Manchester United today carved out a vital and impressive 2-1 win over their greatest rivals to go top of the league, thanks to 2 second half Wayne Rooney goals. Unfortunately however it will not be a match remembered for the football, but once again for the disgraceful attitude shown by Liverpool’s Luis Suarez. In the words of Sir Alex Ferguson after the match, “Oh, crikey me.”
As it was just two weeks ago before the FA Cup tie at Anfield, the majority of the talk in the media was regarding the Patrice Evra and Luis Suarez incident. Today however Suarez was available for Liverpool, after completing a 9 match ban, 8 of which were for racially abusing Evra. On a day both clubs would have preferred the situation have no repercussions Suarez once again let himself, and his club, down. We had yet to even kick off.
The Premier Leagues decision not to do away with the customary pre-match hand shakes will now be one they must now regret. As the Liverpool players made their way down the United line Evra and Suarez came face to face for the first time. Evra proved to be the “bigger” man by offering his hand to Suarez, Suarez being the poor excuse for a human being that he is blanked Evra completely. Evra reacted by grabbing his arm, looking for explanation where as Suarez wanted nothing to do with him and tried to shake Rio Ferdinand’s hand. Ferdinand, standing up for what he believes in, in turn blanked Suarez. The cretin had already provided an unwelcome undercurrent to the game.
As it was though both teams did not let the incident effect them and both settled into the game quickly. Though Evra did manage to take out Ferdinand, who was excellent today, clean out in an attempt to tackle Suarez in the first minute. It was Liverpool who had the best chance early on when Glen Jonhson’s 20 yard shot wasn’t far from breaking the deadlock. From that moment on however, it was United who looked to control the game. Once again the midfield pairing of Scholes and Carrick allowed United to keep the ball effortlessly and begin attacks.
When United came forward it was Antonio Valencia, backed up by Rafael, who were the biggest threat. Valencia had the beating of Luis Enrique most of the afternoon, Enrique lucky not to have been booked after 5 minutes when he brought Valencia down after Valencia used his strength to get passed him and look to storm into the box. The resulting free kick had Glen Johnson at full stretch to head away from Rooney who was unmarked on the back post. With Rafael doing excellent work in getting forward to help Valencia it was he how had United’s first notible effort on goal, a curling shot from the corner of the box. Reina got behind it, but Danny Welbeck, who found himself onside, was unlucky not to maneuver himself quite right to get a touch on the shot which would have left Reina as a spectator.
With Ferguson hinting that Hernandez may get a start today it may have come as a slight surprise that it was Welbeck who got the nod. Welbeck however was as hard working as always, looking very sharp and caused Liverpool problems when he was given the chance to run at their back four.
The best move of the half led to a fabulous chance for Paul Scholes. Beautiful interplay on the edge of the box lead to the ball break to Scholes who, with unbelievable vision, floated a ball wide to Giggs on the edge of the. Giggs in turn had time to pick Scholes out with his cross. Scholes met the ball with a powerful header but it was strait at Reina who reacted well to push Scholes’ effort away.
The most contentious moment of the first half involved you know who. Suarez found himself behind the United defence, only to be thwarted by a perfect Rio Ferdinad tackle. Suarez, along with the rest of Liverpool, appealed for a foul which would have meant lead to Ferdinands dismissal. Referee Phil Dowd waved play on, rightfully so. Ferdinands tackle came from behind Suarez but not only did he make contact with the ball, had not impede Suarez in his attempts to make the tackle. It was a key moment in the game, and left Suarez, frustrated from his lack of involvement even more angry.
Suarez’s frustration came to a head moments later. The vile little man had the ball in his possession on the wing when the half time whistle was blown. Without a moments thought Suarez let out his frustration but lashing the ball with vigour into the United fans. The man has no concern for anyone. United players were disgusted with Suarez’s latest display of disregard and confronted him as they were walking to the tunnel. Disappointing scenes incurred with Liverpool players taking the situation too far, starting to push and shove United players around. The situation appeared to have calmed before the players left the pitch, but it came as no surprise when reports surfaced that further altercations occurred in the tunnel. Reports suggest that both stewards and police had to separate the players.
The incident galvanised United and within two minutes of the restart United took control. United begun on the front foot and won a corner in the 47th minute. Swung in by Giggs, the ball was flicked on by Jordan Henderson into the path of Rooney who’s emphatic volley left Reina with no chance.
Just two minutes later United’s grip on the game increased, and their lead doubled. Tenacious work by Valencia saw Jake Spearing stripped of the ball and Valencia run at Liverpools defence for the umpteenth time. Valencia slipped the ball square to Rooney who calmly slotted home, through the stranded Reina’s leg. United were in dreamland within five minutes of the second half.
The immediate aftermath saw United looking to finish the game off. Rooney was inches away from grabbing his hat-trick after more excellent work by Valencia down the right and a clever step over by Scholes. Under pressure from an incoming tackle Rooney managed to skew his shot past Reina’s post from just yards out.
Kenny Dalglish responded by introducing Bellamy and Carroll in place of Spearing and the totally ineffective Stewart Downing. Shortly after, he replaced Kuyt with Charlie Adam. With Liverpool now playing a 4-4-2 rather than the 4-5-1 they had more emphasis in attack. Rather than pushing on and looking at creating more opportunities, United sat back a little in order to contain Liverpools new threat. They were more than comfortable in doing this and left Liverpool looking somewhat disjointed and lacking in ideas.
In football though a single lapse in concentration can lead to a goal. Today was no exception. A Charlie Adam free kick was not delt with, bouncing off Ferdinand, and fell to Suarez who poked home to give Liverpool a branch of hope. A shame for David De Gea, who having had little to do all afternoon, had been solid in all that it was he did do. He has no responsabilty in the concession of the goal though.
A nervy final ten minutes ensued for United fans, but there was little to fear. Liverpool barely concerned De Gea’s goal apart from one excellent shot from Johnson in injury time which produced an even better save from the United ‘keeper. Anything else Liverpool tried to throw at United was dealt with comfortably. I must single out Rafael who once again was solid again today and out leapt Andy Carroll on a number of occasions to relief any pressure on United’s defence.
Delirious scenes at the final whistle ensued from United players and fans alike. No more so than from Patrice Evra. Delighted by the victory on the day over our greatest rival, and the enormous sense of pride of getting one over on those who had given him so much abuse in recent months, Evra proudly celebrated with a lap of honour to thank the United faithful. It appears though that a captain can no longer celebrate in front of his teams fans , as bitter Liverpool players, namely Reina and Skrtel confronted Evra.
Some say that Evra was in the wrong because he was celebrating in front of Suarez at one point. Watch the video, Evra did not look towards Suarez once during his celebration. It was merely a coincidence that Suarez happened to be skulking across Evra’s path when Evra reached the Stettford End.
Further mayhem ensued down the tunnel again, and this will be what you’re newspapers back pages will be full of tomorrow. In actual fact, the game itself was played in good spirits, nowhere near with as much spark as one would expect. The incidents occurred off the pitch.
Forget the disgraceful antics of Suarez. Forget the bitter reaction of Liverpool players after the final whistle. Remember the confident, creative and excellent football played by Manchester United. Remember we are keeping the pressure on City. Remember we are United.
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