Game in a sentence

The Red Devils’ dominant first 60 minutes is enough to see them through against Liverpool at home, putting pressure on Manchester City keep up (they will).

Observations

  • Robin Van Persie. Forgive me for running out out of superlatives to describe the Dutch striker. I’ll leave it at this: he’s a treat to watch. His goal in the 19th minute set the tone that would be prevalent for most of the match. Fantastic work from Tom Cleverley and Patrice Evra created the chance.
  • Cleverley and Michael Carrick dominated the middle of the park. TC’s numbers in the first half: 95% passing and a 100% completion rate on attacking passes. In contrast, Joe Allen was outmatched. Brendan Rodgers employed Allen in an attacking role, a conspicuous decision considering Liverpool was much better when Steven Gerrard took Allen’s place.
  • The end of the first half saw the most bizarre event of the game. A great ball from Carrick was met by Rafael, who found Van Persie in the box. The former Arsenal man’s back heel led to a collision between Pepe Reina and Shinji Kagawa. Reina’s concussion — he shook it off. Sports! — was made possible by Andre Wisdom, who shoved Kagawa into the Liverpool keeper.
  • Howard Webb stole the show moments later, allowing Liverpool to play on as Reina crumpled to the turf in pain. Once Liverpool lost the ball Webb blew the play down. His teammates chose to play on — Webb should’ve recognized that.
  • Nemanja Vidic made it 2-0 in the 55th minute. Allen’s clumsy challenge on Kagawa led to a free kick for United just outside the box. Van Persie’s free kick found Patrice Evra, left wide open by Wisdom. Evra’s header deflected off of Vidic and past Reina. Wisdom — a Bradford City grad — had a terrible day.
  • Daniel Sturridge came on in the second half, and immediately injected life into Liverpool’s attack. Sturridge scored five minutes after his introduction, latching on to a rebound to bring Liverpool back within one. The Suarez-Sturridge partnership looks promising.
  • Liverpool turned on the screws in the final 20 minutes. Manchester United, for all their dominance, still had problems at the back. Sturridge had a glorious chance at equalizing, only to send it over the bar. That’s why Chelsea were fine with letting him go. It’s why, at just 23, he’ll have to convert those chances if he wants to quite the skeptics.
  • Yesterday I mentioned Steven Gerrard’s ‘controversial’ interview. The response, via social media, was strong. Fans want to hear honesty, not bullshit. Gerrard’s candor was appreciated by most.
  • Manchester United  made history with the win. After 22 games they have 55 points, a club record. As I type Manchester City leads Arsenal 2-0, with the Gunners reduced the 10 men. The gap will likely remain at seven points. It’s still too early to write off the league, but overall I’m having trouble seeing where United fall off. Titles aren’t awarded in January, but hopes are dashed. That wasn’t poetic at all.

Three stars

1. Michael Carrick

2. Tom Cleverley

3. Rafael