Liverpool had its chances, but David de Gea was monstrous in goal and his attack justified his strength between the sticks as Manchester United sunk the leaky visitors 3-0 at Old Trafford.
De Gea has grown into one of the world’s best goalkeepers, and his best was on display today as Liverpool couldn’t find a way through despite great chances early and often for Raheem Sterling and Mario Balotelli.
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Liverpool began the brightest, with a testing corner inside five minutes, and a solid run from Adam Lallana down the flank which drew a very early yellow for Marouane Fellaini.
As the home side seemed panicked on the ball early, they would rectify things and strike first. With end-to-end stuff, David de Gea held firm for a point-blank save to deny Sterling in the 12th minute, and it went back down the other end.
Antonio Valencia possessed on the right flank, and brilliantly nutmegged Joe Allen to unlock access to the Liverpool box. With the visitors on red alert, Valencia cut it back for Wayne Rooney in acres of space at the top of the box, and with he didn’t miss for an early lead.
Liverpool looked to respond, but De Gea again blocked off Sterling, and Brendan Rodgers was then forced into an early change with Glen Johnson pulling his groin.
The visitors continued to attack, but United again punished them for poor defending. A cross from Ashley Young on the left found Juan Mata totally unmarked to poke home at the far post for a 2-0 lead. However, it appeared a slight touch by Robin van Persie with a redirect of the cross may have played Mata offsides, but the linesman’s flag controversially kept his flag down. Opta statistics gave van Persie the assist, confirming he got a touch and solidifying the poor decision.
Rodgers brought on embattled striker Balotelli after the halftime break, but Liverpool still couldn’t make the most of their chances. Sterling again saw a monumental chance fizzle and die when he latched onto a horrid back pass from Jonny Evans, but despite sending de Gea to the ground with a silky touch, he was kept out by the Spaniard with a terrible finish.
The United keeper again made his mark when he produced an absolutely stunning save on Balotelli after Sterling cut back for the Italian striker, with de Gea launching himself into the air and pushing the shot off the crossbar and out, and it felt like Liverpool’s best chance evaporated and with it the match.
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Robin van Persie would do that officially when he pounded home an easy finish with 20 minutes to go, and the 3-0 deficit for Liverpool was way too much to overcome. Balotelli had a multitude of chances as the game wound down, but he couldn’t get past de Gea who continues to find himself in the right position to stop shots.
The six wins in a row has strengthened Manchester United’s outside chance at a title should Chelsea and Manchester City falter, eight points off the top and five back of City in second. Meanwhile, Liverpool remains in ninth position, 10 points off their victorious rivals.
Manchester United: De Gea, Valencia, Jones (McNair 89′), Evans, Young, Carrick, Fellaini, Mata, Rooney (Falcao 78′), van Persie, Wilson (Herrera 71′).
Goals: Rooney 12′, Mata 40′, van Persie 71′
Liverpool: Jones, Skrtel, Lovren, Johnson (Toure 26′), Moreno (Markovic 68′), Henderson, Allen, Gerrard, Coutinho, Lallana (Balotelli 46′), Sterling.