Manchester United 3
Berbatov 42, 59. 84
Gerrard 64 pen, 70
So what do you take from this game? Fergie says we “didn’t offer anything” however in saying so he surely underestimates the fragility of his own side and the fact that, for the second Premiership game in succession, they squandered a two goal lead, not bad for a side with “nothing to offer”?
True we went for long periods of the game under the cosh yet we hung on in there, via dogged determination or The Mancs inability to make it count, and eventually managed to make the most of the few chances we created. Two shots on target and two goals a worrying statistic with underlines our paucity in front of goal this season yet even though we were clearly not on song (yet), there was something to cheer about?
As expected both managers made changes from the midweek European games. HRH restored Torres, Gerrard, Carragher, Johnson, Skrtel, and Maxi. Meireles and Poulsen were in the holding roles leaving Gerrard free and Cole behind Torres. A positive line up designed to support and reinvigorate the supposedly out of sorts Torres?
The Mancs, as expected from the home side, began positively taking the game to us and pressing hard. Berbatov had a header that was dealt with by Konchesky however although they had plenty of ball, we survived but in a not entirely convincing way. After fifteen minutes a move involving Nani and Berbatov found us stretched for the first time giving cause to some keystone cops style defending as United pinged the ball round our penalty area thankfully Rooney and Nani let us off the hook with their poor attempts on goal.
However, there is no denying that we were unable to make any headway. No shots and just one corner in the first twenty five minutes. Torres was isolated, unable to make space and unable to be found. He resorted to desperately chasing down possession as if the ball was rare commodity but even when he did get it he was hopelessly outnumbered. Joe Cole was also anonymous lost in sea of red shirts and any chances we had to hit the box were wasted through poor delivery or dwelling on the ball too much allowing their players to get back. Even though we showed some signs on improving towards the end of the first half, the only surprise was that it took the Mancs so long to go in front which they eventually did thanks to a Berbatov header from a Giggs corner.
Questions must surely be asked as why Torres, a forward, was given the task of picking up the Bulgarian. What were the back four doing and who was organising who picks up who? In short why didn’t someone tell him to “go away” and leave the marking of key men to the defence? It was all too easy for the home side suggesting that, although we were still in the game, changes were needed if only to give them something to think about in the second half?
The second half saw more of the same with Nani crashing a thunderbolt against Reina’s left post he was then allowed to get in a cross which eventually found its way to Berbatov who got his second via a sublime overhead kick. A difficult one to comment on given the nature of the goal. Our defenders seemed close enough but who would have seen that coming? It was just a case of shrugging ones shoulders and resigning oneself to another typical Sunday at Old Trafford?!
This sparked HRH into making some changes bringing on Ngog however as the game threatened to run away from us we were handed an unexpected lifeline. Cole put Torres though who was clumsily upended by Evans. Gerrard made sure from the spot firing to Van der Sar’s left. This seemed to galvanise us. Shortly after O’Shea was lucky not to see red, via the “scoring chance rule” as he became the second Mancs defender to have a piece of Torres although it’s debatable if he would have got to the ball. Even though our man is out of sorts he can still bring out such desperateness from the opposition defence?
The resulting free kick seemed to take an age to take, I reckon I could have gone for a slash and a cup of tea and still found myself waiting. As a result it provoked all sorts of thoughts but not one that involved Meireles pulling away from the wall and allowing Gerrard to thread it home through the gap and invoke kissy, kissy camera time again! I’ve now got a bruised heel as a result of the jumping up and down!
After that our play had a more confident air but what to do now – go for it or protect what we have? HRH gave no indication as to this as he swapped defender for defender (Koncheski for Agger) and then Javanovic came on for Meireles. Then Berbatov answered the question with another header that comprehensively beat Carragher’s challenge leaving Reina stranded. We staged a mini rally but failed to punch any holes through a now calm, and I suspect rather relieved, Mancs defence
So a defeat but we can take some positives. Sure there were long periods of inertia but we kept at it and got back into the game. I don’t think anyone can deny the home side their victory however I suspect they will be sitting down tonight asking more questions, such as how they nearly let it slip again, than us. But where are we? We are slowly building no one is expecting too much from us this season, just as the Mancs were after Berbatov’s second, however as we proved today you shouldn’t write us off yet, there is still life in the liver bird?
Man Utd: Van der Sar, Evra, Vidic, O’Shea, Evans, Giggs (Macheda 82), Nani (Gibson 88), Scholes, Fletcher, Berbatov (Anderson 88), Rooney Substitutes: Kuszczak, Brown, Smalling, Anderson, Gibson, Owen, Macheda
Liverpool: Reina, Johnson. Konchesky (Agger 81), Carragher, Skrtel, Raul Meireles (Jovanovic 79), Gerrard, Cole, Maxi (Ngog 62), Poulsen, Torres Substitutes: Jones, Agger, Kyrgiakos, Lucas, Jovanovic, Babel, Ngog