For the first time since I have been alive, Liverpool have gone into a game against Manchester United as the favourites to walk away with the three points.
Some, including myself, were a bit sceptical of this, or just refused to admit what would have been such an outlandish thing to say in the past twenty plus years, mainly out of fear that David Moyes’ under-performing side might nick one and make the “David Moyes Is A Football Genius” banner look a little bit less hilarious.
Fortunately though, the lads turned up, including the middle three who particularly impressed me, and I would imagine, the vast majority of those watching with their eyes.
From kick off at 1:30pm the midfield consisting of Jordan Henderson and Joe Allen, with Steven Gerrard anchoring in behind, continued their game plan of pressuring and bullying the opposition into giving the trio their football in United’s own half.
Their job was perhaps made even easier by the way Moyes set his men up with only Marouane Fellaini and Michael Carrick left to bear most of the brunt of the rampaging Reds.
Having the mathematical advantage of three players to two in the middle of the park was a crucial and excellent decision by Rodgers, as was starting Philippe Coutinho on the bench, with the childhood United fan Allen being selected again, citing his defensive capabilities and general passing game under pressure as more damaging to the opposition than the Brazilian’s creativity and flair.
This came in handy, with the Welshman making up 7 of the 15 total tackles made between the middle three, and with 85.71% success percentage.
Henderson on the other hand, looked like somebody with something to prove to someone in the crowd, running around in his own tireless, and what that some would call unusual fashion, closing down any potential dangers to his teams goal, and robbing the ball from an un-expecting Rooney outside the box at one point.
The two together in turn made it a fairly simple afternoon for Gerrard, whose biggest problem was not grabbing a hat trick of penalties, which isn’t the worst problem for someone playing in defensive midfield. In the 87 minutes he was on the pitch, before he made way for a returning Lucas Leiva, he endured a pretty straight forward game which saw him tidy up the hopes of an United goal that the two just in front of him had all but wrecked, with 3 interceptions and winning possession every 7 minutes.
For the majority of the game the home side really struggled to get anything going, with their main creative players such as Mata and Januzaj, having to come deeper to collect the ball and try to make something happen. This was mainly down to the success of the midfield today, which was forcing them to do with, otherwise they would have one of Henderson or Allen pressuring them, along with one of the Reds fullbacks depending which side they were on.
One criticism of the diamond formation used in the last game against Southampton was that the Saints were allowed to apply a lot of pressure to the defence, especially via crosses, so it’s slightly ironic in a way that the team who broke the record for the number of crosses made in a single game a few weeks back didn’t use this tactic – Or it was just the fact they were allowed to.
Liverpool fans had been stressed out by their midfield a matter of months back, when it was Gerrard and Lucas sitting deep, but now after dominating at Old Trafford it is safe to say that Rodgers has found the perfect engine room to rev on his goal net busting machine, and go on to challenge for the title, but the real tests will be at Anfield when United’s neighbours and Chelsea visit later on in the season.