It is no surprise they continued this tradition against
It is impossible for any team to play at their top level for 38 league games a season, but there is no reason why they can’t give maximum effort for 90 minutes in each of them.
This is what has given
If you were watching any other side against Liverpool you’d have dismissed any suggestion the result would be anything but a home win.
I couldn’t believe how bad United were in the first half, allowing Liverpool time and space on the ball. But before you start allowing yourself to think the result is only going one way, you need to remind yourself this is United we are talking about and they will always create a chance and grab a goal from somewhere. When you have them down, you have to punish them because the chances are they’ll find a way to redeem the most average of displays.
The points they’ve collected so far are ominous because it buys Ferguson the time he needs to make the necessary corrections. He won’t be fooled by the results.
Although he scored a wonderful goal, I’m not convinced Rafael da Silva is the long-term solution at right back. Patrice Evra has been a great left back, but he too may be coming towards the end.
The entire United defence is not what it was, suffering from injuries to those younger players such as Chris Smalling and Phil Jones who I’m sure Ferguson intended to usher in to eventually replace Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic. Ferguson has an admirable ability to be able to sustain his club’s position at the top while overcoming such problems.
Periods of transition do not have a debilitating effect at Old Trafford. The opposite is true of Liverpool, where the reality check of the club’s current standing sinks in with every passing week. No matter how you dress it up, two points out of a possible 15 includes no good or positive news.
Liverpool and United are now polar opposites to where they where 20 years ago. In those days, we saw the United fixture as a huge occasion, but never felt it had much bearing on our trophy ambitions.
We often lost to them, but it made no difference to our pursuit of the league and European Cup.
Today, United see Liverpool in the same way. It is a daunting trip to Merseyside, and one which I’m sure gives them tremendous pleasure when they win, but the days when it makes any difference to whether they can compete for the Premier League or Champions League have long since passed.
Liverpool played well yesterday, and they could certainly argue the refereeing decisions went against them. I can’t see how Jonjo Shelvey was sent off and Jonny Evans stayed on the pitch. That was a case of penalising the player who didn’t get hurt after two identical challenges for the ball.
There’s also no doubt in my mind Luis Suarez is a marked man by the officials, missing out on penalties in consecutive weeks against Sunderland and United while tame decisions, for Danny Welbeck against Wigan and for Antonio Valencia yesterday, were rewarded with very dubious penalty kicks.
Having said that, Liverpool’s problems run deeper than the referees. While United have an inherent capacity to play poorly and win, Liverpool aren’t even getting the points for their more encouraging displays.
They deserved more than one point from six against the Manchester clubs, but it seems every mistake they make is being punished, although it is no coincidence to me that 10 minutes from time in both games they’ve lost the ball by trying to play too much at the back and getting it wrong.
At this level, if you want to play that way, unless you have 100 per cent accuracy every time you are going to be punished.
Brendan Rodgers may have to start compromising and play a less risky percentage game.
While United have already shown the character to prove they can last the course for their annual title challenge, I fear it’s going to be a long road back for Liverpool until they can even think about getting to the same level as the top four, never mind consider winning the league again.