One might well wonder how you “kill” a rivalry. Manchester United and Liverpool have long had one of the most storied duels of any two clubs in football. But the game I witnessed yesterday was not a match between titans, but more closer to reality: a routine win by the league leaders against an, occasionally decent, but mostly mediocre, mid-table side.
Liverpool are in a slump, there can be no mistake. Media did their best to hype it up with talks of handballs and biased ref’s, but the resulting contests did not light the world on fire in any way, and is noted more for its unremarkableness than anything else.
Manchester United dominated so much of this game as to leave the home crowd silent through boredom. Huge holes in the away midfield were exploited by Michael Carrick, easily controlling the space between attack and defence. Kagawa tracked back ceaselessly, an extra defender on the left hand side when required, a potent threat going forward. Rafael surged down the right, Young had upped his game. Ferdinand and Vidic were like the rock of several seasons past. United passed the ball with ease, swamping their opponents. They really should have been several goals to the good by half-time and only the somewhat disappointing showing of Welbeck, on the spot as it were, might have prevented that. Van Persie was the main target of most things, but there was only so much that he could do.
It was another defensive blunder that opened the door, frustrating in the repetitiveness of it. This is the third time in a month – the others being against Swansea and Newcastle – that David De Gea has saved decently from a powerful shot, only for the United defence – Rafael in this instance – to be caught ball-watching, not looking to clear a rebound, allowing the opposition an easy second chance at a goal. At full stretch, blind-sided, there is only so much that De Gea can do in terms of direction. The multitudes criticising him seem to have little understanding of what goalkeeping entails, and I noted that the louder “pundits” had never kept goal in their lives. If De Gea tried to bend that kind of shot out for a corner, there’s just as much chance it will end up in the goal. It’s an instant, not a complicated physics equation being worked out. De Gea’s first concern is to stop the shot, which he did. His defence failed him, again, and that is unacceptable. That a goalkeeper of the talent and prestige as Peter Schmeichel absolved De Gea of blame (Match of the Day) is of far greater value as an opinion than others.
Daniel Sturridge is a key signing for Liverpool, and his energy and positioning caused some problems in the United area. But while Liverpool got back into the game, the likes of Suarez and Gerrard were lacklustre, and large parts of the rest of the Liverpool team look like no-hopers. The introduction of Jones late on just stifled their efforts further. Liverpool’s crazy spending over the last few years for such little return may be biting now, as Brendan Rodgers has to make do with a large amount of first team players who are not “big club” material.
Win got, and on we go. West Ham in the tertiary cup during the week, than the far more important visit to White Hart Lane. Spurs have been in consistently decent form all season, and I would fear for United far more against them than against Liverpool.
Elsewhere, Man City can thank a moment of insane defending for a cake-walk away to Arsenal. Shocking stuff really, and it is saddening to see the amount of Arsenal fans now resolutely turned on Arsene Wenger. I don’t think they are wrong though. Chelsea just continue to rack up decent results, and Demba Ba is only going to help that process. Not so far behind. QPR might have got a point out of Spurs, but I wouldn’t really put money of them staying up yet. Southampton’s win away to Aston Villa is as clear as signal of what is happening at the bottom as anything else.
Closer to home, Stuart Taylor will be Limerick’s new manager, and pre-season preparation can finally get underway in earnest. The re-signing of Rory Gaffney along with the probably re-signing of players like David O’Leary comes as an immense relief to most Limerick fans. Worries had been forming that Limerick would struggle big-time in the Premier Division, but with management in place and a squad forming, the future looks a little bit brighter than it did. Closer to the start of the season I’ll talk expectations.