Monday 23 March 2015

How van Gaal got it right: again

United manager Louis van Gaal has been criticised for his tactics at times this season, sometimes unfairly, but for the second game running he got them absolutely spot on just when we needed him to.

Just as against Tottenham last week, United took the game to Liverpool and got on the front foot early.
Van Gaal picked the same side from that Spurs match and the players looked very comfortable in their positions.

What impressed me about United was our work rate and intensity off the ball as much as on it.
Together, the whole team pressed Liverpool and put them under pressure high up the pitch.

We simply never let them breath.

Right from the kick off, United's midfielders were sharp into the tackle and composed when they had the ball.
This allowed us to control the middle of the pitch despite Liverpool playing four across the middle as opposed to our three of Carrick, Fellaini and Herrera. 

 In the second half our intensity dropped and we did not contain them as much as we had been, but against a good Liverpool side away from home that was no real surprise, even after Gerrard's red card.

Liverpool's pace from wide was one of the ways they were expected to threaten, but we had the measure of them there, too.
In particular, Juan Mata's dual with Alberto Moreno down United's right was a total mismatch.
He gave his fellow Spaniard a torrid afternoon.

Before the game, when I saw that Juan Mata had been picked ahead of Angel Di Maria, that match up with Moreno looked like one of the key encounters.

We know Mata is brilliant going forward but there are question marks over how good he is at tracking back.

Moreno is also attack minded as a left wing back in their 3-4-3 system.
It was going to be a case of which of them would force the other to do the most defending and how hard they would both work without the ball.

Moreno hardly had any impact at all going forward and lost Mata for both of our goals.

Considering how well we started the game, the eventual 2-1 scoreline was not as convincing as it should have been. Rodgers' side deserve credit for picking up their game in adversity, and they showed how they intended to play from the off if we had let them. 

Even so, we still thoroughly deserved our victory.
Our performance at Anfield matched the result, when earlier this season we were getting results without playing well.

This side is growing and improving week in week out under Louis Van Gaal and, if we continue with this level of performance until the end of the season, have to be favourites for the title next term.

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