Liverpool 1 (Gerrard) Manchester United 2 (Rafael, van Persie)
1. Respect. The pre-match commemoration was superbly upheld by everybody involved. Having Sir Bobby Charlton present a wreath to Ian Rush was a nice touch as well.
Both clubs expressed vehemently that today shouldn’t be ruined by disrespectful minorities, and thankfully it wasn’t. It was a unified appreciation for the Hillsborough disaster and the sideshow of the Evra and Suarez handshakegate came and went in the blink of an eye.
One thing I don’t agree with it all is Liverpool fans calling the United supporters disrespectful for singing United songs during the YNWA rendition. There’s being respectful in applause and commemoration but why should they have to sing the song as well?
Jonjo Shelvey’s reckless lunge was a red card. If Jonny Evans’ studs had got caught in the ground, he could of snapped his leg in two. Although, Jonny Evans might consider himself slightly fortunate as the last time he went into a tackle like that was against Bolton’s Stuart Holden, where he himself was sent off for a red card.
The next big decision was the penalty. Glen Johnson decided to grab Antonio Valencia on his back from behind and force him off balance – a clear cut penalty. He was always going to give that.
Robin van Persie‘s challenge on Suso earned the Dutchman a yellow and with tensions high, Anfield was screaming for a red. Why? It was a legitimate, safe tackle with his trailing leg firmly sat underneath his leading foot. He got a yellow for the follow through but it couldn’t of been any more different than Jonjo Shelvey’s.
3. Defensive brick wall. Nemanja Vidic’s absence from the starting team sheet seemed like an early sign of woe but it couldn’t have been further from the truth.
Rio Ferdinand and Jonny Evans were absolutely superb at the back today. The first half was an onslaught from Liverpool and it seemed inevitable that they would score but everything they threw at us was dealt with. Both players were on the other end of some rough treatment but phased it all out and led by example.
Special mention, however, needs to go to Rafael who arguably had his best performance in a United shirt today. He has come on so far in the past 12 months as a player and has levelled out the rash side of his game fantastically well. Playing the Rafael of old in such a charged game like today wouldn’t of been a good idea but he is now an entirely different player.
Between the sticks, Anders Lindegaard didn’t really put a foot wrong either. Some smart saves kept us in the game at points and his distribution, on the whole, was far better than de Gea’s.
4. Oh Robin van Persie. Another game and another goal. Signing van Persie was a real sign of intent from United and it is paying off huge dividends already.
The context of that penalty was huge. It was Liverpool away, United had missed their last three penalties (including van Persie’s failed panenka) and there was a good five minute pause before he took it – but he buried it with aplomb.
He is a cut above the rest and United are reaping the rewards. The thought of having van Persie, Rooney, Kagawa and Valencia all working together in the same XI is phenomenal.
The penalty made it five wins in five since losing to Everton on the opening day of the season. We might not be anywhere near our optimum levels as a team but it is encouraging to see such a positive response.
5. Anfield bogey gone. That was the first victory at Anfield since the 2007/8 season. It has always been our toughest away fixture of the calendar and today’s full blooded affair showed that – but we came away with three points.
It’s massive in the context of the season. It might be early on but with City and Arsenal both dropping points, picking up three points from a game you wouldn’t have expected to is a huge bonus. With Tottenham next weekend, the tough fixtures are coming thick and fast now especially when mixed in with Champions League away trips.
Plus, nothing is better than beating Liverpool on their own patch.