Manchester United claimed their fourth successive victory in the Premier league with a 2-1 win away at Anfield.
Sir Alex sent out an unfamiliar (though not unexpected given how we usually bottle it team selection wise when playing Liverpool away) lineup with Giggs brought into midfield, Evans in for Vidic who apparently required a rest and Lindegaard restored for De Gea, despite the latter’s excellent performance against Galatasaray midweek, including two fantastic saves late on that kept the clean sheet. De Gea is clearly a confidence player, and i wonder whether the constant in and out of the team can really be good for the young Spaniard, especially when he is so clearly better than Lindegaard at key skills such as distribution. Kagawa supported Robin van Persie up front whilst Nani and Valencia provided the width in midfield.
In truth, Liverpool dominated the first half, perhaps spured on by the sense of occasion, and the fact that this is their cup final ever year. United were very poor, struggling to keep possession and creating very little whilst looking shakey at the back, despite a masterful performance from Rio Ferdinand.
The game turned in the 39th minute as Liverpool’s Jonjo Shelvey was sent off for a poor tackle on Jonny Evans. Shelvey, who clearly had both feet off the floor, lept towards Evans and caught him on the calf after Evans, who had also lunged in, albeit less violently, had touched the ball. Calls for Evans to be sent off as well, ignored the fact he both got the ball, and was aiming his tackle away from Shelvey’s body. Even more bizarre than attempting to protest his innocence to referee Mark Halsey, Shelvey then turned on Sir Alex, mouthing “This is your fault” whilst marching off down the tunnel for an early bath. Shelvey then embarassed himself further by contining to cry like a small child on twitter later in the evening, when he tweeted ‘I have also apologised to Sir Alex, just where I come from people don’t grass people up to get someone sent off’ – life must be tough on the mean streets of Romford – before deleting it, presumably when Liverpool’s PR department (which must be newely aquired since their appauling handling of Suarez having racially abused Evra last year) told him it would be unwise to perpectuate the argument.
Despite being down to 10 men, it was Liverpool who took the lead in the 46th minute from a Gerrard volley. Perhaps a blessing in disguise, this finally triggered some fight in a United team that had seen Scholes come on for Nani at half time. Liverpool’s lead lasted just five minutes as Valencia crossed the ball in to Kagawa who chested it down for Rafael to curl beyond the outstretched Pepe Reina. United then took the lead in the 81st minute as Van Persie dispatched a penalty that had been won, perhaps a little fortunately, when Antonio Valencia powered down the right flank into the box, and Glenn ‘racism is okay by me’ Johnson clattered into the back of him. Reina managed to get a hand to the penalty, leading to momentary fear among United fans that our streak of missing penalties would be extended to 4, however the net buldged, and RvP ran to the impecibly behaved (save for some unfortunate provication after the final whistle) away fans to celebrate.
The loss leaves Liverpool sitting in the relegation zone, suffering their worst start to a season for 101 years, whilst United are now up to second, one point behind Chelsea. However the larger issues of a perplexing team selection and the failure to put in any kind of credible performance at Anfield once again dominate the thoughts of United’s following.