Top 10 Observations from Man United 3-2 Liverpool

When you consider that the match between Manchester United and Liverpool didn’t come alive until the 65th minute when Gerrard scored a penalty, it’s amazing to consider how much drama and action were sandwiched into the last 25 minutes of the clash between these two legendary sides at Old Trafford.

For the first 65 minutes, there was really only one side playing and that was Manchester United. Liverpool tried to volley back United’s goal attempts for such a large portion of the match but was unable to create even a few chances in return. For the entire first half, Liverpool had zero shots at goal. But everything changed in the second half in this game, and we finally saw two sides battling back and forth after a stroke of genius from Fernando Torres who showed his incredible skill to cut-back inside the box. But more about that later.

Here are the observations I took from this game:

  1. 2-0 (and 2-1) are the most dangerous leads for Man United. Just as Manchester United surrendered leads against Fulham and Everton, United did the same against Liverpool even when they were cruising 2-0 ahead. Except this time they were able to secure a final goal to win the match 3-2. Man United’s inability to hold on to a lead can again be blamed on defensive mistakes. This time it was Jonny Evans cutting down Fernando Torres in the box. And Liverpool’s second goal was a fault of Darren Fletcher who created an opening in the wall.
  2. Fernando Torres’s greatest gift is in creating something out of nothing. Torres’s body may not be anywhere near full fitness, but his mind is still razor-sharp. Both of Liverpool’s goals Sunday were a direct result of Fernando Torres creating havoc around the penalty area. The first was the way that Torres took the pass from Joe Cole, and then thundered into the box, knowing that Jonny Evans would be unable to deal with his sharp cut back, which led to Evans chopping Torres down for the penalty decision. The second goal resulted from the free kick outside the box where John O’Shea pulled Torres down. The Irishman should have received a red card, but again it was Torres’s ability to create something out of seemingly nothing which made the difference for Liverpool. Regarding Torres, Liverpool supporters must be wondering when he’ll return to his true self and regain complete fitness, and how even more dangerous he’ll be again when he attains that level.
  3. Nani has inherited Cristiano Ronaldo’s worst attribute. Earlier in Ronaldo’s career at United, the Portuguese player flopped from the mildest contact to try to win calls. And now Nani all of a sudden was trying the same thing at Old Trafford. Nani is the type of player who doesn’t have to do this. And United isn’t the type of club either that needs to resort to these tactics to win games.
  4. Liverpool desperately lacks creativity. If you watched this match and pretended that the team playing in white was some anonymous side, you would have thought they were a mid-table or lower-table side such as the lack of chances they created and the lack of creativity should on the field. The late resurgence from Liverpool came from a penalty and a free kick, not from open play. But even though Liverpool battled back valiantly after scoring those two goals, they lacked the engine in midfield which could create chances. Xabi Alonso, Liverpool misses you.
  5. Konchesky owned Nani in the first half. When Manchester United’s attacks began in the first half through Nani who attempted to get the killer cross into the box, they were foiled each single time by Paul Konchesky who blocked so many crosses that I lost count. Most of them were blocked and deflected out from a corner. But Nani’s inability to get a ball into the box showed how much they miss Antonio Valencia. After several chances were blocked, Giggs and O’Shea got more involved on the right to get the crosses in for United.
  6. The roles of Berbatov and Rooney have reversed. In the past it was Rooney who scored most of the goals and Berbatov became provider. Now the tables have turned and it’s Rooney who is involved in being the creator while Berbatov is on top of his game for United and demonstrating his prowess in front of goal. And what a brilliant hat trick it was by the Bulgarian.
  7. Gerrard performed under pressure. The amount of pressure that was on Steven Gerrard’s shoulders when Liverpool were awarded a penalty was immense. If the player had missed the chance to score, he would not only have the 76,000 people at Old Trafford on his back, but you can imagine that the press would begin drawing their knives about the sinking ship at Liverpool and how Gerrard missed a glorious chance to bring the Reds back into this game. However, he took the penalty cleanly and showed how well he plays under pressure. He also got the bonus of a goal from a free kick later in the match.
  8. Supporters in good voice. It was a joy to listen to both sets of supporters singing and chanting throughout almost the entire match. Some of the song lyrics were inappropriate from what I’ve been told, but it’s still good to hear large portions of the crowd singing for once.
  9. Liverpool look like they are playing inside a shell. Hopefully for Liverpool, Sunday’s comeback will give Roy Hodgson’s side confidence to begin playing better this season. But throughout most of the game at Old Trafford, Liverpool looked like a side that was playing inside an egg shell that it was unable to break out of. The team was timid, lacked confidence, was unable to keep possession, and didn’t pass the ball around enough. Until their late fightback, Liverpool looked like a ghost of a side.
  10. It’s time for Carragher to be dropped. He’s Liverpool through and through, but it’s time for Jamie Carragher to spend some time on the bench and allow some of the other defenders like Agger and Skrtel to start more for Liverpool. So many times in the past year we’ve seen Carragher unable to keep up with the speed of the opposition. Or like on Sunday, we saw him foul Vidic in the box by aggressively pulling his shirt (and luckily for Liverpool, getting away with it). He handled the ball outside the box late in the second half, which was again missed by the referee. These were just two of the many errors Carragher committed for Liverpool. Unfortunately he’s  walking liability.

