The first ten minutes had me worried. We looked shaky throughout, with Liverpool pressing every ball, and their tempo seemed to take United by surprise.
Once those ten minutes were up, the game settled down and for the first time in a long time, Steven Gerrard was conspicuous by his absence. Whether it’s because Rodgers insulted him by dropping him for a last glorious night at the Bernabéu, or that he simply has no faith in Rodgers, he really didn’t turn up for the game.
What can you say about David De Gea, who must have been studying Peter Schmeichel’s starfish techniques in spreading his body to deflect any and every shot put before him. He almost seemed to be challenging Sterling and Balotelli to try their best to get one past him.
You have to wonder though how long we can keep this brilliant keeper who has to stand in front of an assortment of defenders each week that seem to always be putting him into trouble. The comparisons to him and Courtois at Chelsea seems slightly unfair, as one has a solid defence in front of him, and the other, a different combination each week – sometimes three times in a game.
Rooney took his goal well from a quick United break after De Gea had once again thwarted Sterling. Valencia charged down the right and, finding himself surrounded by two Liverpool players, nutmegged Joe Allen and left them in his wake, supplying a delightful cut back to Wayne Rooney on the edge of the box, who shot fast and true to the back of the net.
The second goal just before half time came from a looping cross from Young, and so what if Van Persie flicked onto Mata who was clearly offside, to stoop a low header past Jones. It was Škrtel’s job to stop Van Persie from doing so, and three Liverpool defenders stood and watched as Mata made his way to the back post. We once lost a title to Chelsea due to Drogba being three yards offside to beat us 2-1 – these things happen; you play to the whistle.
The second half saw the hapless Balotelli come on, and you have to wonder how Rodgers managed to squander the riches bought by selling Suarez by not replacing him with a decent striker. I am sure, for the right money, Wilfred Bony could have been purchased, and with Balotelli not yet scoring for Liverpool in the Premier League, the gamble seems not to have paid off.
James Wilson looks a handful and I would love to see him score, but he scurries and worries and allows Rooney and Van Persie to find space. Fellaini was 50/50 today – some good tackles combined with some careless passing, but he is useful and a handful.
Phil Jones did okay and made a couple of good tackles, and Evans was lucky when an under-hit back pass across the area was intercepted by Sterling with only De Gea to beat (De Gea guided Sterling away from goal and distracted him enough to make him shoot straight at his flailing legs when he should have really scored.)
Carrick was his usual unsung self, “Steady Eddy” of the footballing world, confidently marshalling the defence as well as covering for a multitude of poor positional play by Valencia and Young during this extended period of defensive disruption.
Ultimately, today was a great win against our arch enemy, and revenge is a dish best served in the rain after last season’s debacle. I am so tired of hearing commentators groaning about how United play crap but still win, and how lucky van Gaal is. As someone once said, “I work very hard to be this lucky.”
Six wins out of six, and we are starting to look like a team who can grind out results under the worst of situations. A team battling with injuries and inconsistent selections, yet fighting for every point. What a difference from last season, and still with Di Maria, Blind, Da Silva, Januzaj, and Falcao yet to feature prominently.
Enjoy the win , and I wish you all a very merry Christmas and a happy New Year, and hopefully Champions League for next season! I am flying out to Manchester to visit my family on Tuesday, and my very good friend Brian is treating me to an Executive Suite lunch and seats for the Newcastle game on Boxing Day, so really looking forward to seeing the game in the flesh so speak.