Sunday, 11 March 2018

Immense United show class and then character to silence the Scousers

Get in! There is quite simply no feeling like getting one over on the Scousers in the biggest game of all.

Any win against our most hated rivals is special, but this one was even more sweet as it was sealed with two world class finishes from the right boot of local lad Marcus Rashford. This was a perfectly balanced performance that showcased both aspects of the Reds tactical identikit.
United's first half performance was one of our best of the season as we set about Liverpool from the off with devastating power, pace and intensity. We showed class to race into a 2-0 lead after 24 minutes, an advantage that should probably have been more.

In the face of the anticipated Liverpool fight back after half-time, it was United's character and game management that shone through. David de Gea would have been expecting a busy afternoon at the office, but - despite their superior possession and territory - he found himself a virtual spectator as Liverpool barely had a shot of note. This was a classic Jose Mourinho performance of grit, organisation and resilience, only breached through Eric Bailly's fortuitous own goal which came as he attempted to clear.

This was Rashford's first brace since he sank Arsenal on his league debut, as he picked up the man of the match award for a relentless display of direct running, in which Liverpool right-back Trent Alexander - Arnold suffered a torrid time. But there were immense individual showings all over the pitch in a terrific and tenacious team performance. Ashley Young again got the nod over Luke Shaw and magnificently shackled 32-goal winger Mo Salah -  Player of the Season for many - to such an extent that the Egyptian didn't muster an effort on goal until stoppage time. Eric Bailly - outstanding on his first start since the November defeat at Chelsea - played like he'd never been away and forced Roberto Firmino to the fringes. Sadio Mane was also on the periphery as Liverpool's much vaunted front three were nullified brilliantly. Credit too to the much-maligned Chris Smalling, who flourished with the composure of Bailly alongside him. Smalling kept a cool head and stood strong under pressure to keep Liverpool at arm's length throughout.
United were bereft of the services of Paul Pogba, the Frenchman pulled up injured during training on Friday. That saw Scott McTominay deployed in a slightly deeper defensive role alongside the string-pulling Nemanja Matic. It was testament to McTominay's coming-of-age performance that Pogba was not missed, and Scott caught the eye with his work rate, temperament and passing range. In this most high profile of fixtures, McTominay did not look out of place and is growing by the week in the Red of United.

After we took the big name scalp of champions Chelsea and then snatched victory from the jaws of defeat in vintage style against Palace, Jose's tactical acumen again ensured United delivered when it mattered. He outmanouevred Klopp and exploited Liverpool's weakness to bypass the visitors pressing through the middle and went aerial to leave Dejan Lovren exposed. In the centre back's battle with Romelu Lukaku, there was only ever going to be one winner. The Belgian bullied his opponent and profited with two assists for Rashford, who had a field day against the youth and inexperience of Alexander - Arnold. Eyebrows were raised when Marouane Fellaini came on in place of the hat-trick hunting Rashford in the face of the fire with 20 minutes to play. But the Belgian, on his return, did his job well and helped his side to disrupt Liverpool's rhythm and see the tie out.

This got the most pivotal of weeks off to the perfect start and our challenge now is to keep the momentum going with Sevilla on Tuesday and the FA Cup quarter final with Brighton on the horizon.

Woke up this morning feeling fine, we certainly did!

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