Liverpool (a) 2017-18
Jose Mourinho has been widely slated this week following a dull game at Anfield last weekend where the points were shared. Despite being the second highest scoring side in the league (six goals ahead of Spurs) Mourinho has again been proclaimed as the enemy of football. I completely disagree.
I’ll always begrudgingly admire Chelsea’s Champions League winning charge a few seasons back when they played a lovely flat back 10 against Barcelona, who were at the time streets above anyone in terms of fluid possession based football. I don’t think that there is a single correct way of playing football, and in my mind the way Chelsea won their tie against Barcelona was also beautiful football. Had a clearly inferior Manchester United dug their heels in against Barcelona in the Champions League final at Wembley some years back, we may have had a different trophy cabinet. Unfortunately Sir Alex chose to go toe to toe against the best footballing team on the planet and it was a comfortable win for Barcelona that night. I still regret that loss in the only way a football fan can. Chelsea arguably took their inspiration for that performance from a legendary Champions League tie where Inter Milan bullied Barcelona and went on to win the Champions League. The Inter manager, Jose Mourinho.
Rose Tinted Sir Alex Spectacles
Many people forget that we had not won many times at Anfield in the years before Sir Alex Ferguson’s retirement. In fact Manchester United seldomly won the majority of their matches with the ‘big 6’ whilst they were winning their trophies. It was the other 14 teams that we were so good at dispatching, season after season. United have not had this for a few years now, as mid table sides have really fancied their chances against us either home or away. Personally I feel we have David Moyes to thank for this.
“Coincidentally” we played Liverpool the day a stand was renamed after Kenny Dalglish. There’ll always be something that will fall around the same time as this fixture that will get the Liverpool fans’ juices flowing even more than normal. Coupled with the fact that United were missing three key midfield personnel, I think Jose decided that losing this game would be more detrimental than if say Liverpool were to lose. You could argue that United have spent a lot of money this summer and should be equipped to deal with three injuries, I’d say that Fellaini and Pogba have been key for United this season and losing two on-form central midfielders would destabilise any team to an extent. The other key absence was Eric Bailly and I think this was more likely the reason for Matic and Herrera’s defensive mindsets. I just don’t think Jose trusts Chris Smalling and so wanted the extra cover.
Whatever the plan was for the midfield – we still had the attackers to hurt Liverpool. Anthony Martial, Mkhitaryan and Lukaku would be enough to cause some damage in most games but Lukaku looked crowded out and isolated in most of the game. I can imagine Jose not being happy with his performance because what he would have demanded was a battering ram performance from Lukaku, to disrupt Liverpool playing out from the back and holding the ball up well so United could launch an effective counter attack. Whether Lukaku had no support because the distribution was poor, or the distribution suffered because Lukaku was poor when finding space or targeting one specific centre back: I’m not sure. I would loved to have seen Juan Mata play at a ground that he now part owns (Juan Mata vs Liverpool 2-1 Anfield 2015) but it wasn’t to be on this occasion.
Ironically I thought the game would have been more exciting if Liverpool were more than average. Considering they had over 62% possession there was ONE significant attack leading to a clear opportunity. Liverpool were clearly not penetrating the defence the way they should have and Klopp DID NOT RISK losing to a counter attack goal. I think he feared the Rashford effect and didn’t INCREASE the number of forwards, just replacing the positions with fresh legs.
David De Gea.
The best in the world. One day could he be United’s best ever signing?
I do regret looking at how poor Liverpool were and that they were missing Sadio Mane, we missed a trick in not going for the throat. However United keep their undefeated run going and can easily win their next two games against Benfica and Huddersfield. This would give them some momentum again for an important home game against Tottenham. I would much rather we win these three matches and stay along side Manchester City.
As much as I love watching fluid passing and marauding wingers and full backs torment defences, in my mind any football that results in trophies and history is beautiful football.