The first half performance by United yesterday can only be described in one word: brilliant. From the very first minute you could see United had a game plan, and they executed it to absolute perfection. Every single player was on board; the tactics, and most importantly the performances, were first class.
The opening goal was just sheer brilliance – beautiful passing and an exquisite finish by Mata. United took the crowd completely out of the game in the first few minutes, which is always important when you go to Anfield, but probably even more so yesterday considering the battle for top 4 that the game could have ultimately decided. Liverpool were being totally outplayed in every department, and I seriously don’t remember a better opening 45 at Anfield by a United side for a very, very long time.
Of course, like many, I have been critical of LVG these past months – it was more about our style of football than the results, and I am kind of scratching my bald, shiny head as to why we couldn’t have been playing this style of football from August. Why did we have to wait until last week against Spurs to see the ‘real United’? I watched them pre-season, and yes, they were meaningless warm-up games, but they played with the same high intensity that we witnessed yesterday, then abandoned that style when the league season started.
Well it’s better late than never, and I will be delighted if LVG can guide us to glory again. I was most definitely having doubts based on the first 7 months of the season. I generally don’t like to be wrong, but I will be happy to admit my error in this instance. For the record, I was delighted when he was named our new manager and was 100% behind him – I was just losing patience and belief after watching 7 months of mediocrity.
The second half against Liverpool started like a dream, with Gerrard receiving a straight red after 40 seconds. Of course Atkinson had no choice other than to send the ‘loser’ off, and I figured it should now be a comfortable victory. When Juan Mata scored that beautiful 2nd goal, I figured the 3 points were in the bag, but then we seemed to struggle a little bit and were giving the ball away way too easily. When Sturridge pulled one back after 69 minutes, it was the start of a rather nervy end to the game.
The football leading up to the 92nd minute penalty was terrific to witness, and Rooney should have buried it for a more representative scoreline for the occasion. Maybe, as it was in the 92nd minute, it would have been nice to see Mata stroke it home and claim an amazing hat trick – either way, it’s a good job the miss didn’t end up costing us 2 points!
This is the United we all have been waiting to see – great football, exciting, edge-of-your-seat stuff, and winning. Long may it continue.