Liverpool 3 Manchester United 1: A match report, of sorts

by Steve

A wonderful day’s football for me yesterday, as Liverpool thoroughly trounced their rivals Manchester United. It is all the sweeter that United have lived up to their reputation of being poor, undignified losers, with their manager Alex Ferguson imposing a press blackout (even including their own in-house channel) and reports of considerable upset from the United camp over the referee’s performance.

Ferguson et al seem incapable of acknowledging that they were just out-played and out-thought. Liverpool’s movement and creativity was exquisite to watch. Liverpool boss Kenny Dalglish had clearly got his tactics spot on.

Gerrard and Lucas were disciplined in deep, holding roles. This not only generally protected the Liverpool defence, it nullified the danger Manchester United often pose in that gap between their opponent’s midfield and defence – especially when Rooney drops back.

Two holding midfielders also gave Liverpool’s attacking players licence to press much further forward. Liverpool could afford to have four players essentially playing up front during some phases of play, as they always had the ‘insurance’ of Gerrard and Lucas.

Kuyt (with a hat-trick), Suarez, Meireles and Rodríguez showed great fluidity in their movement, making them hard to track, and hard for United to close down without losing all shape and organisation. Liverpool’s forward line also joined in the team effort in pressing for the ball when not in possession, making defending that much easier. United were rarely given time to create.

Suarez, in particular, was special. He is one of those players who creates something out of nothing, and generates excitement and anticipation as soon as he collects the ball. It is worth noting that for each goal, he was the last Liverpool player to touch the ball before Kuyt scoring. He already looks like a great acquisition.

Kuyt, bought originally as a centre forward but since moulded into a wide player, has recently settled back into his old role with relish. He was very much the poacher yesterday, always looking to get himself in a good position to nick a goal, and showing the sort of industry that has made “Hard working Dirk Kuyt” something of a cliché.

United may point to the injustice of Carragher not getting sent off for his challenge on Nani just before half-time. While Carragher could have easily gone, perhaps they should acknowledge that they were already 2-0 down at that point, and that Nani himself could have been sent off for man-handling the referee in the aftermath, as could Rafael for a similarly reckless challenge moments later.

It is a great shame that a big, successful club like Manchester United lacks the class to take a result for what it is. There is no conspiracy against them. They have benefited from refereeing decisions more than most in the past. Their continued bleating and moaning makes for an especially undignified spectacle.

Maybe the ‘blackout’ is best for all concerned. That way we need not hear more excuses, or more examples of a complete lack of sportsmanship from Ferguson and co.

As ever, Dalglish set a perfect example of how to do a dignified post-match response:

“The quality of the football was the most important thing for me and the attention should be on that. Both sets of players deserve great credit.”

Funny how Liverpool ended up giving United a lesson both on and off the pitch.

Hmm. I hadn’t planned on a simple match report/rant, but there you go. I had something far more hi-falutin’ in mind, but that soon went out the window. Funny how this blog started out as a sport blog, and now feels like something quite different. Well, it feels like a bit of a mess, actually, but not necessarily in a bad way. Maybe I’m due a “What on Earth am I doing with this blog?”-type post. Or a poll or survey, maybe. Or perhaps I should just keep my ramblings to myself, or at least keep them to the italic-y bits at the bottom of proper posts, where they are easy to ignore. Answers on a postcard etc.