showing no outrage at all. It seems he was forgiven by Can at least and there was a chance that it wouldn’t happen more than once, but we’d soon see that it would also happen in the next Europa League tie we had to play with United.
UEFA may now have to investigate Fellaini’s actions further as when he did it again at Old Trafford (playing as rough as he liked and throwing elbows up towards the faces of Liverpool’s players), he received a yellow card and has collected 5 consecutive yellow cards by now (not all in one game) which means he will at least miss the next game United have to play. A certain 1 game ban for him and if UEFA see fit to further extend his ban or perhaps fine him for repeatedly and clearly fouling other players (in a manner that includes elbowing players in their faces), then it may only get worse for Fellaini.
Liverpool can handle fouls, though. We didn’t see any serious injuries occur as a result of fouls and since the referee gave him his 5th yellow card and disciplinary action will be taken against Fellaini by UEFA, we really didn’t have to react to it within the 90 minutes of the game. What’s worse than fouls, is goals. But United weren’t scoring enough goals to beat us on aggregate and the more time they spent roughing us up, the less time they spent making attacks on goal which could have ended in them scoring.
Later on, Liverpool would use all 3 of their available substitutions. From the 68th minute we’d get to see Divock Origi as he replaced Daniel Sturridge (he did NOT look happy to come off the pitch, but we’ve seen Origi make big impacts soon after coming on, including him scoring within a minute). Three minutes later we’d also see Joe Allen, who replaced our captain Jordan Henderson in midfield. Hendo gave the captain’s armband to James Milner as he left the pitch. Then around the 85th minute, Roberto Firmino (who had received a yellow card a couple of minutes earlier) was replaced by Christian Benteke. The manager clearly wants to use Firmino in coming fixtures and couldn’t risk his Brazilian attacker getting a second yellow card (which means a red card and to miss a game) possibly, so off he came. There was only around 7 minutes left to play including extra time after Benteke had come on to the pitch. Liverpool secured their victory and progressed to the Europa League Quarter Finals.
Man Of The Match? That honour goes to Coutinho. He’d taken four shots on goal and also scored for Liverpool. We’d looked a little shaky in the first half after United were awarded a penalty and we still hadn’t scored yet. However, Coutinho’s goal at the end of the first half really put belief and confidence back into the side and the Reds fans and we were sure we’d make it past the second half and into the Europa League Quarter Finals after “the Magician” had secured our magic away goal.
The potential opponents for the next round now include (winners of the last 16): Atletico Bilbao, Borussia Dortmund, Villareal, Sparta Prague, Shaktar Donetsk, Sporting Braga and current Europa League holders – Sevilla. The draw for the Europa League Quarter Finals fixtures will take place Friday 18th March at 12PM GMT. Fixtures are due to be played around 5th and 6th April and then the second leg around 12th and 13th April.
I hope you all enjoyed watching our victory against our rivals as much as I did.
This actually hasn’t been seen before. Even my dear old grandfather (who’d seen many years more of Liverpool’s games than I have) hadn’t ever seen a UEFA Cup two leg tie between Liverpool and Manchester United before. It’s been the first time it’s happened and Liverpool officially were the victors for this unique fixture. We’ve beaten United in Europe, Granddad! How about that?! Yeah, it feels great and I’m loving it too.
Walk on, with hope in your hearts and You’ll Never Walk Alone, Anfield Family.
[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 (more than 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.