Steven Gerrard scored two penalties and missed another as Manchester United were overrun at Old Trafford
One of the weird things about today is that it took about 10 minutes for United’s inferiority to become apparent, but there was no significant change in tactics or personnel until the 76th-minute double substitution. I can’t for the life of me fathom why it took so long. Even if Moyes remained convinced that he had selected his finest first XI, that doesn’t mean he couldn’t tweak it at all. The result is that he is not only seen as a hapless fool, but also as weak and indecisive. United deserve praise for sticking with him, and the problems at the club go way beyond their manager, but he seems to be making it difficult for them to keep the faith, or whatever faith they have left.
Enough from me. Our match report is live – read all about it here, and the comments section is already going mildly crazy. I’m going to edge towards the exit. Thanks for all your emails, and sorry for using so few of them. Have a fabulous remainder-of-weekend. Bye!
There are some great pictures in our match gallery here.
It’s not all about United’s demise, obviously. Liverpool are really superbly watchable. They probably won’t win the league – Manchester City remain favourites for that, surely – but they’re still phenomenally good. If no one fears United any more, Liverpool need fear nobody – two stunning turnarounds.
This is a low, in a season of lows for United. “That was a real turning-over,” says Paul Merson. “That could have been four, five, six. United just look lost, and nobody’s afraid of them any more. Nobody.” For a generation who have known nothing but United success, however well the last six months have prepared them for this, the mind still boggles at quite how poor last season’s champions are.
As for the third penalty, Gerrard says:
I maybe got a little bit cocky with the third one, but I’m very pleased with the two important one. We believe we can win it, but the easiest thing is to talk the talk. We’ve got to go and treat Cardsiff like Man Utd now, and then we’ve got to treat Sunderland like Man Utd, and if we do we’ll win a lot of matches.
… and he admits Liverpool want the title!
I’ve come here many times and been played off the park. To come here and dominate from start to finish, and we still go away slightly disappointed that we didn’t get more goals …
It’s a fantastic day personally, but we came here to win the game. I think we showed today that we’re genuine contenders and we’re going to fight to the end for this.
That was thrilling. I am thrilled. As of this moment, the table looks like this:
90+4 mins: United’s fans are in full voice (those of them who haven’t left) as the final whistle goes. Sadly their team is neither harmonious nor impressive.
90+3 mins: Never mind the league title, can Liverpool win the World Cup?
90+1 mins: United have four more minutes of this misery to get through. Liverpool bring off Sturridge, and bring on Aspas.
90 mins: There’ll be no stopping the title talk after this. This is a dismal United side, but they’re still a decent Premier League team playing at home in front of an excellent and vocal support, and they have been ripped apart here.
88 mins: Coutinho’s 25-yarder flies just wide. Wayne Rooney’s first-half effort remains United’s only shot on target.
87 mins: Two substitutions: Lucas comes on for Gerrard, and Ferdinand for Mata.
86 mins: This has been a hammering. Liverpool have won more penalties than they’ve created decent chances from open play, but for all that it’s been an evisceration. “Watching the game on an island in Belize,” writes Thomas Walker. “From here it seems like ManU is making the Liverpool defence look good - not an easy thing to do.” To be fair to Thomas, in his position I’d also be starting every email with a sentence that includes “on an island in Belize”.
Sturridge shoots badly, straight into Suárez’s instep, and the Uruguayan, suddenly clear, collects the ball and pokes it past De Gea.
83 mins: Incredible save! Súarez lobs the ball over Evans, runs clear and blasts the ball towards the far corner, but De Gea saves brilliantly. “Man United fans should not give up hope,” insists Simon McMahon. “With 11 minutes to go yesterday, the world-famous Dundee United FC were 2-0 down at home to St. Mirren and came back to win 3-2. Then again, we don’t have Moyes as our manager.”
82 mins: Rooney clips the ball from deep over the defence to Van Persie, who volleys wide of the near post and was narrowly offside anyway.
81 mins: That should have been another penalty! Carrick clips Sturridge’s ankle, he goes down, but this time the referee is unimpressed. Liverpool have had three penalties, and should have had five!
80 mins: United are unhappy about that third penalty, but on Sky Gary Neville doesn’t agree. “If you go down in the box and dive in on a forward, you get everything you deserve,” he says.
