Manchester United 1-0 Liverpool: Rooney delivers

Credit: Malay Mail
Credit: Malay Mail /

Wayne Rooney gives Manchester United the victory over Liverpool

Manchester United clawed their way to a 1-0 victory over Liverpool at Anfield through incredible heart and a gritty display in the raucous atmosphere.

Wayne Rooney scored the game’s only goal just before the 80th minute with a snap shot following a rebound off the crossbar from a Fellaini header. The defense creaked under the Liverpool pressure all match but through determination and several spectacular saves from David de Gea, Manchester United was able to secure the three points.

Louis van Gaal left his lineup untouched from the midweek match against Newcastle – Ashley Young and Matteo Darmian started on the defensive flanks, Marouane Fellaini joined Morgan Schneiderlin in holding midfield, and Jesse Lingard and Anthony Martial started on the wings. The decision to start Fellaini was a questionable one, as his history of altercations could have cost Manchester United a player in the first half, but it would go on to be the right choice.

The Red Devils were largely outclassed tactically in the first period, as Liverpool were able to break down the defense with long balls over the top or on the switch. Darmian in particular had a nightmare of a half as he constantly found himself too narrow in United’s defense. The away side nearly conceded early on the break after a perfect long ball from Lucas Leiva into Adam Lallana. Fortunately for de Gea, who made the mistake of closing in on the attacker, Lallana’s chance was too near to the Spaniard keeper and he fisted away the strike. Firmino’s final shot went wide of the post.

Darmian’s struggles continued, as James Milner and Liverpool’s Brazilian attacker Firmino continued to apply the pressure. However, the Italian full-back was left unscathed, as the final chances eventually went high and wide or Martial was able to recover at full sprint.

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Going forward, the home side’s high press stifled the Manchester United midfielders. Under duress, the United defenders, who routinely have been able to pass across the back this season, were forced to turn and play it to de Gea who hastily hoofed it up field. The team’s best chances came through quick breaks from the back via an injection of pace from Martial down the wing. Otherwise, Lingard and Rooney were largely absent from play as van Gaal was clearly out-managed by Jurgen Klopp.

The half finished goalless as both teams looked anxious in possession from the first whistle due to the buzzing atmosphere. For Manchester United to have any hope of securing the victory at Anfield, the Dutch manager would surely need to make changes at the break. Ashley Young was withdrawn just before the intermission as he was unable to continue with a knock; Cameron Borthwich-Jackson came on in relief.

The second half got underway in hectic fashion as the United defense was put under immense pressure from the get go, having to be bailed out by de Gea yet again. After absorbing the press for the first ten or so minutes, the Red Devils finally began to gain a foothold in possession, leading to additional chances. Martial gave his side the first chance of the half with a flashing attempt across the face of goal, but the ball drifted wide of the post.

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Half-clearances from the defenders yielded to multiple Liverpool chances, including an Emre Can screamer that appeared bound for the side netting if not for a fingertip save out of United’s keeper and man of the match. The Dutch manager finally awoke to his tactics proving futile by sending on Memphis and Juan Mata in relief of Lingard and Herrera, neither of which were able to have an impact on the game.

Manchester United broke the deadlock in the 78th minute with decisive play out of the most unlikely of players – Fellaini. Mata whipped in a cross to the back post where a scrum of defenders surrounded the Belgian big-man, but he was able to rise above them and send a header clattering off the crossbar. Rooney found himself at the receiving end of the rebound, where he smashed home, giving Simon Mignolet no chance of a save. The goal moved the English captain into the record books as the all-time leading Premier League scorer with 176 goals.

Liverpool went all-out attack for the remainder of the match, with Klopp sending on Christian Benteke for Kolo Toure. As was the case for the entirety of the match, the Manchester United defense was able to do just enough to maintain the clean sheet despite never looking solid.

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The Red Devils emerged victorious at Anfield, with the three points narrowing the gap to the top four. Despite not being technically superior in the match, the players showed tremendous heart and determination to beat their bitter rivals.