Manchester United 2-1 Liverpool: Five Talking Points

Old Trafford

As Manchester City kicked off at Arsenal in the day's late game, 10 points was the yawning gap to the 19-times title winners, though what had appeared a canter of a victory turned into a far more attritional three points.

1 Can the champions catch Manchester United?

Liverpool were making a case for not being the best barometer of United's championship credentials when they fell two behind as Sir Alex Ferguson's men strolled through them. But once the visitors scored suddenly United looked an outfit that could yet be caught – both in this contest, and by Roberto Mancini's band come May: though they had to start this quest by reclosing the gap to United to seven points by winning at the Emirates Stadium.

2 What did José Mourinho's team learn?

The "hooded one" sat next to Roy Hodgson in the posh seats, covering his head throughout against the cold as he took notes ahead of United's visit to Real Madrid on 13 February for the first leg of their last-16 Champions League encounter.

Beyond Robin van Persie's lethalness in front of goal, the Portuguese will have noted the threat of Shinji Kagawa as the United No10: the Japanese's deft touch, ghosting runs to the opposition area, and the ability to recycle the ball from deep inside his own half carries a threat that requires neutralising.

But Mourinho can also tell his side United are brittle when the contest is taken to them, as the second 45 minutes showed: Real's coach will inform Cristiano Ronaldo to collect the ball and drive at Rafael da Silva and Patrice Evra, who were both vulnerable on the afternoon.

3 Liverpool can be heartened by second half

Brendan Rodgers's side were close to awful before the break. Steven Gerrard was mugged by Robin van Persie. Joe Allen under-hit a backpass to Pepe Reina that should have been punished by Danny Welbeck to claim United's second. And Gerrard was again the culprit with a heavy pass in an attempted one-two with Luis Suarez when the latter closed in on goal. These were just three illustrations of a too-tentative Liverpool side during the opening 45 minutes. When United scored their second the sense was they might take a hammering. Instead, after Daniel Sturridge's strike, United became the nervy team and were grateful for the final whistle.

4 Robin van Persie bests Luis Suárez

The showdown of the star strikers after the opening stanza ended with Rodgers deciding the Uruguayan required some help. On came Sturridge to link with Suarez, who dropped in behind the ex-Chelsea man. Before this he had been becalmed, as Robin van Persie continued to do what he has done all season. With 19 minutes gone, a slide-rule ball from Patrice Evra was nonchalantly flicked beyond Pepe Reina for the opener. "You two-faced bastards, your hero is Scouse" the Liverpool fans had taunted their opposite numbers about Wayne Rooney. But Old Trafford's darling now is actually a Dutchman.

5 Daniel Sturridge adds a dimension to Liverpool

On signing the forward Brendan Rodgers stated that his favoured position was through the middle as the main striker. The problem was what this might mean for Suarez who has shone when operating in the role. As the second half began an answer was offered as Suarez dropped into the playmaker berth and Sturridge became the No9, taking less than 15 minutes to display the requisite predatory instincts.

When Gerrard's low shot was palmed out by David de Gea it was Sturridge who left Rafael Da Silva flat-footed to score his first goal for his latest club.

Powered by article was written by Jamie Jackson, for The Guardian on Sunday 13th January 2013 16.10 Europe/London © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010


image: © Paolo Camera

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