Manchester United continued their improved form with their 6th win on the spin thanks to goals from Wayne Rooney, Juan Mata and Robin Van Persie. Rooney and Mata gave United a 2-0 half time lead although Mata’s goal was offside. Van Persie put the result beyond Liverpool but did have their chances through Raheem Stirling and Mario Balotelli but again found David De Gea in top form. The result leaves United 3rd, 5 points behind their City neighbors and a full 10 points ahead of the red half of Merseyside.
United made three changes from their 5th win in 5 games against Southampton on Monday night with Phil Jones, Johnny Evans and James Wilson coming in for Paddy McNair and the injured pair of Marcus Rojo and Chris Smalling. With Wilson’s inclusion Rooney dropped into the midfield trio with Fellani and Mata. Liverpool lined up 3-4-3 making 4 changes from their 1-1 draw with Basel in midweek; Brad Jones in for Simon Mignolet making his first start in 21 months, Alberto Moreno in for Jose Enrique, Coutinho in for Lucas and Adam Lallana in for Rickie Lambert. The Reds lined up with no recognised striker with Johnson, Skrtel and Lovern as the back 3.
The away side started the brighter looking to make a fast start which they became known for last season. Without a known striker, the attacking trio of Stirling, Lallana and Coutinho were looking to spin in behind United and could have taken the lead on 12 minutes. A brilliant reverse ball from Lallana found Stirling bearing down on goal but the England International shot weakly at De Gea. United went straight on the attack opening the scoring through Wayne Rooney. Antonio Valencia did excellently down the right beating Joe Allen, he pulled the ball back to the onrushing Rooney who swept home for his 6th Premier League goal of the season just inside the box.
Liverpool were looking their most dangerous when countering on the break through Stirling but several times their young team were too eager to release the ball and chances went begging. Stirling’s second big chance of the first half came all from his own doing, jinking past Jones in the box, he tried to beat De Gea at his near post but the Spainard stood strong for United. Liverpool continued to have opportunities on the break but United were finding joy down the right through Valenica. United did double their lead with a dubious decision 5 minutes before the break. Young created space on the left and his in-swinging cross was flicked on by Van Persie to Mata at the back post who nodded home. The question was did the Dutchman touch the ball and from the replay it appeared the United front man did. It was a big blow for the Merseyside club who were hoping to go into half time only facing a one goal deficit.
Brendan Rogers introduced Mario Balotelli in place of Adam Lallana looking for an early response in the second half. Jordan Henderson should have done better early in the half from a Raheem Stirling cross but headed over the United bar. Liverpool should have halved the deficit 6 minutes into the second half but it came from poor United passing. After looking shaky at the back on Monday against Southampton passing backwards, Evans back pass fell short of De Gea. Stirling nipped in taking the ball to De Gea right side but failed to find the net for the Reds. Rooney was next to go close for United but his shot was easily saved by Brad Jones in the Liverpool goal.
United started to sit back trying to hit Liverpool on the break with the away side having a spell of possession but doing little to trouble the United defense. Van Persie could have had his third goal in a week if his touch from Valencia’s cross had gone the other side of the post. With De Gea’s continued development in recent weeks in to a top class keeper he kept his side’s lead in tact. Stirling was once again found behind the United back 3, Phil Jones did well to stop the shot but Stirling composed his self and found Balotelli but the Italian’s shot was brilliantly tipped on the bar by De Gea.
United added to their lead with Van Perise notching his 7th PL goal of the season, the home side broke away with Rooney making a run in behind Liverpool. His poor pass was poorly cleared to Juan Mata who unselfishly found an unmarked Van Persie who slotted home. Liverpool still searched for a consolation goal but De Gea saved well from Balotelli’s effort after being found by Henderson’s cut back. Balotelli again went close for Liverpool but man of the match De Gea kept his clean sheet.
United’s 6th win in a row continues their climb up the table and puts them just behind Man City and Chelsea. After doing enough in recent games, Van Gaal’s team continue to grind out results which more than you can ask for. However, with the injury crisis at the back for United, Van Gaal is finding hard to keep defenders fit for more than one game. But Brendan Rogers will be wondering how his side have not scored at least one goal in the match but with United having a top class keeper De Gea continues his growing reputation. With the festive fixtures coming up United face Villa, Newcastle, Spurs and Stoke where they could add to their win streak and ready to strike if City or Chelsea have a poor Christmas Period.
Pressure continues to grow on Rogers in the Liverpool dug out, with their place in the Champions League going in midweek and a defeat against their big rivals confidence will be dented. They face Bournemouth in a League Cup quarter final in midweek which will be no easy game against the team who top the Championship and are on a 12 match unbeaten record, last losing in September at Derby. With only two wins in their last 10, their form will need to pick up if they want to be in the Champions League shake up at the end of the season but their festive fixtures are not that kind. Three home games against Arsenal, Swansea and Leicester to go along with a tough trip to Turf Moor to face Burnley; Rogers will need to pick results up soon.