Monday 18 January 2016

Liverpool 0-1 United: Analysis

Louis van Gaal has taken a lot of criticism for his tactics this season - some of it justified - but he deserved credit for getting it spot on yesterday.

Whenever we play Liverpool, the Dutchman always seems to have an answer and yesterday proved no different.
His selection may have provoked ire when Marouane Fellaini was picked to play ahead of last season's hero Anfield Juan Mata, but yet both players were to prove pivotal in the smash and grab victory. 

Mata was on the bench but it was his 66th minute introduction that ultimately won the match for United, as it was from his cross that Wayne Rooney scored off of Marouane Fellaini's rebound from a short corner. 

United were second best for much of a largely disappointing contest but did grow into the game after half time when Van Gaal pushed Fellaini further forward and tasked Ander Herrera with more of a defensive role.

The Belgian, at least to an extent, would have dispelled some of his critics as he caused Liverpool problems to the point that they double marked him and his presence in an advanced role led to the winner. 

Jesse Lingard was selected in a unfamiliar right-wing role and the game largely passed him by, and it was not until Mata was brought into proceedings that United started to have an impact as an attacking force. 

Arguably, Mata should have started but Van Gaal values Lingard's defensive work highly and wanted to ensure both an attacking and defensive balance down the right rather than Mata's emphasis on pushing forward and potentially creating space for Liverpool to exploit. 

Chris Smalling and Daley Blind were both excellent at the back, Morgan Schneiderlin was also impressive and, in David De Gea United possess a truly world class goalkeeper. 

He was the difference between a turgid win and a dour draw. 

Liverpool were largely limited to long-range pot shots, but on the few occasions they did manage to get in behind us, De Gea stood strong.
He brilliantly saved twice from Emre Can and once from Firmino and, whilst they were efforts you would expect any decent goalkeeper to save, they underlined his continuing influence on this United side.

The Reds best chance of victory appeared to be from Liverpool's glaring weakness: set-pieces and so it proved.
Mata has experienced something of a malaise but made the difference here as it was from his pin-point cross that Fellaini struck the bar and Rooney volleyed the winner. 

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