Away from the actual game on the pitch, I must say that Craig Burley was a joy to listen to. It’s refreshing to hear a co-commentator be so direct and critical, and irreverent at the same time. When Nani fell to the ground and pretended he was hurt, Burley called out “Pick yourself up, son” in his deep Scottish accent. Burley later went on to describe how Nani knows that soccer is a contact sport, so he needs to take it, get up and play on instead of playacting on the turf at Old Trafford.

Speaking of the presentation of this game, I was so excited at the build-up to this game that I watched for the 15-20 minutes before the match kicked off on FoxSoccer.tv (which was flawless Sunday, congratulations to Fox). The pre-game build-up featured close-up frontal images of each player as the team line-ups were unveiled. It was a refreshing change to the typical presentation of line-ups we’re accustomed to seeing. And it worked really well. I also enjoyed watching the pre-match interviews featuring Sir Alex Ferguson and Roy Hodgson, two veterans of the game.

About Christopher Harris

Founder and publisher of World Soccer Talk, Christopher Harris is the managing editor of the site. He has been interviewed by The New York Times, The Guardian and several other publications. Plus he has made appearances on NPR, BBC World, CBC, BBC Five Live, talkSPORT and beIN SPORT. Harris, who has lived in Florida since 1984, has supported Swansea City since 1979. He's also an expert on soccer in South Florida, and got engaged during half-time of a MLS game. Harris launched EPL Talk in 2005, which was rebranded as World Soccer Talk in 2013. View all posts by Christopher Harris →
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33 Responses to Top 10 Observations from Man United 3-2 Liverpool

  1. steve ashiembi says:

    The tenth observation is the most constructive of all and I have been calling for Caragher’s head for quite some time now. We need Agger and Skirtel to play together more often because their style complements one another than having skirtel with Jamie.

  2. Norm says:

    2nd Foxsoccer.tv very impressed. Foxsoccer.tv will be sticking around for me until FSC and FSC+ are in HD.

    • Guitarearl says:

      I watched 1 match on ESPN2, 2 Matches on DVR from FSC HD, and 4 full matches on foxsoccer.tv. I also watched two partial matches on foxsoccer.tv, and the 2 minute highlights on the other. Add to that the other Euro leagues as well as the Champions League games, it really makes a bunch of sense even with FS+ HD.

  3. Guitarearl says:

    I think Point #9 was the biggest factor in the match. It seemed as though Liverpool was unwilling to be the aggressor at level terms. They seemed more than willing to draw at Old Trafford, perhaps buoyed by ManUtd’s result with Rangers a few days earlier. The difference between that match and Sunday’s match was Dimitar Berbatov.

  4. Nathan says:

    Observation 11: Gerrard should be playing deeper rather than just behind Torres. Torres would have a field day regardless of the opponent if he had a striking partner up there. If David Ngog can open things up for him, imagine if they had someone who was even half-decent! The problem with Gerrard up there is he has to come back to get involved in the play anyway, so he leave Torres alone up there too often.

    Corollary to Ob. 11: Lucas should trade in his Liverpool shirt for a stewards jacket.

    • What? says:

      Huh? Gerrard was playing deep. Poulson was defensive mid, Gerrard in front on him, and Meirles (sp?) was slotted in behind Torres (but he’s a holding midfielder, not an attacking one). Questionable selections from Hodgson.

      • Red20 says:

        exactly. It was the deepest we’ve seen Gerrard in a long time. Meireles was playing off of Torres while Gerrard was dropped deep. There was an extended period of the game where Gerrard was something close to a CB.

