Wednesday, 9 March 2016

Liverpool vs Manchester United

Pre-Match Analysis:

There's been a certain buzz in the air this week. It's a feeling that only one fixture can generate. It is of course, the big one, United vs Liverpool. This time we turn out attention to the Europa league for the clash between English football’s two most successful clubs, the first time it's ever happened in a European competition.

There is no doubt that this is the biggest fixture in English football, maybe even in the world, with millions of people tuning in from all corners of the globe, which is a testament to the sheer size of this fixture. However the fact we will be watching this game on a Thursday night in the Europa league just goes to show the fall from grace we have seen from these two clubs recently. United have had a torrid time in the post Ferguson era, with champions league qualification proving tricky to grasp after season upon season of title after title. Liverpool on the other hand have been facing these issues for decades now. Once one of the most dominant sides in Europe, they now find themselves in a position where breaking into the top four is a major achievement. But hey, our manager says we're “happy” to be in the Europa League, as per his pre match conference!

In more recent times, Liverpool have looked very hit and miss this season, with them pulling out superb wins at some points, yet falling to defeats that you wouldn't expect a club of their stature to succumb to. The same can be said for Manchester United. The Reds have found that against the top sides, we are tricky customers, especially against this Thursday's opponents with United picking up four straight domestic wins against our north west rivals. However, it's the teams we should be beating with easy that prove to be our downfall. Van Gaal’s side have slumped to defeats against teams such as Norwich and Bournemouth, who with all due respect, should be swept aside by a team with the money, quality, and pedigree this United side has.

In their last game Liverpool managed to scrape a win away to Palace, thanks to a dubious penalty in the dying seconds of the game. The merseysiders were also down to 10 men due to the dismissal of midfielder James Milner earlier in the game. It wasn't a pretty win, but all that matters at the end of it is the three points, and that's what they came away with. Again, in contrast to Liverpool, United COULDN’T manage to find a vital goal away to West Brom. Much like Liverpool, United found themselves down to ten men early on due to Juan Mata being shown red after just 27 minutes, that's the first sending off of Juan’s career. However United never really looked like they were causing the baggies any issues, and Tony Pulis’ men deservedly left the Hawthorns with all three points.

So, United go into this game with a point to prove against a side who they have been able to find consistent success over for the past few season, something of a rarity at the moment. Liverpool come into this game searching to build upon the Palace result and maybe push for a spot in Europe next term.

This is a huge game for United. With the loss against West Brom, we now find ourselves further away from the top four, and the Europa League seems to be looking like the best way back into Europes Elite competition next year. A win on Thursday gives us a huge

advantage to take to the home leg next week, but a defeat leaves us with it all to do, something we will be looking to avoid given our tendency to crumble under pressure this season.

Overall, I predict a very edgy, even matchup, which is why I'm predicting a draw. I think both teams will give it a good go, but will both be wary that there is another fixture so it doesn't all rest in this game, which is why I predict a 1-1 scoreline. United have been dodgy at the back this year and I think that if Liverpool are on their game we will find a clean sheet very hard to come by, however Liverpool are also very suspect at the back with Simon Mignolet being heavily criticised by fans and pundits alike. For this reason I see both teams conceding, but as you know, nothing is certain in football!

Here's s hoping for a 6-0 annihilation, and the same again next week!

COME ON REDS!

Line-Up Analysis:

United play Liverpool tonight and arguably this leg will be vital as United could grab a or a few crucial away goals. At the back United have Rojo,Smalling,Blind and Varela. It's not the strongest defence nonetheless its stable but to what extent will it be able to cope with the star-studded attacking trio of Lallana,Sturridge and Firmino? We will have to wait and see. In midfield Fellaini, Mata and Schneiderlin have been selected. Mata needs to redeem himself for last weeks red card incident that weakened United leading to a 1-0 loss to West Brom. Fellaini returns and I'm not a big fan of him, a waste of a transfer if you ask me. He can only produce glimpses of brilliance, which highlights his inconsistency. Schneiderlin has a big role to play as he will be expected to intercept passes and control the midfield. Upfront United have Depay, Rashford and Martial. Slightly surprised that Rashford continues to start games in the first team. Depay always seems to play better in Europe than domestically and Martial will hopefully excel once again much to United fans' hopes. The issue though is that instead of utilising Rooney's absence to play Martial in the Striker position, he's being pushed out wide again.


First Half Analysis:

We were coming into this game on the back of a defeat to West Brom and we needed to come to Anfield and put in a performance. In the first ten minutes of the first half it was quite a close encounter with Liverpool having more of the possession but United were looking dangerous on the counter, both keepers had nothing to do in the first ten minutes though.

As we went into in the next ten minutes of the first half Liverpool won a penalty with Memphis committing the foul, even though the foul seemed to take place outside the box. Liverpool continued to dominate the first half, having the majority of the possession with De Gea making an excellent save.

