Match Report: Liverpool 1-0 Manchester United

In similar vein to the Chelsea game last week, the battle at Anfield between Liverpool and Manchester United is another early-season treat for fans. For many, despite the Manchester derbies and the match-ups with other teams that have offered United more of a title threat in past years, this is the game that is quickly sought out when the fixture lists are announced in June. It is often a fiery, intense affair that gives us plenty of passion and maybe even a few fireworks. Unfortunately for the Manchester United faithful, this afternoon there is only one set of supporters that will leave Anfield disappointed.

In typical fashion for this fixture, the game burst into life in a frantic opening ten minutes. United started brightly, pushing forward in an attempt to find the early opening; but to the fans’ despair, struggling to create chances. It was a theme that would last the entire ninety minutes, but it was within the opening five that got our first – and only – goal of the game. All the talk beforehand had surrounded Liverpool’s Daniel Sturridge – the man in a rich vein of form. Could he replicate it in the biggest of games? On his twenty-fourth birthday, he gave himself the best of birthday presents. In the fourth minute, a Liverpool corner was headed on by Daniel Agger, and smartly nudged on its way with a cleverly taken header from Sturridge. As he peeled away in celebration, and the Kop faithful roared, the home side had their dream start.

It was a shaky opening half from the away side, as they struggled to retain their usual fluid, rhythmic passing in midfield. Michael Carrick, who started poorly but played himself in during the second half, was the only reliable figure in midfield line-up that screams to be strengthened with reinforcements. David Moyes showed his faith in Ashley Young and was horribly unrewarded. Eventually substituted in the 63rd minute for Luis Nani, Young had one of his worst performances in a Manchester United shirt, struggling to create chances or even keep the ball.

Cleverly was poor too, and Ryan Giggs – although marginally better – did not play up to the usual United standard. The Japanese midfielder Shinji Kagawa was absent from the squad, and will undoubtedly provide a much-needed attacking option on his return.

Liverpool did not play fantastically, but with four wins out four in all competitions and sitting atop the Premier League table, they will have no cause for complaints. Three 1-0 victories with Sturridge goals has been enough to dispatch Aston Villa, Stoke, and now last year’s Premier League Champions. It was a struggle for all attacking outlets this afternoon, but Coutinho and Gerrard in the midfield looked bright, and in-form Daniel Sturridge has been providing the goals needed. New signing Simon Mignolet in goal has looked fantastic in Liverpool’s opening fixtures, and their defence proved tight and disciplined during today’s game. Dutchman Robin van Persie, so instrumental in United’s fixtures against Liverpool last season was for the most part left a frustrated figure up front. An overhead kick lashed over the bar soon after the opening goal by Sturridge – and a late shot put wide from a lovely threaded Hernandez pass – his only real chances.

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Manchester United were much better in the second half, but for all the patient possession from the away side, there very rarely seemed a path through. A snap-shot from Nani in the 78th minute was the only real shot to sting Simon Mignolet’s palms, and Danny Welbeck’s fruitless penalty appeal in the second half typified United’s hope rather than expectation. For David Moyes, the pressure to buy new midfield reinforcements can only mount after today’s lacklustre, sloppy performance. With Deadline Day just around the corner, it will be interesting to see how his Manchester United side strengthen by the end of the window, as it is surely much-needed. Liverpool were watched by Thiago Ilori, Mamadou Sakho and Victor Moses ahead of their proposed moves to the club before the window closes, but United’s search for a central midfielder continues. United fans will be hopeful that Ander Herrera and Marouane Fellaini can be lured to Old Trafford. Otherwise, based on this performance, it seems like it is going to be a long, frustrating season for David Moyes and the Manchester United supporters.

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