        Again, I really think Hodgson got most everything wrong yesterday and this was another great example of it.

        • Nathan says:

          I know Gerrard was playing deep in this game. I think it is a good decision. So far this season, and for large spells last season, Gerrard can’t take over the game playing in that spot just behind the striker. If he is playing there, we have the likes of Lucas trying to link play from back to front. But you missed my point that it only works well if Torres also has a strike partner, not someone like Meireles behind him. Maybe Joe Cole or Dirk Kuyt would be sufficient there, but the key is that they need to be playing as high up the pitch as Torres is. The fact remains that the more Torres is left alone, the easier it is for defenses to frustrate him, and he will take himself out of the game due to this frustration. We have seen it already so many times this year.

        • Nathan says:

          Just to add to my point, who else in the current Liverpool squad could sit in the midfield and direct play from the back and actually keep possession? Poulsen wins back possesion but doesn’t know what to do with it. Meireles might be better at knowing what to do with it, but the quality is not always there. Lucas is train wreck on both sides of the ball. That leaves Gerrard. Would he be better up there with Torres? Yes, if Liverpool had someone the quality of Xabi Alonso to direct the midfield. But absent that, Gerrard has to be that guy, or it seems to all fall apart.

          • Red20 says:

            agree with everything you’ve said in these last couple posts. It’s a situation that has no easy answer to be honest. How do we protect Torres without getting run through in the midfield?

            It’s all pretty depressing to think about honestly, and it makes the loan of Aquilani that much more worrying.

            I’m still trying to figure out how Spearing isn’t getting more of a look, against Steaua I thought he looked really creative and good in that midfield role. Not sure if he could maintain that in the PL but shit, what else have we got?

    • Sir Guy says:

      “Corollary to Ob. 11: Lucas should trade in his Liverpool shirt for a stewards jacket.”

      lol, Nathan. :-D

  5. Andrew says:

    Regarding Craig Burley, while he was right to criticize Nani for his antics, he was pretty clearly biased throughout the broadcast and chose to further criticize Nani during several occasions when he was actually fouled. Besides that, he sounded like he was going to fall out of his chair while practically yelling that O’Shea, “had to go,” for his foul. In reality, there’s no evidence that he did have to go because Torres never had a “clear” goalscoring opportunity. When Berbatov scored his third goal, the sound of disappointment in his voice was all too clear for my liking.

    If he’s biased towards Liverpool or against United, that’s fine, those things can’t be helped, but he shouldn’t be allowed to commentate on games of this magnitude if he can’t control himself or his emotions.

    • Nathan says:

      70,000 ManU fans beg to differ. The tension in the silence after that whistle blew was palpable. They all thought O’Shea was going off, as well he should have. The fact that there is any argument as to whether or not he beats Van der Sar to the ball means that the penalty has to be given, because he had a shot at it when O’Shea cut him down.

      • Andrew says:

        I’ll have to agree to disagree with you here. In my opinion, replays showed that an unfit Torres was never getting to that ball first, so it shouldn’t have been red. If people think he would’ve gotten to it, then I could see why they’d want O’Shea to see red, but I really can’t see how he would have given the direction of the pass and how close VDS already was to it.

        • Nathan says:

          I do not agree to agree to disagree with you. So there.

          In all seriousness, though, VDS doesn’t actually come at the ball until Torres is already down. But all of this is moot, because the linesman was the one who initially called the foul, an he would clearly have seen that O’Shea was the last man. It all points to a red unless your name is Alex Fergueson.

          • Andrew says:

            Ferguson didn’t make the decision at the time as he wasn’t the referee, and his opinion is irrelevant. Webb is also not the kind of referee to be intimidated by a manager. If you want to make the argument that Webb is incompetent, go right ahead, but as the top ranked referee in England (and the world given the two finals he just officiated), I don’t see how he’s the type to get his feelings hurt by a manager’s post-game comments like say, Alan Wiley. Personally, I think he’s an average referee, and given the current state of refereeing in world football, that sadly makes him the best.

            Back to the original points, though, many people admitted that United may have been denied several well positioned free kicks or a penalty, and despite the fact that the referee gave Liverpool both a penalty and a 20 yard free kick at Old Trafford (which they like to believe never happens), Liverpool fans still find time to complain about the referee being biased against them.