As we went into the final stages of the first half United started to gain more possession but failed to create any real chances. As the first half came to a close Liverpool kept dominating the game but did not create any other goal scoring opportunities. The first half ended 1-0 to Liverpool.

Second Half Analysis:

A demeaning and poor second half performance yet again by the Reds proved to be fatal, as Liverpool won 2-0 in the first half of the crunch Europa League tie at Anfield. The Reds were always second best sadly in what was a performance lacking the creativity, intensity and passion that were required. Early on in the second half Michael Carrick was replaced at the break by Marcus Rashford in a questionable move which saw Carrick shuffle to centre back. Although Unkted started the second 45 on a seemingly positive note, it was Liverpool with the first attack on goal as De Gea was forced into a save against Firmino. Fellaini was soon booked shortly after a reckless challenge on Clyne, with the former having an ineffective return to the lineup after an injury layout. In the 73rd minute Liverpool doubled the lead after woeful defending by makeshift centre back Carrick, allowed Lallana to pounce on the stray ball and tee Firmino to smash into the net. The late substitutions of Bastian Schweinsteiger, returning from nearly two months on the sidelines and Ander Herrera struggled to have much input within the last quarter of an hour. All in all a poor performance from the whole team as they let down the travelling Reds in the away section as Liverpool lead the toe deservedly 2-0, with the return leg next week.

Individual Player Performances:

Goalkeeper and Defence:

David De Gea - 8
He had a great game making a number of crucial saves early on in the game and because of him, we didn't lose 4-0

Varela - 5
Have no clue where he was in the second half as he hardly got a touch on the ball. Was okay in the first half man marking Coutinho and trying to suppress his talent.

Smalling - 4.5
Not great, slipped and allowed the dangerous Sturridge a chance at goal. Overall not as solid as he is known to be. Form is dipping off.

Blind - 5.5
Started as a CB and couldn't pick the right passes. In the second half very strangely was placed as LB and had a better game.

Rojo - 6
Probably the pick of the defenders today, made a number of essential interceptions and also a number of very well placed challenges.

Midfield:

Schneiderlin - 5
Not his best game, struggled because of a lack of space. Substituted even though he was defending decently.

Fellaini - 3
It's back to lobbing the balls to Fellaini to see him win the aerial duals. His height didn't help him today, lost pretty much all of his aerial battles and deserved to be subbed off.

Mata - 4
Made a couple of great runs here and there but other than that hardly ever saw the ball and rightly subbed off.

Attack:

Memphis - 3
Gave away the penalty very early indeed. Sloppy with possession, very disappointing after the previous three games where he looked like dangerous.

Martial - 4.5
Didn't get hardly any service that he needed, however made runs at the defence when he did. Good hold up play at the counter attack.

Rashford - 4
Had to play at the RB position since Varela played more central in the first half to mark Coutinho. Very disappointing day, can't really blame him though because of his age.

Substitutes:

Carrick - 4
On for Rashford, poor clearance leading up to the second goal. Not good enough from a very experienced player such as himself.

Herrera - 5.5
On for Mata, and straight away you could see his creativity. Unfortunately on very late so not enough time to make an impact.

Schweinsteiger - 5
Subbed on for Schneiderlin. Back from injury and looked OK. Didn't do anything of credit.

Louis Van Gaal: 3

Got his tactics all wrong. He's gone back to lobbing the ball up to Fellaini and hoping for the best. Played a number of players out of position and this attributed to the abysmal performance today. Switched Blind and Rojo in the second half, very strange.

Overall Analysis:

Tonight we saw the toll that playing 6 games in just over a fortnight has on a team. The team played by Manager, Louis Van Gaal, lacked the finesse and form that we have seen over the past few weeks. Team morale may have been low due to the poor performance against West Brom at the weekend. The team seemed to struggle to flow their play and create chances which ultimately caused the downfall of the team in the first of the two legs.

In comparison to the free flowing and comfortable Liverpool squad, Manchester United seemed disjointed and never really got into the game. A few careless actions and just like that the game fell away from the Red Devils. It was as if they were never really a team just a bunch of eleven players bundled onto the pitch and told to play. There were many flaws in the United team including player position. The back line looked shaky with Daley Blind once again being slotted into what it seemed to be his now normal position and the experimental right hand side of the pitch caused us many issues today as Varela and Rashford found it difficult to contain the movements of Philipe Coutinho and Alberto Moreno.

However, thanks to a superb game by Goalkeeper David De Gea, Manchester United managed to save further humiliation at the merciless hand of the Liverpool XI. He made key saves at the points where all hope was thought to be lost. And with the up coming West Ham game, can the same be expected from the team that seemed to have just been coming into form again? And what can be said for the return fixture at Old Trafford in one weeks time?

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