This was some game. All too often big matches like these are built up beyond all proportion by the Super Sunday factor, and all too often they wind up disappointing. This was not one of those occasions. I think this is the best time in the season for a United Liverpool game. Only a couple of games in, nobody’s thinking about points, or how the other sides around them are getting on: it’s all about that game.
United started the game far brighter than Liverpool, dominating possession and keeping the ball in the final third. Fernando Torres was completely isolated, and his usual Vidic-tormenting simply didn’t happen today, with the Serb looking much, much more assured. Jamie Redknapp, in his infinite wisdom, claimed before the game that United would sit off and allow Liverpool space: but this wasn’t the case, United were closing down all over the pitch, and Liverpool weren’t offered enough time to pick out Torres with any decent passes.
United, however, only had one truly great chance during this early domination, when the ball dropped to Nani following some good Rooney/Berbatov link-up play, but the winger hit disappointingly wide. That rarest of rarities, a United goal from a corner, came just before half-time, when Giggs’ corner was nodded in by Berbatov. Torres was marking him, and opted to gently fondle the Bulgarian, rather than put in a decent challenge. Then again, you have to ask why Torres was on defensive duties against United’s form player.
Liverpool came out for the second half looking better, but Berbatov doubled United’s lead with an exquisite overhead kick, that left Reina stranded. Nani’s cross evaded Rooney’s head, but Berbatov brought it under control, and lobbed it into the top corner with a perfectly executed strike.
United looked set to have thrown it away yet again, though, when Steven Gerrard scored twice in six minutes to make it 2-2. First, Jonny Evans needlessly scythed down Torres in the box, giving Howard Webb no option other than to point to the spot. Gerrard put it away, and found himself standing over a free kick on the edge of the area six minutes later, after O’Shea had fouled Torres. Meireles darted from the wall, taking Fletcher with him, and Gerrard picked out the gap perfectly. It was surely something from the training ground, and they pulled it off excellently.
Another draw from a winning position would surely have seen United come under scrutiny, but Berbatov ensured a win by climbing above Carragher to head in O’Shea’s cross. It was the perfect end to what was surely his best performance in a United shirt, and he was taken off to a standing ovation with a couple of minutes left. If he keeps this form up, I may have to formally retract this.
Edwin van der Sar 6 No complaints really
John O’Shea 6 Made up for the free kick with a cracking assist
Patrice Evra 7 Got forward a lot, as you’d expect of him
Nemanja Vidic 8 Very assured, no worries. Great game.
Jonny Evans 5 Crazy challenge on Torres to give away penalty
Nani 6 Dived. A lot. Tormented Konchesky at times
Ryan Giggs 6 A little quiet, disappointing
Paul Scholes 7 Passing good on the whole, but a few misplaced
Darren Flecther 6 Battled, but should have stood ground for free kick
Wayne Rooney 6 Decent, but overshadowed
Dimitar Berbatov 9 Brilliant.
Federico Macheda (on for Giggs, 82) 6 Didn’t see much of the ball
Anderson (on for Berbatov, 88) 6 Held onto ball well late on
Darron Gibson (on for Nani, 88) 6 No impact
Pepe Reina 6 Can’t fault him for goals
Glen Johnson 7 Decent, might’ve brought more attacking threat
Paul Konchesky 6 Tough job against Nani, dealt with well enough
Jamie Carragher 6 Should’ve done better for winner
Martin Skrtel 6 Perhaps lucky to get away with grappling at times
Maxi Rodriguez 5 Fairly anonymous
Joe Cole 6 Disappointing game
Raul Meireles 6 Needs time to gel
Christian Poulsen 5 Poor, allowed United to dominate midfield
Steven Gerrard 7 Their best player, but teammates let him down
Fernando Torres 5 Anonymous first half, at fault for opener
David Ngog (on for Maxi, 62) 7 Liverpool looked a lot better at 4-4-2
Milan Jovanovic (on Meireles, 79) 6 Little impact
Daniel Agger (on for Agger, 81) 6 Rightly frustrated with Nani anticsLike what the TT have on offer? Sign up for more notifications!