78 mins: This time Gerrard shoots to his left, De Gea goes the wrong way, but the ball slaps the base of the post and rebounds to safety!
Not a lot of contact, to be fair, but a poor challenge for sure. Wowzers.
77 mins: Vidic fouls Sturridge, and the referee points to the spot
76 mins: United finally make a change – two of them! – and Welbeck comes on for Januzaj, while Cleverley replaces Fellaini.
75 mins: A chance for United! Rooney runs down the left and dinks in a cross, but it’s just an inch high for Van Persie, who heads wide.
74 mins: Ooooooh! Gerrard has the ball, and a lot of space, so he marches forward a few paces and arrows in a shot that is deflected just wide. The corner ends with the ball falling to him once again, and this time the shot flies high.
72 mins: Finally, a substitution! But it’s Liverpool making the change, with Coutinho coming on for Sterling.
71 mins: Rafael fouls Suárez, the referee immediately gets out his book and, with MBM writers everywhere excitedly typing “RED CARD!” all over the place, he marches up to Vidic and books him for an earlier offence.
69 mins: Sterling finds Suárez, who turns brilliantly and feeds Sturridge with a long pass, and though a well-covered Suárez does break into the box, Sturridge hangs on to the ball for ages waiting for someone to run from midfield to lend him a hand before eventually losing possession.
68 mins: A nice United move involving Carrick, Rooney and Evra ends with Van Persie running offside. There have been a few chinks of light for United of late, a certain shifting of the tides.
66 mins: Evra’s cross is half-cleared to Mata, whose shot deflects to Fellaini, who shoots high and wide. “Two penalties conceded at Old Trafford for the first time in the Premiership eh?” notes Mark Judd. “You got to hand it to Moyes’ and his team, the record breaking under his stewardship is remarkable in such a short space of time.”
65 mins: Liverpool send a long ball crossfield towards Flanagan, who shoves Januzaj and then flies into Rafael. He must have been that close to a second yellow.
64 mins: Carrick finds Rooney in the penalty area, and the forward finds space to shoot, and also a defender to shoot straight into.
62 mins: United are pushing forwards, and that means they’re leaving holes in a defence that Liverpool were finding holes in even before they were consciously leaving any. Sterling gets the ball, feeds Suárez, and Rafael arrives to steal the ball.
61 mins: An hour played, United two goals down, and Sky’s cameras focus on their subs’ bench, where they’re all just sitting there. Does Moyes see nothing that can be improved upon?
60 mins: Manchester United have never previously conceded two penalties in a single Premier League home game. Which isn’t enormously surprising, but is worthy of note.
59 mins: Suárez gets the ball on the right, nobody near him. He ambles forwards towards the penalty area, sizes up Vidic, shimmies a bit and then falls over.
58 mins: Look, pictures!
57 mins: While Vidic was winning that header something happened to Agger’s face. He’s now got a black eye, and is receiving treatment.
55 mins: A nice run from Januzaj ends in a United corner. Mata swings it in, Mignolet comes but doesn’t get anywhere near, and Vidic heads over (and is then punched in the head by Mignolet).
54 mins: Mata passes to Rooney, who gives the ball away and falls over Skrtel. Skrtel is quickly booked, but it’s about 20 seconds later and 60 yards away, for something else entirely.
53 mins: David Moyes appears to have sent his brave lads out for the second half with a pat on the back and a request for “more of the same”.
50 mins: Raphael cross the ball, and Johnson ushers it out of play. All straightforward enough, but United’s players are suddenly surround the referee! And a replay reveals that the ball did bounce into Johnson’s hand. No obvious intent or benefit, though.
49 mins: Two definite penalties, incidentally. Absolutely no quibbling possible. “You can’t send Raphael off for the handball,” insists Paul Griffin. “Norman Whiteside and Steve McMahon both killed and ate an opponent in this fixture in about 1985. Both received a stern talking to, which is as it should be.”
48 mins: The penalty was won 20 seconds after half-time, and United are deep in a hole and trying to make a ladder out of Adnan Januzaj.
Gerrard sends the ball low to his right, De Gea goes the right way this time, but he still can’t get there! Goal!
