It’s days like Sunday 22nd March that make being a football fan worthwhile. A ferocious derby against your most hated rival, the sleepless night and butterflies before hand and then you absolutely wipe the floor with them. A first half of complete domination and a second of possession play and making the ten men off the opponent chase the ball. Add to that the sheer comedy value from Steven “the gift that keeps on giving” Gerrard and you have got pretty much every United fan’s wet dream. Following a tremendous display the previous week where another top 4 rival in Tottenham were put to the sword, where the media gave us absolutely no credit, this was the perfect answer. I like Gary Neville struggle to recall as dominating an opening half hour for even the greatest of United sides as we saw at Juanfield on Sunday. This is the van Gaal effect. This is the formation that he has been preparing his team for through the difficult times recently and in the past two games we have seen why the 4-3-3 has been his favourite formation throughout his career. Every player has bought into his philosophy since the beginning of the season, and now finally every single United supporter can buy into it too. So now comes the hard part of identifying three heroes and three villains from our best away performance of the season.
I LOVE JUAN MATA. I love him, I love him, I love him. This kind of performance is stuff of legend, and I fully expect to be talking about those two goals in decades to come. There are simply no words for this beautiful little man. “A poor man’s David Silva” he was described as by the fountain of all knowledge that is Tony Gale, a man who thinks that Jose Mourinho is infallible. He sold Mata so he must be shite. How a man who ignores the most simple of footballing statistics has a job on the largest sports network in the UK is beyond me. The numbers don’t lie… since the 2011/12 season Juan Mata has more combined goals and assists than not only David Silva, but also Eden Hazard, Yaya Toure and Steven Gerrard. So why is it that our little Spaniard gets overlooked? His passing was once again sublime at 93%, soaring above the team average of 82%, he took players on with the ball successfully and was always a calming influence on the team. As for his goals, they were two finishes of the highest level. First following great work from the rejuvenated Fellaini and a slide rule pass by Ander Herrera, the magic man finished with his weaker right foot in the far corner of the goal, going across the goalkeeper. His second? The best goal a United player has ever scored at Anfield? I was so stunned with what I saw that my celebration was delayed by a good ten seconds so my simple brain could process what my eyes just saw. The pass wasn’t particularly great by Di Maria as it was a good few metres behind where Mata would have expected it; but it didn’t faze him one bit. He simply contorted his body and did what every single person has ever dreamed about when they were playing football in the park as a child… and to do it in that shithole?!?!?! Juan Mata has lived my dream… and in case I forgot to mention it… I LOVE HIM!
Earlier in the season I described Ander Herrera as Bryan Robson v2.0 and this Sunday did little to change my mind in that regard. He was everywhere. Having shots, passing accurately, crossing, dribbling, attacking the ball in the air, making interceptions and making blocks. His assist for Mata’s first goal was sublime, but it wasn’t my favourite of his contributions to the game. What I loved most of all was his commitment to his teammates. This is a United group and when Herrera saw Liverpool and media darling Steven Gerrard, a six foot 185lb bastard clatter into five and a half foot 135lb Juan Mata, Ander Herrera wasn’t having any of it. He wasn’t letting that cuntbag get away with that and flung himself into the scouse twat with the exact same ferocity… something he didn’t seem to like much. One stamp later and the last 30 seconds of the camera kissing cunts career against United were complete. Thank you Ander.
This might be a strange one considering my well documented personal disdain for Jones as a player, but he did a couple of things I absolutely loved on Sunday. First of all, he completed 90 minutes without breaking himself. Second, he absolutely SMASHED Lallana and got away with it. Third, he kicked seven shades of shit out of captain cunt the apprentice and only got a yellow. Finally, and most impressively in my eyes, he managed to complete the final 35 minutes without so much as a whiff of stupidity, in spite of Mario Balotelli’s best attempts to get him to react and get sent off. Eight clearances, three interceptions and a passing accuracy of 82% rightfully earns Phil Jones some well deserved credit for a job well done at Anfield.
I don’t want to go over the top in this section because even the “worst” performers contributed greatly to the cause, but one can’t ignore the missed penalty. I do not agree with calls that Mata should have taken it, because Wayne Rooney is our penalty taker when van Persie is not available, and that should not change within the confines of a game. It causes confusion and on occasion disharmony. That said, I do agree with the notion that his penalty record is not great and an alternative penalty taker should be found going forward. Rooney pressured the Liverpool back line all throughout the game and that was key to our victory so credit needs to be given for that.
He had a great game but a rare lapse resulted in the Liverpool goal, and with 15 minutes to go, it could have been costly. I have no undue concerns about Carrick, he will know not to try to dribble between two players again when a simple pass would have done the job. It is so out of character that we need think about it no more. More positively he managed to get forward and play more offensively on Sunday, even having a good crack at goal from long range, and was also involved in the build-up to Mata’s wonder goal.
Angel Di Maria
This game was a microcosm of Di Maria’s season in general. He looked clumsy in possession, his passes looked rushed and poorly placed, his decision making was mistake ridden… yet he managed to provide a huge contribution in the form of an assist for Mata’s piece of genius and a key pass to Daley Blind in behind Emre Can to win the penalty. Di Maria has had the amazing ability of contributing greatly without playing particularly well… imagine what he will be able to produce when it all clicks?!?!
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