            As far as I know, the professional foul states that a red card is only shown for denying a clear goalscoring opportunity, not for being the last man. It’s one of those misnomers that commentators have popularized, much like when they say “away goals count double.” Someone can be the last defender, but if the opponent doesn’t seem absolutely certain to score based on the circumstances of the play, it’s not a red card.

            Since Torres never had possession of the ball, and because there is a debate over whether or not he would have reached it and then put it past an already charging goalkeeper suggests to me that it was not a clear goalscoring opportunity and that a red card could be considered harsh. Have I seen guys sent off for that before? Yes. However, it doesn’t mean those decisions were right either. Maybe he would’ve reached it, maybe not, but referees can not send players off if there is a doubt, and in this situation, there was a doubt.

          • Nathan says:

            Andrew, it looks like we are splitting hairs over the word opportunity. In my view, the fact that we are debating whether or not he would have made it to the ball tells me that he had an “opportunity” to get there, which to me constitutes a goal scoring opportunity. The difference being if the pass was intercepted or so heavy that it would have taken it out of play or something like that. But because of the weight and placement of the pass, I think you have to admit that he was denied the “opportunity” to get to the ball, and in that position, it’s a goal scoring opportunity.

  6. Kevin says:

    Andrew, I couldn’t disagree more Re: Burley. I thought he was pretty fair throughout the entire match. He rightfully criticized Maxi asking “what kind of player is he?”. He criticized Torres on Berbatov’s header, criticized Carragher on the game winner from Berbatov, and said in the first 10 minutes of the game that United should have been given a penalty (can’t remember the exact scenario).

    I think he also was critical of Nani as he should have been, his antics make me sick. I think he was right about the O’Shea situation. A blind supporter could see he was the last man, and at the very least its questionable whether that is a clear-cut scoring opportunity…in most games you get sent off for that.

    I think Burley did a wonderful job, and hope to hear more of him.

    • VillaPark says:

      Had a friend over for the game who doesn’t get to watch many games and one of his big talking points was about how honest the announcers were during the game (and the Chelsea game). First was mostly concerning Nani and his dive in the box, which Burley said was pathetic. The other was after Drogba sailed a difficult shot into the stands when he could have passed and the commentator mentioned the ego needed to try a shot like that (in a somewhat good and bad way).

      With the O’Shea potential red card, regardless of whether it was goal-scoring or not, you know that would have been a red card for most of the teams in the league. If Alex Song gets a red card for impeding a player at midfield, then how could a yellow be the only card awarded for O’Shea? I like that Burley called Webb out on that instead of just letting the game go on as if it didn’t happen. Same thing with Vidic getting away with pulling Agbonlahor back in the League Cup last season, United continues to get away with this year after year.

  7. Andrew Card says:

    I agree with points 9 and 10. Both of these are a result of Roy Hodgson being poor so far in his team selection, tactics and substitutions. I just read on the LFC forum that Agger is not a preferred starter at CB because he likes to move forward with the ball and Hodgson wants his central defenders to boot the ball upfield and Agger doesn’t want to change his style. If true, this does not bode well for Liverpool.

    From what I saw in the game I believe Liverpool will finish below 7th and that Manchester United will not win the title (unless Chelsea self-destruct).

  8. Cricketlover says:

    I agree with all the points the gaffer made and would add that Roy Hodgson looks like he is struggling to come to grips with managing a top club. He has not impressed me in the least and if he weren’t English I think he would come under criticism for the way Liverpool have played so far and I have seen no improvement in their play from one match to another. It may be early days but I haven’t seen anything to be optimistic of his success as manager of Liverpool. I hope I’m wrong as he is a decent man.

    Also, I agree that foxsoccer.tv deserves much praise for their faultless stream of the match. I’ve been very critical of them since the beginning of the season for some of the problems subscribers were experiencing but it seems as though they have fixed them. Well done foxsoccer.tv and here’s wishing the rest of the season goes just as well.

  9. Brandon says:

    Berbatov’s 2nd is the goal of the season so far. Nani is a true embarrassment. Shame that Valencia can’t take his spot.

  10. Dave B. says:

    I have also felt Carragher should have been dropped as part of the first side since last season. He got old quick and can’t compete with some of the fresher leagues in the league. Plus I don’t think he gets enough grief for aimlessly thumping balls down the pitch and giving away possessions.

