Giggs (pen) 2
Much of the talk following Manchester United’s victory over Liverpool centred on two incidents which in truth had much to do with the end result. However, from Sir Alex Ferguson’s point of view, all that will be of concern was his team’s performance on the pitch with the showing from Jonny Evans the most pleasing aspect to take from the game.
Evans has struggled for form since the early stages of the season when in the absence of Rio Ferdinand he was asked to consistently perform at the heart of the United defence. The issues which the 23-year-old appeared to be having were a lack of concentration at vital moments and often being out-thought and outmaneuvered by quick thinking opponents. When his name was on the teamsheet in place of Nemanja Vidic it was a real worry for the United fans considering what Fernando Torres is capable of against United, despite struggling for form himself. There was no need to worry as Evans put in the kind of performance which saw him so highly-rated in the first two seasons of his fledgling United career. He got his decision-making spot on and was often first to the ball nicking it in front of the Liverpool forward players. In fact when United were finding it difficult to press the opposition in the first half it was Evans who took it upon himself to win the ball and stride forward with purpose. He was unlucky not to cap a fine performance with a goal but there should be no disappointment in a showing which proved he still has the capabilities to be a success at United. Whether much of Evans’ performance was down to the fact he was alongside Ferdinand and the positional nous that is part of the England captain’s game, and not the more impetuous Vidic, is something which will become apparent the more games Evans plays with each potential partner.
What will not have pleased Sir Alex about United’s performance, however, was the passing from midfield. Too often the ball was given away when United had the potential to get into attacking positions and hurt Liverpool. Darren Fletcher was the worst culprit for giving the ball away, again unable to recapture the form of the past two seasons. Fletcher’s partner in the United engine room, Michael Carrick faired a little better but much of the work he did was in keeping possession in deeper areas involving the centre-halves and full-backs. This lack of intent was something the Old Trafford faithful found extremely frustrating in the second half. There was hope the delivery and urgency from midfield would improve once Anderson was introduced for Fletcher, but the Brazilian immediately fell into the trap of sloppy passing. It wasn’t the worst performance from United in midfield but many were of the opinion a lot more should have been made of the loss of Steven Gerrard.
The most important aspect of this encounter for United was the result in what were difficult circumstances following the managerial situation at Liverpool. With a little luck and an uninspiring performance, United were able to do that as they again enhance their ability to win without ever hitting top gear.
21 Rafael – 5 Ferdinand – 23 Evans – 3 Evra
17 Nani – 16 Carrick – 24 Fletcher – 11 Giggs
14 Hernandez – 9 Berbatov
62 – 8 Anderson on for 24 Fletcher
75 – 7 Owen on for 14 Hernandez
84 – 12 Smalling on for 23 Evans