Liverpool 1-2 Manchester United: 3 Things We Learned


Manchester United registered an extremely climacteric  1-2 victory against bitter rivals Liverpool at Anfield to extend the gap between them and the Merseyside club to five points. The triumph helped United to consolidate their stranglehold on a top-four spot, with the pressure now on Liverpool to play catch-up and put on a late surge for a place in next seasons Champions League. Juan Mata scored an awe-inspiring brace for the visitors, with the second goal being a potential goal-of-the-season contender.

More from Red Devil Armada

 United started the game on a dominant note, bossing the midfield and giving Liverpool’s defense all sorts of problems. The visitors got the first breakthrough of the encounter after Ander Herrera’s astounding through ball was met by countryman Juan Mata, with the former Chelsea midfielder slotting a cool and composed finish past Simon Mignolet to give the Old Trafford outfit a precious lead.

Steven Gerrard came on for Liverpool in the second half in what was his final game against United, but his appearance lasted for a measly 38 seconds. The 34-year old was sent off by Martin Atkinson for a horrendous stamp on Ander Herrera, with the Liverpool captain later admitting that he had committed a fault and let his team down.

Rodgers’ men pulled one goal back through Daniel Sturridge later on in the second half. The England international blasted a shot past De Gea at the Spaniards left post and gave Liverpool a glimmer of hope. Although, that glimmer was consequently blanked out by an emblazoning overhead goal by Mata. The Spaniard got at the end of an Angel Di Maria chipped pass at the edge of the box and rose athletically, executing his overhead kick to perfection and powering the ball into Mignolet’s net.

More from Manchester United News

Here a few things we learned from this pivotal victory for United at Anfield.

#1 Juan Mata has saved his United career

"The goal was important for me. The last month I haven’t had the best but I have the same passion. – Juan Mata"

The quote above probably sums up how important that resplendent display was for Juan Mata. The 37.1 million pound signing was on the verge of fading into oblivion at Old Trafford (just like he did at Chelsea), having failed to start a single match after a trip away to QPR. He was amazing against Tottenham too, but today was something outrageous. The way he stepped up to the plate and grabbed the opportunity with both hands was a delight to watch.

The Spaniard weaved passes (66) throughout the pitch (as shown in the picture above), and maintained an impeccable 93% passing accuracy. Mata had two shots on target, both resulting in goals, and made 4 vital interceptions in the opposition’s half whilst successfully completing 3 take-ons. It was an all star performance by the former Chelsea man – an indication of what he is capable of while performing at his devastating best.

His display today has left Van Gaal with a huge decision to make – that of whom to incorporate in the starting eleven at whose behest. Angel Di Maria is back from suspension and Ashley Young has made the left flank his own by performing brilliantly. In such a scenario, it will be interesting to see who the Dutch tactician gives the hook, with Young looking like the unlucky man in the current scheme of things.

#2 Angel Di Maria is United’s silent contributor

A lot has been spoken about Angel Di Maria in the past couple of months or so. From being branded a flop to being accused of playing without any sort of passion, the Argentine’s inaugral season at Old Trafford hasn’t gone to plan. Talks of an impending move to Paris Saint Germain have been cropping up in the columns of reputed daily’s almost every week and that hasn’t helped too.

However, one thing which people undermine is the contribution which the former Real Madrid winger has made to the team. Di Maria has registered 9 assists this season, which is bettered only by Chelsea’s Cesc Fabregas (15). Now, this in itself speaks volumes of the kind of impact Di Maria has had on proceedings since his arrival from the Bernabeu. Although, he hasn’t featured heavily this season due to injuries and suspensions, the fact that he has managed to grab the number of assists which he has proves that the former Benfica winger still hasn’t lost his touch of being involved amongst the goals. With tough assignments awaiting United, Van Gaal will want his star man to assume responsibility and deliver the goods against teams like Manchester City and Chelsea and prove that he still is one of the best in the business.

Smalling and Jones can perform well at the heart of United’s defense

Barring that nerve-laden back pass early on in the match against Tottenham last week, there weren’t any glaring errors Phil Jones committed later on in the match. If anything, the former Blackburn Rovers defender excelled throughout and marshaled the United back line with considerable amount of aplomb. Today against Liverpool, Jones managed to rack up 10 clearances, 3 interceptions and amassed 3 fouls in the process, with the one against Jordan Henderson earning him a yellow card.

On the other hand, Chris Smalling has looked like a completely different player after the freaky red card incident against Manchester City at the Etihad Stadium. Assuming responsibility and acting in accordance is the trait of a successful defender and Smalling has been exuding just that very quality since the past couple of months. The England international managed to make 7 clearances today and made 3 timely interceptions in Liverpool’s half. Also, the former Fulham center-back has a handy habit of driving forward through the middle of the pitch with the ball at his feet, and practiced that drill today during the match too. With United entering a season-defining phase, Van Gaal will want this defensive duo to keep performing the way they are and tighten up affairs in front of De Gea’s goal.

Next: Juan shows that he still Matas