The things I learnt: Manchester United v Liverpool

Posted by - September 20, 2010 - Liverpool, Manchester United, Premier League

Calmed down enough to only have Nani in once

Game of two halves
It is the ultimate footballing cliché, but it fits the bill in every way. The first half at Old Trafford yesterday was stagnant and uninspiring. Passes were misplaced, and Liverpool’s inability to keep the ball coupled with a degree of impotence in United’s attacks made it a chore to watch on a birthday hangover. The second period was a dream. After United’s second goal, Liverpool were forced to come forward, but it genuinely had the feel of a basketball game with waves of attacks. Whether this was down to defensive frailties will be discussed further, but matter not, it was as exciting a second half watching Manchester United since… well probably last weekend.

A Nani state
The Premier League is full of skilful players, and Nani is within the upper echelons of this esteemed list. However, there is one list that Nani tops every time: Most frustrating Premier League player? Yesterday he gave Konchesky a torrid time and then inevitably let himself down with his poor crossing.

But as we know, the coup de grace of the frustration revolves around his play-acting. When the embarrassment of the home fans on forums resembles being caught with your pants down in the toilets at school, you know it is time to change. Interestingly, Didier Drogba seems to have toned down this aspect of his game, presumably after advice, and it has enhanced his reputation considerably.

Owen Going Gone?
It is difficult to describe the current situation as a crossroads in Owen’s career, when in essence he has been stood at one for two years. The man is a finisher and an impact player, but clearly not at United’s level. If his career is not to drift away he needs reinvigoration, and it is not to be found at Old Trafford. When Federico Macheda was selected from the bench as oppose to Owen getting the chance to play his former club, his heart must have sank. With Hernandez, Macheda, Rooney and Berbatov ahead of him, and Welbeck, Diouf and Bebe seemingly the future, Michael has a watching brief until January. Surely a move to Villa beckons.

Berbatov the King of Trafford
Great players step up. Great players produce moments of magic to break through mundanity. Great players impart a sense that they have moved the game into slow motion, whereby they can act as a king among pawns, controlling matches through first touches and awareness. Yesterday was Berbatov’s day of triumph. His finishes were precise and adept in different ways, and his link up play with the midfield showed something that United fans had not yet seen.

The rise in the level of the Bulgarian’s stock can be measured in one question: If you had to have one striker against Bolton next week, who would you choose, Berba or Rooney?

One year ago, that question would have been laughed off.

Konchesky simply doesn’t fit the bill
Ok, so let’s make a list. Ashley Cole, Joleon Lescott, Kieran Gibbs ,Wayne Bridge (if available), Stephen Warnock, Leighton Baines, Paul Konchesky. By my reckoning Liverpool have bought the seventh choice England left-back, and is currently their first choice. This is frightening for a club with top four ambitions. His pace is lacking, his tackling is lacking, and his crossing was something of a joke, constantly finding Row C or D. It is not Konchesky’s fault that he is playing for Liverpool, but he is a journeyman full-back that has forged a decent career. He suddenly looks very out of place.

Big decision dealt with correctly
The rule is clear and defined: For a player to be sent off for a professional foul, accidental or deliberate, he must be denying an obvious goalscoring attempt. The ball through to Torres may well have been collected by Van der Sar, his touch may well have let him down. An obvious scoring opportunity it was not. Foul, yes. Yellow card, yes. Red card, no.

Alex Ferguson’s claims this morning that Torres cheated also seem as wide of the mark as a Nani cross, and fairly unnecessary after the game has been won. Presumably Sam Allardyce will lay into Fergie for trying to influence referees? Thought not.