Johnson dinks the ball over the defence, Joe Allen runs onto it and Jones barges him in the back. Penalty!
46 mins: Liverpool get the second half under way. There have been no substitutions.
Suárez is wearing his new knitted boots today. That is all.
MBM SOS: Where might you watch the football if you found yourself in the Israeli beach resort of Eilat? Nicholas John wants to know.
Liverpool have been a class apart in that first half, but the game isn’t won yet. A lot of United’s best moments have come down their right, and Liverpool’s left-back has been booked. United still have forwards good enough to score, and Liverpool a defence fallible enough to concede. But United could very easily be a man down already, should have conceded two penalties rather than one, and are frequently being overrun in their own half. It took a good save to deny Rooney, but how many times have United had decent possession in Liverpool’s penalty area? I can think of two, and at least a dozen at the other end.
45+3 mins: Peeeeeeep! It’s half-time, and though United seemed to improve when losing, they still deserve to be losing.
45+2 mins: Fellaini is bleeding again. This time his head just opened up all by itself.
45+1 mins: We’ve tiptoes into the first of two extra minutes, and as they begin Januzaj finally does something, namely shooting over the bar.
44 mins: United have a shot on target! A ruddy good one! Rooney it is with the effort, Mignolet it is with a wonderful diving save!
44 mins: Suárez shoots from 50 yards, which is emphatically wide. “I’m wondering if there are many other Man United supporters out there who, like me, find themselves in the previously unimaginable position of almost hoping Liverpool win today,” writes Adam Hayashi. “As much as they are our historic rivals, I’d much rather they or Arsenal take the title than one of the synthetic constructions of City or Chelsea.” I’d have thought that the venn diagram which has “United fans” in one bubble and “people who’d rather Liverpool or Arsenal take the title than one of the synthetic constructions of City or Chelsea” in the other would have lots of people in each but only a small overlap.
42 mins: Rafael finds Van Persie in a ridiculous amount of penalty-area space. The Dutchman, I think, doesn’t realise quite how clear he is and Gerrard closes him down while he tries to shake off the space with a clever turn.
41 mins: A decent spell for United ends with Rafael having a chance to shoot on the edge of the area, which he doesn’t take, and Liverpool clear.
39 mins: David Moyes sends United’s bench to warm up. United need to make changes, nobody will be surprised to hear. “Moyes’ tactics are harder to understand than late night Gordon Strachan,” writes Vaz Frigerio. “First we have the day of a thousand crosses against the tallest centre half in the league and now we play without wingers against the narrowest team in the Premier League with the dodgiest left back. Anti-management anti-tactics anti-genius.”
36 mins: A delay while Fellaini receives treatment to a bleeding head, having been on the receiving end of a monstrous Gerrard challenge – the Liverpool captain gets a booking as a result. His was an excellent penalty, totally unsaveable.
35 mins: “United are lucky to still have 11 men on the pitch,” says Gary Neville. Rafael would certainly have been booked for that in most situations, I think.
Gerrard shots high and to his right. De Gea dives low and to his right. Goal!
33 mins: A long crossfield pass to Suárez, whose first touch takes the ball past Rafael, who blocks with his hand. Penalty!
31 mins: Ignore my earlier update (11 mins) about Flanagan being booked – he was only warned. Which is just as well, as he has now been booked. Moments later Rafael joins him in the book for being very mean indeed to Gerrard.
30 mins: Liverpool haven’t dominated every one of these opening thirty minutes, but they have been easily superior overall.
28 mins: This time Sturridge passes towards Suárez in the penalty area. Vidic gets his foot to the ball, which runs to Allen, whose shot is not cleanly struck and is easily collected by De Gea.
26 mins: The corner rumbles along the ground harmlessly, is half-cleared, worked back to Gerrard, whose cross flies straight out of play. The lad needs to correct his crossing radar.
25 mins: Suárez finds Sturridge in the penalty area again. This simply cannot go on. This time he heads down a dead-end alley before winning a corner.
