Wayne Rooney struck with Man United's only shot on target to claim the vital three points at Liverpool - and save Louis van Gaal's job to live another day.The Red Devils skipper scored his first goal at Anfield for 11 years to secure the win despite another disappointing display.
|Wayne Rooney celebrates scoring the first goal|
David De Gea made a fine save from Emre Can just after the hour mark and parried Firminho's follow-up as Liverpool pressed for an opener.
Sakho then head a chance to head the Reds in front, before Jordon Ibe replaced Adam Lallana.
Then Rooney struck with the visitors' first shot on target in the game to secure three points.
Here are five things we learned from the game:
|Early clash: Lucas Leiva and Marouane Fellalini in action|
|Referee Mark Clattenburg keeps Marouane Fellaini out of the way after the clash with Lucas Leiva|
For all the animosity between Manchester United and Liverpool – and there was lots on the pitch, with Lucas apparently taking a personal and precise dislike towards Fellaini – there seemed to be a genuine warmth between two managers.
Louis van Gaal didn't test Jurgen Klopp's fiery temperament on the touch line mind, preferring to remain stoically seated virtually throughout the game, but the pair embraced as though old friends before kick off, and shared what seemed liked an extended comedy riff to the amusement of both.
Maybe it was something on how the hell have they swapped the top of the Bundesliga, from when they last met as Dortmund and Munich managers, to a mid-table clash in frozen northern England?
|Adam Lallana has a header saved by David De Gea|
That though, was about as warm as this got in this contest, which rarely thawed, never mind reached the boiling point contests between these two sides normally sustain. United's tactics didn't help, as they seemed pathologically reluctant to commit forward in numbers, and were content instead to pass the ball slowly across the pitch, even when they seemed to have the chance to break swiftly.
Liverpool though, appeared to anticipate as much, and set out with a 4-3-3 formation that morphed quickly into 4-4-2 and too easily slipped into 4-5-1, which created a dour midfield struggle for a good hour of the game.
3) Real Madrid should be kicking themselves over De Gea
Even so, the home side did create some opportunities with their – at times, it has to be said – slick interchange of passing between Firmino, Lallana and Milner.They really should have done better in the first half when Lallana, Firmino and Henderson all probably should have converted, but that is ignoring the obvious and psychologically challenging barrier of David De Gea though, who seems to intimidate forwards with his mere presence. He made three fine saves here. Again. Without him, United would surely be a mid table side this season, just as they would have been last season.
That was some business not selling him last summer...or some appalling decision making by Real Madrid.
|Adam Lallana in action with Chris Smalling|
In such a gritty, turgid contest, it was a puzzle why Klopp didn't try to change things around a little earlier, and revert to the Benteke option...especially with Blind playing at centre half for their opponents.
There was a moment midway through the second half when Liverpool finally overloaded United on the far post, Milner delivered the perfect cross; and Mama Sakho mistimed his jump woefully to head over.
Say what you like about Benteke, but had he been on the pitch then, he'd have been in that position and would have got above the ball. He is a goalscorer, and given in this game the home side so desperately required someone to finish off their superior approach play, it was mystifying why he wasn't used sooner.
|Marcos Rojo with the Manchester United fans in the stand|
5) Set pieces still Liverpool's woe at the back - and you wonder how
Which of course gave Manchester United a foothold in the game their unimaginative play didn't truly deserve. The goal, when it arrived, came from a set piece – obviously with this Liverpool side – and the only surprise was that it took Van Gaal's side SO long to work out that their opponents are vulnerable when you swing the ball into the box.
Seriously, have they not watched any tv for the past 12 months. Match of the Day? You wonder what video work they can be doing when their first four set pieces were all directed away from goal instead of swinging it into the mixer. When they finally did (and even then only from a short corner) they scored. It's not rocket science is it?
Player ratings - by Dave Kidd:
- Mignolet 5 Rarely tested but doesn't command box and distribution was poor.
- Clyne 7 Quality performer defensively and on the overlap.
- Toure 7 Rolled back the years with some good old-school defending
- Sakho 6 The cult hero won his usual quota of big headers.
- Moreno 6 Good defensively, started brightly when going forward but faded
- Lucas 6 Certainly knew it was a derby – kicked everything in a white shirt early on.
- Henderson 5 The captain adopted a weird shoot-on-sight policy which didn't work.
- Can 7 Worked himself sockless, twice forced good saves from De Gea.
- Milner 6 Manic workrate but no great quality about his end product.
- Lallana 6 Some pleasing touches around the box but no penetration
- Firmino 5 He's not a true centre forward and – unlike the Arsenal game – it showed.
|Star performer: Man United would be in all kinds of problems without this man|
- De Gea 7 Three fine saves in the second half – where would United be without him?
- Young 6 Solid enough until suffering groin injury before half-time.
- Smalling MOM booked 8 Back to his accomplished best after some recent wobbles
- Blind 7 Tidied up well at the back and used the ball effectively.
- Darmian 6 Better at right-back in the second half than left-back in the first.
- Schneiderlin 7 Effective job screening the back four. A real Van Gaal player.
- Fellaini booked 5 Untidy and niggly. Riled the home crowd.
- Herrera 7 The fans' favourite was one of the few United players with creative spark
- Lingard 5 Failed to make any real impact before being replaced by Mata
- Rooney 6 Won it with a fifth goal in four but did very little else of note.
- Martial 6 Isolated on the left when his pace might have caused problems centrally.
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