That was the hardest 45 minutes I’ve ever had to stomach watching Liverpool at Old Trafford. If there’s one thing that United has shown this season, is a strong aversion to teams who get in their face. With a backline that featured Vidic and Rio Ferdinand, slow was what they were on paper, but they got plenty of favours from Brendan Rodger’s when he elected to start the match with a 5 man midfield that featured two anchoring midfielders in Lucas Leiva and Joe Allen.
Within the first 15 minutes it was increasingly apparent that something was wrong, Steven Gerrard was spending most of his time in Liverpool’s half, the trio of Downing, Suarez and Sterling were desperately needing a central attacking pivot to support them from midfield, but Steven Gerrard was spending more time in Liverpools third supporting Joe Allen, who was apparently feeling the nerves of playing at Old Trafford. Between Joe Allen and Lucas Leiva, the more secure and experienced has to be the Brazilian. Joe Allens amazing passing rate of 87% isnt even amazing when you consider that most of that passing is lateral and backwards. And when he goes to challenge the ball he’s clumsy and unsure.
Half his challenges gave up fouls in dangerous areas of the pitch and this is where Lucas Leiva’s experience would have helped. Rodger’s decision to take Lucas off and introduce Dean Sturridge was a poor one. The idea of dropping Suarez into a midfield pivot role was probably correct but he probably did that only because he wanted to make sure that Liverpool could still pass the ball around in midfield. Liverpool certainly showed more endeavour in the second half, but unless Rodger’s gets his tactical mix right, I don’t see him lasting more than a season at Liverpool.
Suarez on the right flank, Downing on the left and Sturridge through the middle would have given United more problems last night provided Gerrard had a more attacking role in front. The challenge for Liverpool moving forward appears in getting the partnership between Joe Allen and Lucas clicking. Liverpool’s defensive anchor has to be Lucas who can do more of the slogging and Joe Allen in support to string the passes would be useful provided his range of passing also includes the occasional forward pass. And as long as that fails to happen, Steven Gerrards influence in the final third will be handicapped as he drops deeper to support the misfiring midfield duo.
Rodger’s needs to work some quick Irish magic and get his head on straight, he has got some good ideas when it comes to man management, but when it comes to playing against the top 7 clubs in the Barclay’s Premier League, he is beginning to show an alarming lack of tactical imagination, and is probably the reason why Sir Alex Ferguson doesn’t care about Liverpool’s league position.