Let’s make no pretence about this: we were beaten fair and square by Liverpool. We can talk all we want about refereeing incompetence; true there were a few errors but the crucial ones were offset on the other side too. Nothing however disguises the fact that yesterday was a defeat that was fully deserved.
This makes it a hat trick of Liverpool wins and that’s what makes it hard to stomach.
I was a little more sympathetic towards our 4-1 defeat because I felt it was conceded as a result of a lot of individual errors, and didn’t exactly reflect our competitiveness and dominance on the pitch. Yesterday there was little scope for excuses.
I have to commend Ferguson for being brave in his tactics at the start though. He went with a 4-4-2 away from home. It’s great to see the man wanting to go for it with the current ‘mini-crisis’ at Liverpool. However, it seemed obvious as the match wore on — shockingly so — that our midfield weren’t up to it. It’s a recurring theme this season — and will remain true for a while, I’m sure — that our midfield needs muscle. Carrick has regressed this season [decent performances in Europe don’t always cut it] and Scholes, with his age, cannot always be trusted to last 60 minutes against the bigger opposition. He’s blown hot and cold this season, and it’s not really his fault that he’s considered the first choice over other prospective members in the midfield.
What was a sad sight however, was to see a midfield of Lucas and Mascherano, not really in his best form so far, dominate the midfield, cutting off the supply lines to our strikers.
Which brings us to our attack. Rooney slaved away up front, but there’s little he could do if he doesn’t get the support he needs. Berbatov is a static player by nature. He needs mobility around him to work. And if that’s not there, then he’ll only inhibit our style. As much as the management will insist he’s fantastic, and classy, and that he doesn’t have to run always, there were moments when trying to bust a gut would have helped. We can make excuses for him and say he’s not getting help. Or we could say he’s not dynamic enough. Either of those points of view means he isn’t necessarily a fit for us. Yet. Berbatov does need help from the midfield, but he doesn’t make it easier either.
Giggs had an off day, and for a 36 year old, he is entitled to have off days. However Valencia on the other side played his heart out. I thought he was a bright spark, both in attack, and defensively. He was unfortunate to hit the bar from a tight angle.
Fernando Torres showed what a striker could do if he worked the channels tirelessly. He beat Ferdinand for pace clearly, but our defensive line had to share part of the blame. Two years ago, Rio had Torres firmly ensconced in his back pocket. The drop in Rio’s pace has been stark this season. However this is not to take any credit away from Torres’s goal.
The talking points undoubtedly will come down to refereeing. I was shocked how Lucas got away the whole match without a card, I won’t however make a big deal about Giggs being nudged in the area. Carragher’s tackle on Carrick was a dead-on penalty, but we could make the same case of Kuyt being brought down by Berbatov in the area. I thought Vidic’s first yellow was a bit soft although we’ve seen them given in the past, whilst Carragher should have seen red for bringing down Owen. None of them however was game changing, potentially. Arsenal fans, earlier in the season, would have been aggrieved at Fletcher getting away with a lot of fouls in that game, but we saw very little reason to complain then. I can’t see why we should now.
We’ve been Champions for three seasons in a row, and many more times in Ferguson’s tenure. And much of that is because we’ve made our own luck. Yesterday wasn’t even close to that day, and how we bounce back has a lot to do with how the players view yesterday’s defeat. The positives to take from yesterday, however, is everyone in the top four (or close to it, barring Chelsea) — Arsenal, Spurs, Man City — have dropped points. And that’s some portion of luck we’ll have to take and make full use of.
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