MANCHESTER — What. A. Second half.
[ MORE: United 3-1 Liverpool ]
In what was a slow burner at Old Trafford on Saturday, four second half goals saw the derby burst into life as Manchester United beat Liverpool 3-1.
[ MORE: PL Roundup – Chelsea fall, City win late ]
Here are three things we learned from a boisterous Old Trafford as bitter foes collided.
VAN GAAL’S BOLD MOVES PAY OFF
Before the game many raised eyebrows when Marouane Fellaini was selected to start as the lone forward for United. In truth it was out of necessity as Wayne Rooney‘s injury meant that 19-year-old Anthony Martial was their only recognized forward. United were predictable in the first half, hoofing the ball long to Fellaini as Liverpool dealt with that threat easily. However, LVG’s decision to haul off Memphis at half time and bring on Ashley Young equally raised eyebrows. But within minutes Young had won a free kick and Daley Blind thundered the ball home from Juan Mata‘s pinpoint pass. 1-0. Another decision which raised eyebrows was Van Gaal’s decision to start Michael Carrick over Morgan Schneiderlin in central midfield, but the former was comfortable and kept things ticking over nicely in midfield as he used all his experience to help his teammates. Again, another bold move which paid off for Van Gaal. Yet another move came off when he decided to start David De Gea, as the United goalkeeper pledged his future to the club on Friday by signing a new four-year deal following his protracted potential move to Real Madrid collapsing on Deadline Day. He made two stunning saves in the second half to keep Liverpool at bay. Then LVG made his final bold move, bringing on $55 million teenager Martial for his debut. The Frenchman replied to Christian Beneteke’s stunning bicycle kick by dribbling through multiple defenders and slotting home with five minutes left. Cue pandemonium at Old Trafford as Van Gaal now has three wins from three against Liverpool as United boss in the PL and on Saturday he got all the key decisions right.
SHAW COMING ALONG NICELY, LIVERPOOL CREATIVITY LACKING
In his fourth season in the Premier League, it’s hard to believe Luke Shaw is still 20. The United left back has started the 2015-16 season in such a fashion which suggests this could be his best yet. Shaw has become England’s regular left back, has played every game for United this season and continues to impress with his defensive solidity and ability to get forward and make surging runs into the opponents box. In the first half against Liverpool, he surged forward on numerous occasions, linking up well with Memphis down the left and was perhaps the only player on the pitch in the opening 45 minutes who oozed class. Ridiculed publicly by Louis Van Gaal at the start of last season following his $42 million move from Southampton for his lack of fitness, 12 months on Shaw is coming along nicely and has the potential to be the real deal for club and country for the next decade.
Granted, Liverpool was missing its most creative player in Philippe Coutinho through suspension, but the way Brendan Rodgers set his side up was way too one dimensional. The long balls up to Christian Benteke were too easy for United to defend and Danny Ings and Roberto Firmino couldn’t influence the game from wide positions. Benteke, as you can see from the video above, scored an absolute screamer, but it wasn’t enough for the Reds as they now have only three goals in their opening five games of the season and have failed to score more than once in any of those encounters. Rodgers has spent a lot of cash on new attackers over the summer and if they fail to deliver, the pressure will mount on the Liverpool boss.
DE GEA, MARTIAL BRILLIANCE
We mentioned De Gea and he was lauded by the faithful at Old Trafford on Saturday. Despite seeming to commit his future to United on Friday, many believe he may end up leaving for Real Madrid next summer. Regardless, the Stretford End gave him a standing ovation and De Gea made two stunning stops in the second half from Ings and then Jordon Ibe. He showed some rustiness as he gave the ball away cheaply just before the Ings save midway through the second half, but that was to be expected as he suited up for his first United game since July 29.
Then, it was all about forward Martial stepping up. The 19-year-old has been dubbed the “new Thierry Henry” in his homeland and he made an incredible entrance on his United debut. After signing on Deadline Day for $55 million Martial became the most expensive teenager on the planet, and with that came a huge level of expectancy. Well, the kid delivered on his debut against United’s biggest rivals. Does it get much better than that? Seconds after Benteke pulled Liverpool back into the game, Martial picked the ball up on the inside left channel and dribbled past three Liverpool players before living up to those similarities with Henry as he opened his body up and rolled the ball into the far corner. Did United overpay for Martial? Definitely. Will it turn out to be money well spent? Based on his first outing, absolutely.