23 mins: A moment of calm as Liverpool take a throw-in and win another one, at the end of a very promising opening quarter of the game. “Apologies for this having nothing to do with the football, but I had more to drink last night than I have in years, and today I feel like someone has pulled out my insides, battered them with a rolling pin, chewed them up, and then spat them back into my mouth,” writes Mac Millings. “Also learned last night that one of my colleagues thought I was someone else entirely. A 67-year-old man, as it happens. I am not 67. Feel like it, though.” Anyone got any magic hangover cures for poor Mac?
20 mins: A lovely Liverpool move! And a terrible Liverpool shot! Sturridge times his run perfectly, collects Suárez’s pass, beats Vidic with an unexpected swivel and then totally mishits his left-foot shot when well placed.
19 mins: A cross from the left flicks a Liverpool head and reaches Van Persie, beyond the far post, but the eventual shot is deflected and bobbles harmlessly to Mignolet.
18 mins: Flanagan bamboozles Mata with a nifty shimmy and launches into a 30-yard crossfield dribble. He really does.
17 mins: Rooney finds Rafael in acres of space, but Joe Allen charges down his cross. From the throw-in Fellaini kicks the ball into his own hand, and Liverpool have the ball.
15 mins: Liverpool had the better of those opening six or seven minutes, but the game has calmed down a little, as it had to, and United are no longer being rolled over. “If I could disagree with Alec Cochrane, Gerrard not being even half the player he was and having never been a holding midfield player at all, I would imagine if Januzaj or Rooney get up a head of stream and take a run at him he’ll find himself quickly out of his depth,” writes David Flynn. “Same for Joe Allen except he is at the height of his powers.”
13 mins: Skrtel slams a clearance into Johnson, and it rebounds to Van Persie. Johnson comes back top claim the ball, but the Dutchman is a bit unchuffed about it, falls over and asks for a penalty. He doesn’t get one.
12 mins: Some decent possession for United in Liverpool’s half, but Rooney’s right-wing cross sails over Van Persie and out for a throw-in.
11 mins: Flanagan gets the first booking of the day, as players continue to throw themselves about wildly.
10 mins: Van Persie gets some space in Liverpool’s penalty area, but his pull-back is cut out. At the other end, Sterling runs onto a through-ball but his blind pass inside finds nobody in particular.
7 mins: This is blood-and-thunder stuff, a reckless, manic opening. Suárez is just offside from Henderson’s pass, then seconds later Jones takes the ball with an immense sliding challenge on Gerrard.
5 mins: Flanagan steals the ball from Mata midway into United’s half, and Suárez runs into the penalty area. Fellaini fouls him, but remarkably he doesn’t go down, and wins a corner instead.
4 mins: A lot of midfield sloppiness so far, with Fellaini and Rooney among the players to concede possession. Liverpool are haring around like monkeys in a banana plantation.
3 mins: Chance! Henderson slides the ball through the defence to Sturridge, who has run across the backline from left to right and outpaces Jones before hitting a first-time shot wide.
1 min: Manchester United get the match under way, and keep the ball for the entirety of minute one.
“Yes, United are more than likely to concede a goal … but if I were a Liverpool fan the thought of Agger and Skrtel v Rooney and Van Persie (in any form) wouldn’t fill me with confidence.” I wouldn’t put money on either side keeping a clean sheet this afternoon.
United have turned up, and the players are on the pitch and currently shaking hands. Game (very nearly) on!
Liverpool’s players are in the tunnel. United are letting them wait a while.
Good point. I’m not a United fan, but I’m sure I remember watching Mark Hughes spend his warm-up thrashing 20-yarders into the onion bag on childhood visits to Old Trafford, but I suppose that was a different century.
“Definition of irony: being a Liverpool fan of 30years and having to take my nine-year-old to his first kick boxing tournament, which is less than a mile from Old Trafford,” writes Imran Azam. “What time does he fight? 1.30pm. Aghhhhh …” An afternoon of Whatever Happened to the Likely Lads-style japery lies in store for you, I fear.
“Given that Man Utd’s nadir was the game when they had a trillion crosses, they have now switched to a team that has no wingers,” notes Alec Cochrane. “I think, with Gerrard, Allen, Henderson playing in a central midfield three, they are going to struggle to get through there. This game will be decided on whether Mata, Rooney, Januzaj and Van Persie can get out wide and around Liverpool when they get the ball. And of course, how quickly Vidic gets sent off.”
