Manchester United won at Anfield for the second consecutive season after a smash-and-grab 1-0 win. Wayne Rooney’s strike, coupled with several David De Gea saves, was enough to take Manchester United to within 2 points of 4th place Tottenham and to within 7 points of the leaders Arsenal.
Louis van Gaal named an unchanged side for the first time since United last visited Liverpool, ten months ago. Liverpool included Lucas in their starting line up in what appeared to be a defensive side but it was the hosts who had the majority of the play and the better of the opportunities, throughout the 90 minutes.
The first decent opportunity for Liverpool fell to Adam Lallana who could only head at the onrushing de Gea after a lovely through ball from Lucas. In the 28th and 30th minutes Jordan Henderson squandered two opportunities; firstly his shot was blocked and then, after lovely interchange between himself, Lallana and Firmino, he dragged wide.
Just before half time, in the 42nd minute, Borthwick Jackson came on for the visitors for the injured Ashley Young. This allowed United to move Darmian over to right back and, in theory, meant they wouldn’t be constantly overloaded down the Liverpool right. The balance of play did not change in the second half though. In the 51st minute David De Gea saved from Emre Can and several minutes later Firmino fired over. Anthony Martial had a half chance in between those opportunities but, overall, United’s chances were few and far between. In the 63rd minute Henderson fired straight at De Gea as the hosts continued to threaten. Shortly after, last year’s hero for Manchester United, Juan Mata, came on, but moments later De Gea was called into action again; first he saved from can then firmino. You started to sense it could be United’s day.
The game became a bit bitty and after a couple bookings United won a corner in the 78th minute. Juan Mata collected the short corner and hung up a cross for Fellaini to nod against the bar; Wayne Rooney smashed in the rebound for his fifth goal in four games – his first Anfield goal since he scored the winner in 2005!
Klopp threw on Christian Benteke and Steven Caulker with the idea of hurling long balls into the box, but United refused to budge.
This result, coupled with Arsenal’s failure to win at Stoke leaves Manchester United with half a sniff at a late title push. It’s hard to see that materialising though, particularly after the first half performance today! For now though, United fans will be over the moon with another win at Anfield and will believe that fourth should, again, be the absolute minimum they can now expect this season.