Derby day glory. For the first time since the 2007/8 season, we have beaten Liverpool home and away in the Premier League. It’s a fantastic feeling. Derby games are always different – it doesn’t matter what form either team is in going into the fixture because of the emotion attached to the game. It’s as close to a cup final as a domestic league game gets.
Spearheaded by the indomitable Robin van Persie, we dominated the majority of today’s game. Calm possession football and disciplined defending kept Liverpool, and Suarez, silent. For the last 20 minutes, Liverpool had us pegged back after Sturridge’s goal gave them a second wind but we held on with some stout defending.
Today’s victory leaves us with 55 points from the first 22 games, which is the best return Manchester United have had at this stage in 100 years of English football. Not bad, not bad at all.
Cleverley and Carrick combination. For our midfield to finally have some sort of stability feels like a miracle. The flourishing partnership of Cleverley and Carrick in the middle has given us a platform to work on, and we are reaping the rewards of it. Look at today’s stats:
Cleverley. 66/73 passes, 97.7% in opponents half, 2 chances created, 6 recoveries, 1 clearance. Most touches out of any player on the pitch.
Carrick. 56/67 passes, 2/5 tackles, 6 interceptions, 6 recoveries, 1 clearances. Third most touches out of anybody on pitch.
On one hand, Cleverley’s forward thinking attacking football brings the game to Liverpool. He had more touches out of any player with 97.7% accurate passes in Liverpool’s half. On the other, Carrick was typically understated yet superb. He combined gloriously incisive, accurate passing with a sweeper like role that saw him with 6 interceptions and recoveries, as well as 2 tackles and 1 clearance.
They compliment one another like yin and yang. If Cleverley can keep injury free, then we might have finally found a solution to our midfield woes.
Workhorse Welbeck but finishing missing. This season hasn’t been particularly fruitful for Welbeck. The prominence of van Persie and Hernandez has kept him out of the starting XI more often than not.
“Danny Welbeck is a scorer of great goals but he isn’t a great goalscorer.” Gary Neville
That being said, he was great today if you look past his poor finishing. As with strikers, confidence is everything and it is obvious he is lacking that but his all round game, as it always is, was fantastic.
Committed running, tireless link-up play, intelligent runs that are all characteristics of his game were all on show today. Ferguson utilised his all-round game knowing how tight it would be against Liverpool and it paid dividends. His man of the match performance, including his contribution in the build-up to van Persie’s goal, was extremely important in the victory.
Fans have been getting on Welbeck’s case simply due to his goal drought but they must have short term memories. Last season, his partnership with Rooney was one of the highlights of the season. Gary Neville put it perfectly, as he always seems to do these days.
Fully back the full-backs. Rafael and Evra were both on form today. Rafael in particular for me. His tackling, 5/7 successful, was almost flawless and he seems to revel playing against Liverpool now. If you compare him to the Rafael of 12 months ago, they are almost unrecognisable as the same person and if he can continue to progress at the rate he currently is, he’ll be one of the worlds best right-backs soon enough.
As for Evra, how sweet must that goal have felt even if it did get given to Vidic on the official record. Towards the end of the game, he struggled as Sturridge opened up more space with his runs but on the whole, he played excellent. Given the personal emotion he has attached to Liverpool games, he’ll be happy more than most to have come out of today with three points.
Robin van Persie. Well, it seems every week he deserves to get a special mention and today is no different. He led again by example with another world class finish and led the line superbly. Lucas was man marking him for the first 20 minutes and he was being kept out of the game but, like any world class player, he worked himself a chance with some great movement and took full advantage of it.
That’s 21 goals already this season for van Persie. Ronaldo will forever be remembered in United folklore for his 42 goal season. Can van Persie replicate that? I wouldn’t bet against it.