Sunday, March 23, 2008

United serve up Easter feast as Liverpool are thrashed...

Manchester United heaped more pressure onto Arsenal and Chelsea by hammering a strangely out of sorts looking Liverpool team by three goals to nil at Old Trafford on Easter Sunday - a result which could go a long way towards the champions retaining their title.

As early as the fifth minute Wayne Rooney could have - and perhaps should have - opened the scoring when put through on goal by Anderson, but the England striker failed to beat Pepe Reina, in fairness to the former Everton star Jamie Carragher had nudged the United forward before he fired tamely at the Liverpool 'keeper. Four minutes later Rooney was put through again, this time by Paul Scholes, but a very poor first-touch resulted in another let-off for the visitors.

Despite paying Liverpool the compliment of leaving out Carlos Tevez and starting the game with a somewhat cautious 4-3-3 with Scholes and Giggs preferred to Hargreaves and Nani, it was United who looked by far the more dangerous with the visitors failing to seriously test the returning Edwin Van der Sar in the United goal.

Liverpool's goal machine Fernando Torres was kept in check by Rio Ferdinand who had recovered from a back injury. To make matters much worse Rafa Benitez, Javier Mascherano was sent-off after picking up two first half yellow cards. Referee Steve Bennett cautioned the Argentine early on in the game after a series of fouls by the former West Ham star. The final straw came after Scholes had been felled in a challenge that in truth wasn't that bad, but as far as Bennett was concerned it looked to be case of a totting-up offences.

United continued to attack the visitors who were living a somewhat charmed-life as Ronaldo missed another golden opportunity to score, this time from only two yards out when hitting the post after a flicked header by Vidic, only for the linesman to wrongly raise his flag for offside.

Liverpool's luck eventually ran out on 34 minutes after excellent work by Wes Brown who launched an attack by firstly winning the ball back for United, Scholes then found Rooney wide left and his resulting cross was bravely headed-home by the Reds contract rebel. Wes Brown will not score many more important goals in his career and the fans will be hoping this one will go a long way towards securing that new deal...

If the visiting supporters were expecting a Liverpool revival it simply did not materialise and the problems for Benitez were made a lot worse on 40 minutes following another booking by Bennett, this time for Torres and then Mascherano who had continued to verbally badger the referee who had no alternative but to send the Argentine for an early bath.

No doubting that Liverpool and their fans will argue that this was the main turning-point in the game, it wasn't, because in point of fact the Merseyside Reds were lucky not to be three-nil down at that point.

The visitors' mounted a brief five minute offensive midway through the second period, but again without seriously troubling Edwin Van der Sar. Before that Rooney had missed another great chance to put the Reds further ahead when once again clean through on goal, this time the England star pulled the ball down expertly with a glorious first touch only for him to shoot straight at Reina - either side of the Spaniard would have surely led to a certain goal.

The only mystery at that point in the game for many United fans, apart from the narrow one-nil lead, was why it took so long for Fergie to swap the largely ineffective Ryan Giggs for Carlos Tevez. United were facing only ten men yet we had only striker on the pitch. Thankfully, the penny finally dropped as Ferguson sent on Tevez and Nani for Giggs and the tiring Anderson - who had wasted one glorious chance for United to extend their lead only for the Brazilian to blaze high into the Stretford End.

Ronaldo then wasted another gilt-edged opportunity to score when only six yards out as Pepe Reina atoned for some fairly hapless 'keeping by deflecting the ball out of play. However, the Spanish stopper's reprieve was only short-lived as the Portuguese winger wasn't to be denied as he headed home after rising high to meet the ball first ahead of Reina from the resulting corner. It was a goal that was totally in keeping with the general flow of the game and it was thoroughly deserved. Nani then waltzed beyond the half-hearted challenge of two Liverpool defenders before firing into the corner to complete the rout.

The final score flattered Liverpool because if had finished up six or seven nil, they could have had no complaints. Only the most blinkered of Liverpool fans will argue on that point.


  1. After watching this match, I finally got what Ferguson has been all about this season. This might be of interest to any football and United fan:

    Sir Alex Ferguson has realised that in modern football, most if not all battles, are won on the midfield.

    He has gone last summer, and deepened United's midfield to such an extent, that every time it plays , it runs smoothly engineering chances for its more advance players, and keeping the ball away from the opposition.

    One hardly needs to see the squad to realise how deep United's midfield is and how he has gone out to win all midfield battles on every pitch with this squad.

    A striker seems rather an embellishment compared to a midfield that can be on song every game out (or at least in form enough to close out a 1-0).

    One only needs to look at the case of Arsenal. In the last few games, their midfield has barely chugged through, it hasn't closed down the opposition's attack or nipped opposition movements in the bud.

    United's midfield is one of the most proficient set up players around the world, offering Ferguson a wide array of choices, and well set for the modern game where games and championships; battles and wars, are won.

    All major title-holders currently hold proficient midfields, or have a set of midfielders who have been in great form.

    Ferguson has detected the pattern and is making everyone else pay.

    I am not saying that an effective defence, and goal-scoring forwards, are not essential due to the nature of the modern game. They certainly are. However, the fact of the matter is that; the midfield is where two big teams (both with sets of great defenders and strikers) edge it out, in the Champions League or in the Premier League.

    In fact, it is only in the midfield that chances are made, and the opposition's chances are squashed.

    Having a midfield like United's gives a team with a sound defence and in-form forwards, gives a team an edge extremely hard to replicate and counter.

    Sir Alex Ferguson, thank you for figuring this out last summer, and the couple of summers previously, and building such a beautifully diversely functional and multifarious midfield for United to edge out tough competition.

    As long as the midfield gears keep rolling, our defence is proficient, and goals keep flowing the way they are (due to the midfield making the chances they score off of); the Champions League and the Premier League are in the bag for United.

    What do you think about that?

  2. It's true that whoever wins the midfield battle usually wins the game and it's also true that Ferguson has many options in this department.

    However, many United fans have mixed views on what is the manager's strongest line-up. My own view is that Ferguson doesn't know what his strongest team is.

    Take today, Giggs was totally ineffective pretty much throughout, yet rather than replace him at half-time when the visitors were reduced to 10 men he dithered before replacing him - this while Tevez, a potential goal-scorer was sat waiting to enter the battle. For what use Giggs was today the manager might as well have started with Tevez.

    It might be viewed as churlish to criticise the manager on this point, but later in the season in game decision making of this nature could prove to be critical if Fergie fails to act quickly enough when he should be seizing upon any advantage.

    That said United once again wasted umpteen chances to have extended their lead and here the manager cannot be blamed for Rooney in particular (not scored at home in the league since last October) failing to convert in front of goal. Thank god that Ronaldo eventually did his duty today.

  3. Yeah, the finishing has consistently been terrible, mostly, it has been the constant churning out of new chances that has produced goals consistently


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