Liverpool show real promise despite Old Trafford defeat


Liverpool fans will never accept a defeat at Old Trafford. However, based on their team’s performance against Manchester United yesterday, they might be beginning to accept that their team are showing real signs of progress under the stewardship of Brendan Rodgers.

As Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini claimed recently, Robin Van Persie could be the difference in the title race this season. It could easily be argued that Van Persie was the difference at Old Trafford yesterday afternoon. The Dutch striker was a virtual bystander throughout the 90 minutes aside for two decisive moments. The first, his instinctive movement to meet Patrice Evra’s low driven cross which gave Manchester United an early lead. The second, a beautiful curled delivery from a free-kick which set up United’s second.

Had Liverpool been as clinical in the final third of the pitch as their opponents, they could have easily returned to Merseyside with at least a point.

In the first half, Liverpool maintained possession in the middle of the pitch but were unable to penetrate United’s experienced backline as Luis Suarez cut an isolated figure up front. However, Brendan Rodgers’ decision to introduce new signing Daniel Sturridge at half time, giving Suarez more support and allowing the Uruguayan to drop deeper and link up play, saw Liverpool’s control of possession rewarded with some real opportunities in front of goal in the second half.

Sturridge took one of these opportunities, pouncing on a rebound after great endeavour on the edge of the United area and a shot from Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard. However, Sturridge could not double his tally when he snatched at a great chance to score Liverpool’s equaliser in the last 10 minutes, ballooning over from 10 yards when it looked easier to hit the target.

A few pundits have questioned the signing of Sturridge – wondering in particular if it’s possible for him and Suarez to play alongside each other in Liverpool’s attack. Their partnership and link up play in the second half at Old Trafford certainly looked promising – one of many encouraging signs of progress for Brendan Rodgers’ and Liverpool supporters.

Rodgers’ has only been in charge of Liverpool for 22 Premier League games, but it is clear to see that his short passing, controlling philosophy – so revered during his time at Swansea – has been well grasped by his Liverpool players, as they dominated large swathes of possession and territory against United, particularly in the second half.

Another promising sign for the Reds yesterday, was the performance of 19 year old right back Andre Wisdom, who – making only his 16th first team start – looked both solid in defence and positive in attack throughout. Rodgers’ has placed faith in the clubs’ youth academy since his arrival by selecting youngsters Raheem Sterling, Suso and Wisdom for the first team and each of them have rarely looked out of their depth.

There are obviously still areas for great improvement at Anfield. United exposed Liverpool’s fragility from set pieces and their sloppiness when defending balls into the box yesterday afternoon. Of more concern to Rodgers’ will be his team’s lack of brutality in front of goal – a hangover from the Reds campaign under Kenny Dalglish last season which has seen them find the net on just 35 occasions this term – 19 goals fewer than yesterday’s opponents United.

Liverpool started the season slowly under Rodgers’ but have shown more consistency of late having recorded 15 points from a possible 21 since December 1st prior to their meeting with United. The Reds’ recent form appears to have given them a real air of confidence which was in evidence against United as they refused to panic and abandon their patient passing style even when they found themselves two goals down.

In spite of defeat yesterday, Rodgers’ and his squad should return to Merseyside with a real degree of satisfaction. Their great Manchester rivals and Champions elect may be 24 points ahead of them in the Premier League table at present, but this gulf in points was far from evident on the pitch at Old Trafford yesterday afternoon as Liverpool took the game to their opponents in the second half and left United to sigh with relief when the final whistle was blown. 

Gary Armstrong


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