Man Utd Focus - Van Persie gives United win despite midfield shortcomings at Anfield
Robin van Persie was the match winner once again for Manchester United on a highly charged afternoon at Anfield, and the victory was a huge result as they bid to keep up with early pace-setters Chelsea. However, there was once again no disguising the lack of options available to Sir Alex Ferguson in the centre of the pitch.
Liverpool dominated the midfield battle up to the sending off of Jonjo Shelvey, who had been ably partnered in the home engine room by an impressive Joe Allen and Steven Gerrard. Ryan Giggs and Michael Carrick were overrun as a duo, thanks to Shinji Kagawa's advanced position behind van Persie and the width of Antonio Valencia and Nani.
Shelvey's dismissal proved a turning point in that Liverpool were no longer able to boss the midfield, particularly when Ferguson introduced Paul Scholes at half time. The veteran was able to wrestle control back for the visitors, but the reliance on Scholes continues to be a worry at Old Trafford. Ferguson is an avid long term planner, yet hasn't found the answer to the conundrum that faces him at the heart of United's team. Scholes and Giggs will turn 38 and 39 respectively next month.
Tom Cleverley has enjoyed a mixed start to the season, but is no longer a youngster at 23 years of age and could be expected to be exerting a more influential role in the side. The fact that Ferguson turned to experience in this huge game was telling, as was his withdrawal of Nani at the interval. The winger has also been erratic at the inception of the new campaign, and the manager opted to remove him and change the feel of his team rather than persevere with the Portuguese.
Nick Powell made a scoring start to his United career, and gives Ferguson another option to consider. However, a prospective return of the ever-reliable Darren Fletcher would give the midfield the boost that it desperately needs. The combative nature of the Scot would have been of great benefit to United on Merseyside this season, in the opening defeat against Everton in addition to the somewhat fortunate victory at Anfield.
Whilst it is important that United continue to pick up points when not at the top of their game, there is the requisite for the attacking interplay that was evident during pre-season to be displayed in the Premier League and in Europe. Against more accomplished sides, and without the advantage afforded by being a man up, the kind of performance that was witnessed against Liverpool will be punished more heavily.
The return of Wayne Rooney in the next week would provide a creative boost, as the forward seems to have built up an early relationship with new signing Kagawa, whose slick passing and ability to find space will compliment the movement of Rooney and van Persie. It may be the case that the Japanese playmaker drops deeper to accommodate Rooney, which could provide something of a solution to the issues that are being suffered in the centre of midfield.
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