For Manchester Utd, A 3-1 loss to Liverpool hurts more than a 3-1 loss to any other team. Especially considering how poor we,
the Red Devils were. There were no bad refereeing calls in this one unlike the Chelsea game. We were outplayed completely on the pitch. Liverpool seemed to be more up for the game and rightfully won it.
- Formation: 4-4-2. This formation has worked well against the likes of Chelsea (where we played well but lost coz of refereeing decisions) and Wigan when we had Fletcher playing on the right. It was a surprise that Fergie opted for this formation against Liverpool who have a very fluid midfield which keeps interchanging a lot with the exception of Lucas. Also, since we did not have our usual defensive cover in the form of Vidic and Rio, it was like putting an extra pressure on our defence. The formation looked ok when we were going forward but when we lost possession, it felt as if everyone was just running after the ball and Liverpool almost always had a player to pass the ball onto.
- Wingplay: Wings are always our preferred form of attack. But Liverpool countered that perfectly. Most of our long balls out to the wings were dealt with well. Nani had only 1 cross/pass into the box, Rafael had 4, Evra had 0, Giggs had 2 (other than the corners), and Rooney had 7. Out of these, only 1 pass/cross was successful in the box, rest all ended up being cleared. Firstly, that is a poor number of crosses into the box and secondly, that’s a poor success rate.
- Midfield: In a 4-4-2 formation, midfielders have a lot to do when they are not on the ball. And if you are against a 5 man midfield, you also have a problem of being low in numbers. As a result many a times Brown was seen coming out to track a player and leaving a hole behind for someone to exploit. And mostly that someone was not being tracked by our midfield of Carrick and Scholes. And honestly, both were equally guilty in this regard. Interesting fact: 562 attempted passes with a success rate of 79% compared to Liverpool’s 421 passes at a success rate of 70%
- Nani: What to say about his performance. One assist to his name on the wrong side of the score sheet (seriously, what was he trying to do there?) Poor performance from the wing offensively. And those theatrics on the pitch after Carragher tackle. Honestly, Carragher deserved a red card but running out in front of the referee to show your injury and then you can’t even walk off the pitch. That was just uncalled for. This kind of behavior is uncalled for from a Manchester United player and that too against Liverpool. Referee made amends when he did not send off Rafael whose challenge was just as rash as Carragher’s.
- Dead ball: We are utterly poor with our dead balls. Our corners were pathetic and free kick barely made Reina work. Hopefully, when and if we splash some money, we buy someone with some dead ball ability.
- Substitutions: The lack of substitutions clearly showed the quality on the bench and the faith that Sir Alex has in them. I remember Chris Eagles coming on in big games when we were losing. We ended up losing some of those but at least something was tried on. But in this game there was nothing. Chicharito came on because of Nani’s injury but other than there was barely any inspiring change.
- Saving grace: Chicharito goal was the only saving grace in this game. Hats off to him for scoring whenever it’s not expected of him. It was good to see that after scoring so late, he still tried to get the ball back and restart the game ASAP.
Overall, a game where we were totally outplayed on a number of fronts. Loss of key players to injuries and suspensions didn’t help either. But with such a huge squad, we should not be complaining about not having enough back up. I don’t want to say that we were not up for it and Liverpool were because if the players were not up for it against Liverpool, I wonder what they would be up for then. The title is still ours to lose but now I am wondering if we do win it, the win might mask our weaknesses. On other hand, the win might give us some extra cash, which we might use to strengthen.