A dead first half, three poor defensive judgements and one moment of brilliance: that perhaps sums up Liverpool’s entire game at Old Trafford yesterday. As we reviewed earlier, the match was expected to be a ‘three points or nothing‘ affair for both the teams’ managers. However, both team’s dull performances in the first half had raised the expectation among both sets of fans that the game could have ended in a draw. Yet, less than 5 minutes after the resumption of the second half, Liverpool conceded a goal unexpectedly as a freekick from just outside the left of the penalty box was surprisingly converted into a ‘training ground goal’ by Daley Blind. Liverpool were thus down 1-0.

20 minutes later, Manchester United doubled the lead through a penalty by Ander Herrera after young Joe Gomez fouled him inside the box. All hopes seemed to be lost, until Christian Benteke put a stunning goal with a bicycle kick in the 84th minute. However, only 2 minutes later Manchester United extended their lead when the Liverpool defense failed to deal with Anthony Marshall’s dribbling, who easily put the ball past Mignolet. It thus finished 3-1, which was the third consecutive defeat for Liverpool against their bitter rivals.

The five things to consider

Why did the Reds defense suddenly falter in the second half?
Truth be told, both sets of teams weren’t very convincing in the first half. However, the game changed entirely in the second half following the entry of Ashley Young. Less than four minutes later, he won the crucial freekick which gave them the lead. Yet, it’s not very often that we see an easy goal like that being scored, with 9 players defending in the D-box. Too much space was provide to Blind, despite him being the only player in goal sight. Then again, inexperience got the better of promising youngster Gomez as he foolishly fouled Herera to give Manu the chance to double their lead. The third goal then was conceded by Liverpool, when they tried to find a way to return to the game and focused entirely on the attack. Thus, Liverpool’s defense certainly looked immensely weak, compared to the first half with the Reds now having conceded 6 goals in two successive games.

Why did we leave too much space at the left?
While Manchester United didn’t threaten too much in the first half, Liverpool’s weak left midfield zone was constantly exploited by Manchester United as Carrick and Schweinsteiger consistently provided several crosses to the D-box from the left. With Rodgers not making any change despite the visible vulnerability in the zone, Ashley young easily exploited the area to provide the first successful goalscoring opportunity to Manchester. Nathaniel Clyne would often be the sole Liverpool player defending the opposition advances from the left and ultimately the third goal by Marshall too materialized through this vulnerable area.


Benteke provided the only bright moment in the game for Liverpool fans

Why aren’t we using Benteke’s aerial abilities?
Liverpool’s only golden moment in the game was the stunning and amazing goal by Benteke, who successfully used a rare air ball to manoeuvre a brilliant bicycle kick that put the ball behind the net of David De Gea. With manager Rodgers constantly focusing towards a passing game, it seemed like Liverpool’s players had forgotten in the game that Benteke’s height could indeed be taken as a big advantage. Despite fielding Ings, Benteke was positioned in the sole striker position like the one Rodgers often prefers. Benteke thus was constantly checked by at least 3 opposition defenders anytime, while their midfield were positioned to frequently intercept the advances of Ings and Firmino.

Why isn’t the defense lineup being rotated?
As if the heavy defeat against West Ham United wasn’t enough, Rodgers again opted to put the same defensive lineup that he had been using in the last four games. Playing the same defensive lineup on and on doesn’t just translate to fatigue among players, but also provides a certain degree of predictability for the opposing managers. Then the issue of demotivated defensive substitutes could also emerge in the near future. Clyne has perhaps been the only consistent performer among the four starting defenders at Liverpool.

Why aren’t we attacking from wide areas?
Liverpool’s attack from the wide often looked ineffective throughout the game. In particular, the left wide area was almost never used for attack. It appeared as if the opposing midfielders and defenders never needed to put some big defensive efforts inside their half. It’s perhaps irrational to assume that Manchester United could so easily seal all areas of their midfield, without observing the fault in Liverpool’s gameplay.

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