Aha, so you want tactical discussion, eh? Me, I think it’ll be decided by whether United score before their defence is first pierced by a killer through-ball from deep that releases Sterling, or whoever.
I must admit to racing out on a sandwich-purchasing mission during Sky’s latest ad break, and I returned to hear the very tail end of Brendan Rodgers’ pre-match interview in which he explained his decision to bring in Sterling at the expense of Coutinho:
“I just felt that Raheem with his penetration, and he’s been electric in training, and I think the pitch and everything around that suits him.”
“My recurring thought as an optimistic Liverpool fan (optimism based on moving the ball away from our shakey defence to our stellar attack as rapidly as possible) is ‘is something brilliant happening?’ This is the match that will give me the answer.”
I don’t know. I think Liverpool fans have very high ambitions – and I’m not going to say they shouldn’t – but whatever the future holds this side have been making brilliant things happen all season, if not quite consistently enough.
Interesting stat on Sky just now: only Manchester City (20) have scored more than half as many goals as Liverpool have in the first half-hour of matches. Liverpool have bagged 29, with Southampton third on 14.
“I have to believe,” says Nemanja Vidic, of United’s hopes of claiming a Champions League place. “If we beat Liverpool, maybe we can turn things around.”
I don’t have to believe, but if you absolutely have to believe, or don’t have to but have chosen to anyway, this is a game United simply must win. Their run-in however doesn’t look enormously terrifying, though there is a visit from Manchester City and a trip to Everton in their final nine league games.
The Press Association’s take on the teams. I must admit it’s not wildly revelatory, but still, it’s here:
Captain Nemanja Vidic returned to the starting line-up as Manchester United looked for a morale-boosting win over old foes Liverpool at Old Trafford. The Serb came in for Chris Smalling at centre-back in the only change from the United XI that beat West Brom last weekend. Liverpool also made one change, with Raheem Sterling coming in for Philippe Coutinho in midfield.
We had food fights at United at the Christmas lunch. The older players would throw mince pies at the young ones. It was stopped a few years ago, I think.
This nugget and more – “David Beckham would make food for me all the time. Stir-fries with noodles and vegetables” – in Gary Neville’s Observer Food Monthly interview here.
Man Utd: De Gea, Da Silva, Jones, Vidic, Evra, Fellaini, Carrick, Mata, Rooney, Januzaj, Van Persie. Subs: Ferdinand, Lindegaard, Young, Welbeck, Cleverley, Valencia, Kagawa.
Liverpool: Mignolet, Johnson, Skrtel, Agger, Flanagan, Henderson, Gerrard, Allen, Sterling, Sturridge, Suárez. Subs: Brad Jones, Aspas, Coutinho, Moses, Sakho, Cissokho, Lucas.
Referee: Mark Clattenburg
One change for United: Vidic in for Smalling. One change for Liverpool: Sterling in for Coutinho. Full line-ups very shortly.
The Beatles’ demise became absolute and undeniable on 31 December 1970, when Paul McCartney started high court proceedings to dissolve the band’s holding company and wind up their affairs. The greatest band of their or any other generation was finished, and finally all those who had floundered in their enormous wake had some smooth musical waters upon which to sail. For as long as The Beatles existed nobody else could possibly better them. It was scarcely worth trying. With their shadow lifted, the musicians of the world could finally attack their instruments and amplifiers with genuine ambition. Perhaps they, now, might rise to stand above them all, to be considered the best, The Greatest. Before that moment there had always been The Beatles; now they were limited only by their imagination and their ability. The people of Britain looked around, in search of a new favourite. They considered all available options, and then they went record shopping. And they bought Grandad by Clive Dunn.
Dunn’s was the first No1 of 1971, a pretty dismal list that also includes Ernie (The Fastest Milkman in the West) by Benny Hill, and Middle of the Road’s Chirpy Chirpy Cheep Cheep.
Will the first champions of the post-Ferguson era be heavyweights or novelty act? How long will we have to wait for anyone to even aspire to his achievements? And should we just stop nattering on about Ferguson already and enjoy the football?
Even in Liverpool’s worst days, and United’s for that matter, this was a big game. Today’s is monumental. I’m excited. Welcome. One warning, though: for the sake of your own sanity, do not watch this video.