MANCHESTER — On Sunday at Old Trafford, Manchester United beat Liverpool 3-0, rubbing salt into the wounds of their fierce rivals.
[ RELATED: Watch full match replays ]
In a strange game where United’s best player was their goalkeeper, they once again showed their ruthless streak.
[ RELATED: United clinical, lucky vs. Liverpool ]
Here’s three things we learned, as the two teams continue to head in completely opposite directions.
3 at the back suits neither team
United continued their 3-5-2 system, deploying it at home for the first time since the opening day of the season against Swansea City and won for the sixth-straight game. But early on the Red Devils looked vulnerable to balls in behind Antonio Valencia, the right wing back role, as Raheem Sterling twice forced David De Gea into saves and Alberto Moreno almost go in. With midfielder Michael Carrick preferred in a central defensive role, he strolled around and swept up all of the danger and gave United’s backline serenity. Carrick and De Gea held things together.
[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]
As for Liverpool, they looked all over the place as Moreno wasn’t sure whether to sit back or drop off, Joe Allen was being dragged into a left back role by Juan Mata and huge gaps were appearing in front of their defense. The same could be said for United as Marouane Fellaini chased shadows all afternoon. Neither side made a convincing case that the 3-5-2 or 3-4-3 formations should remain, but United will likely stick with it as they secured another unconvincing yet clinical win.
Decision to drop Mignolet backfires
Brendan Rodgers made a big judgement call to leave out Simon Mignolet and bring in Brad Jones in goal on Sunday and it backfired. On Rooney’s opener Valencia nutmegged Allen and teed up the United captain on the edge of the box. 18-yards out, Rooney bent his body to curl it to the far corner but instead went to the near post. Brad Jones, making his first PL start since March 2013, inexplicably dived to his right and the ball went to his left. It was one of the most bizarre instances you will see and on United’s second goal Jones should have come off his line to collect the ball but instead Mata had a free header at the back post.
To make matters worse, Jones then slipped for United’s third goal as he took a huge gamble that Mata was going to shoot and was caught out of position as the ball was passed to RVP to slot home into a virtually empty net. I think we will be seeing Mignolet back between the sticks very soon as United had six shots on target and scored with three of them. As you can see from the Tweet above after they scored their second, the Red Devils were ruthless once again.
Rodgers’ tactics questionable, United’s luck continues
Chants of “you’re getting sacked in the morning” and “you’ll never win the league” were just a few of the repertoire dished out by United’s fan as Liverpool suffered defeat at Old Trafford and are now 10 points behind their biggest rivals. Truth be told, it didn’t tell the entire story. Liverpool started well and looked dangerous with Adam Lallana and Sterling causing problems in a false nine formation as the duo interchanged. But they were often isolated and at half time Mario Balotelli arrived as the Reds continued to improve.
[ RELATED: Latest Premier League standings ]
An awful back pass from Jonny Evans played in Sterling in the second half and only his hesitancy and De Gea’s brilliance denied Liverpool a way back into the game. De Gea then pushed Balotelli’s shot onto the crossbar and denied him two more times as Brendan Rodgers’ side underwhelmed in the final third but did okay everywhere else. This was not a 3-0 kind of game and United could have easily conceded three or four but that will be scant consolation for Liverpool as Rodgers’ days at Anfield continue to be called into question.