Manchester United faced a trip to Anfield this weekend in what promised to be an enticing encounter. Not only is this one of the fiercest rivalries in English football, but stakes were high on which team will mount a serious charge for Champions League football next season. Louis Van Gaal’s men had won the battle at Old Trafford in the first half of the season. Could Brendan Rodger’s rejuvenated Liverpool side get revenge in their own back yard, or did United manage to successfully complete the double over their rivals?
There wasn't much to talk about in the hour leading to kick off with both sides sticking to the exact same starting line ups as their previous matches. Angel Di Maria was back on the United bench after his FA Cup suspension, and Lucas had returned to the Liverpool substitutes. United had control of the game from the minute it kicked off, much to the surprise of many. It was truly one of the most dominant displays of any United side at Anfield, pressing high up the pitch, keeping their formation, and leaving no breathing space for Liverpool to move forward even when they managed to get possession of the ball. This dominant display was eventually awarded, when Juan Mata, who ran in behind a dosing Moreno, was found by his Spanish counterpart Ander Herrera, and cooly slid the ball in past Mignolet. The United dominance didn't stop there. Their game plan was unchanged, and Liverpool’s only chance at goal came when Jordan Henderson spear-headed a counter attack, found Sturridge with an early ball, who then squared it to Lallana, only to miss the goal by inches. Half time came, and United entered the break leading 1-0.
The second half started and Liverpool had turned to their Captain, Steven Gerrard to try and get something out of the game and restore the balance on the pitch. However, less than a minute into the second half, Captain Fantastic followed through on a Herrera tackle and stamped on him. The offence was spotted by referee Martin Atkinson, and Gerrard was sent off. Now Liverpool were a goal and a man down, and United were firmly in the driver’s seat, continuing their dominance. Angel Di Maria replaced Ashley Young early in the second half, and soon after his introduction, linked up brilliantly with Mata, and the Spaniard produced a sublime scissor kick finish to put the Red Devils 2 goals ahead. Sturridge managed to pull one back for the hosts after a rare lack of concentration form the visitors, however Liverpool’s hopes of getting something out of the game were futile, as United asserted their superiority until the end. They were awarded a penalty in stoppage time when Emre Can downed Daley Blind, but Rooney’s Anfield misery continued as he wasn't able to convert from the spot.
So where does this result leave United? After a 3-0 win over Tottenham, and now a 2-1 win over Liverpool, United look a different side. Louis Van Gaal’s philosophy finally seems to have sunk into the player’s minds, and they look more and more confident by the game. That being said, they still face the massive challenge of facing City, Chelsea, Everton, and Arsenal, amongst others respectfully. Their form has to continue into the remaining games of the run in, in order for them to secure a Champions League spot for next season.