Manchester United have secured a famous 2-1 victory over ten-man Liverpool at Anfield this afternoon thanks to a memorable brace from Juan Mata.
Man United started the game strongly and went in front when Mata slotted home following Ander Herrera’s superb through ball. Brendan Rodgers introduced Steven Gerrard for the second half but the Liverpool captain only lasted 38 seconds on the pitch as he was sent off for a stamp on Herrera. Mata eventually added a second with a wonderful acrobatic effort following good work from Angel di Maria. Daniel Sturridge pulled a goal back for the home side but United held on for a huge three points.
In a game of such magnitude, it was important that United established an element of control in the game from the first whistle. They did exactly that and saw plenty of the ball during a good period early on. Liverpool, on the other hand, simply couldn’t match the composure that United showed in possession.
United’s excellent start was eventually rewarded with a goal when Juan Mata latched onto Herrera’s through ball to score. The only thing that Louis van Gaal’s side didn’t do during the spell was add a second, which would have done a lot to calm the nerves of the away fans inside Anfield.
A lot of the pre-match talk focussed on Mata and whether or not he should retain his place in the starting XI following the return from suspension of Di Maria. The Spaniard answered any doubts in emphatic style by grabbing a magnificent and memorable brace. His second, a beautiful acrobatic volley, summed up Mata’s class. United fans still sing about Diego Forlan’s brace in 2002 and Mata’s performance will similarly live long in the memory.
United produced an assured first half performance as a whole but their shakiness at the back continued against Liverpool. Antonio Valencia, Chris Smalling and Phil Jones all had moments of panic but, thankfully for United, David de Gea didn’t have too much to do in goal. Adam Lallana did have a golden opportunity towards the end of the first period but he somehow fired wide of the net. Even at 2-0 during the second half, United didn’t really inspire confidence at the back and it was no surprise to see Sturridge claw a goal back for the hosts.
With Gerrard just about to come on at half time at Anfield, Martin Tyler had this to say just before the restart: “Gerrard has an encyclopaedic knowledge of what it needs in this fixture.”
Two minutes later, Gerrard received his marching orders after being shown a straight red for stamping on Herrera. In his last game as a Liverpool player against United. What an unbelievable moment. I mean, what more can we say about it?