Match Report: Man United vs Liverpool

Wigan Athletic v Manchester United - Premier League

 

TKTG brings together the best articles from around the web on Manchester United’s 2-1 Victory at Old Trafford over Arch-rivals Liverpool.  Goals from Robin Van Persie and Nemanja Vidic were enough to hold off some second half pressure from Liverpool which included another Sturridge goal.  United are hoping that Vidic and Ashley Young are able to return to action soon after hobbling off the pitch during the game.  United are currently at 55 points at the top of the table with City 7 points behind at 48.

 

Match Report:  ESPNFC

Striker Robin van Persie came out on top in the battle of the Premier League’s top scorers as Manchester United emerged from a tricky test unscathed against arch-rivals Liverpool.

The Holland international continued his remarkable scoring spree with a close-range effort in the first half which was doubled after the break by Nemanja Vidic.

Liverpool substitute Daniel Sturridge overshadowed team-mate Luis Suarez, who began the day one behind Van Persie on 15 top-flight goals for the season, by marking his league debut for his new club with a second goal in as many matches and had a chance to snatch a point late on, but United held on grimly, if somewhat unconvincingly.

It was billed as the battle of the Premier League’s two best strikers. Unfortunately it never lived up to the pre-match hype.

Van Persie – expertly and clinically – scored with virtually his first chance and could have had at least one other in the first half.

Suarez toiled in vain but never got the remotest inkling of an opportunity against Rio Ferdinand and Vidic – reunited in the centre of defence for the first time since September – with his one effort coming just before the interval and only troubling the fans in the Stretford End.

Read the ESPNFC article.

 

Match Analysis:  BBC Sport

Manchester United kept a firm grip on the Premier League title race with a deserved victory against Liverpool at Old Trafford.

The meeting had been billed as the battle of the strikers between Manchester United’s Robin van Persie and Liverpool counterpart Luis Suarez.

And it was Van Persie who made the decisive contribution as he put United ahead with a brilliant first-half finish then provided the free-kick for the second after 54 minutes as Patrice Evra’s header deflected in off Nemanja Vidic.

Liverpool’s £12m signing from Chelsea Daniel Sturridge scored for the second successive game after coming on as substitute to give Brendan Rodgers’s side hope and set up an anxious finish for United.

Sturridge missed a glorious chance to give Liverpool a point that their inferiority for the first hour barely deserved, but United closed out the win to go 10 points clear at the top of the table ahead of Manchester City’s visit to Arsenal.

The scale of Van Persie’s influence since his £24m summer arrival from Arsenal can be illustrated by the fact that this was his 10th goal in 10 games – and he has scored in nine of them.

United were eventually relieved to get the three points after outplaying Liverpool for long periods, only to fail to convert a succession of chances in the opening 45 minutes. One could only imagine manager Sir Alex Ferguson’s reaction had they squandered their advantage.

Continue reading the BBC Sport report by Phil McNulty

 

Tactical Analysis:  Zonal Marking

Manchester United dominated the first hour, then hung on in the final stages.

Sir Alex Ferguson named Danny Welbeck in his starting XI, with the out-of-form Antonio Valencia on the bench. Jonny Evans was out injured, so Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic played at the back.

Brendan Rodgers kept Daniel Sturridge on the bench, preferring Stewart Downing and Raheem Sterling.

Liverpool fought back in the second half, but took too long to get going, and United dominated the majority of the game.

United shape

The use of Shinji Kagawa, Welbeck and Ashley Young in the same team offered Ferguson many possibilities – in theory, any of the three could be used on the right, the left or in the centre behind Robin van Persie. The most natural combination would probably have been to put Welbeck right, in place of Valencia, keep Young in his usual left-sided role, and play Kagawa in the position he thrived in at Dortmund, as a number ten.

But Ferguson instead played Young on the right, Kagawa left and Welbeck upfront. It was a surprising but reasonably effective move – Welbeck provided great pace upfront and was crucial in United’s pressing, the main feature of the first half, while Kagawa drifted inside from the left to become another passing option in central midfield. Young was quieter, partly because of injury.

Liverpool pressing?

But the main feature of the game was the difference in pressing. In general, Liverpool didn’t attempt to close down the Manchester United centre-backs, despite Luis Suarez being the Premier League’s best striker at leading the pressing from the front. Maybe Rodgers felt that, with three midfielders in deep positions (rather than Suarez being supported by an advanced midfielder – Jonjo Shelvey’s played that role recently) it would be pointless for Suarez to press two centre-backs on his own.

Instead, Liverpool’s midfield lurked deeper and tried to press the first pass from the centre-backs into forward positions. The wingers occupied the full-backs, and in the first ten minutes it was obvious that Joe Allen had been instructed to close down Michael Carrick whenever the United midfielder received the ball. This was a decent plan – Carrick often struggles against close physical attention – but was flawed. First, Allen wasn’t the ideal option to play this role – Shelvey and Jordan Henderson are both more energetic players and superior at making life difficult for opponents. Second, Allen’s main defensive role was to drop deep and stay close to Lucas Leiva – which meant that he had to advance 10 or 15 yards up the pitch to close down Carrick, giving him time to play an easy pass. Steven Gerrard, meanwhile, simply didn’t press Tom Cleverley effectively.

Read the complete Zonal Marking analysis.

 

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