    Keep him on the team and let him be a leader in the locker room, but he shouldn’t be part of the first eleven – especially against the likes of Chelsea, Man Utd., Arsenal, Man. City, etc.

  11. Chris from Texas says:

    This is the best article I have ever read on this site. No joke.

    The only thing I really want to comment on is O’Shea deserving a red card. For those who think Webb’s call was right, O’Shea absolutely deserved a red card. Can anyone say that Torres didn’t even have a 1% chance of getting the ball? You can argue it anyway you want, but the rule is the rule (no matter how much Webb forgets the actual rules of the game).

    Nani, for such a talented player, shamed a glorious win for Manchester United. His antics made Manchester United seem weak, as opposed to a strong team capable of winning the league.

    The most interesting observation, my personal #11, is how good Sir Alex is at using the media to his advantage. Looking at the game, Liverpool did one thing extremely well: contain United.

    I know, I know. They scored three goals. However, looking at the goals you can see that they were two lapses in concentration and a wonder goal. Any other day those three goals would have never been scored. United were contained and faced a comeback, barley holding out for three points.

    My point is, even though it was a win, United showed they were more vulnerable than Liverpool at the end of the day. Liverpool has a new manager, new players who have never played together, and a collapsing club hierarchy, yet were the better team in the last 25 minutes.

    Sir Alex knows this and reacted in the best way possible. Should Manchester United have won 10-0? Absolutely not. Would it have been a 2-2 or 3-3 draw? Absolutely. Liverpool had the momentum and should have been playing against a ten man United. Sir Alex is trying to spin a worrying win.

  12. ian crowley says:

    ur point about nani is false and misleading not only did he set up a goal yesterday just like giggs and o shea. he also has 5 assists this year which puts him at the top with drogba in the charts. also you say rooney and berbatov have swapped?? while rooney was scoring last year berbatov created more chances per game then any player in the league last year, http://therepublikofmancunia.com/quick-berb-stat/ – rooney has yet to have an assist this year. please do some research before you publish articles.

  13. Sir Guy says:

    Re #3: On that day, Nani was a disgrace.

  14. Gaz Hunt says:

    Similarly, I took three things away from the match (as a Liverpool supporter).

    1 – Gerrard needs to play “deeper” like he did in this game. Let him control the play and make the decision himself when he needs to hold and when he can push up and become the third striker.

    2 – Torres needs a partner to take defenders away from him. The two best choices are Cole and N’Gog but anyone with two legs will do the trick. We needs to isolate him with the defender in order to score. If you think it was hard to score against Manchester United wait until we have to play a defensively-minded Stoke at home.

    3 – We’re still vulnerable when crosses are knocked high into the box. I still rate Carragher as one of the top defenders in the league but he has his limitations. In other words, Carragher has seen better days. Why not start moving him into a coaching position at the club to sooth any bitterness about leaving him out of the side?

  15. Alex says:

    Nani looked even worse when compared to Gerrard, who took a dangerous tackle later in the game from one of the United centerbacks, and just jumped right up–no complaints, no begging to the ref.

    • Mike says:

      Why is it that Nani gets nothing when Konchesky runs across him and sticks out his arm to block him from getting past him yet Torres does the same thing while going past OShea and he gets a free kick? I don’t think Nani deserved a free kick cos he made a meal of it and for the same reason Torres didn’t deserve one either. You know why Torres always makes something out of nothing? Because he cheats.

      • Gaz Hunt says:

        Torres gets hacked and kicked all over. He is a striker getting the ball in front of the goal – it’s only to be expected. Nani is a wide player that doesn’t get fouled half as much as Torres – all the defender has to do with him in contain out there.

        However, even if I would give you that both players made the most out of contact, I think the distinction is this:

        Torres gets (or draws) the foul and gets up and gets on with it. Nani gets (or draws) the foul and then rolls around on the floor for a few minutes. It’s embarrassing to watch a game with a non-football watching mate as he embodies everything that non-football watching people think about the modern game.

  16. d rock says:

    as a man united fan, i am sick of seeing nani diving. it is embarassing. like the author said, he doesn’t have to resort to this, he is a good player.

  17. Anaabel says:

    What I learned from the game is that Liverpool are in serious trouble and will end up mid-table, no higher. Roy seems clueless and the team lacks any purpose. As for Manchester United I don’t think they are good enough to win the title. Chelsea are winning the games they should win very comfortably and that is the difference between them and the rest of the league.

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