Spot the difference. - Alex Livesey
Liverpool meekly surrender at Old Trafford.
That's the word that keeps ringing around my head. Liverpool absolutely surrendered the first hour of this match, and it gave them to big of a hill to climb once they woke up. And United were practically doing everything they could to help them summit the peak they had constructed for themselves with that hour-long heroin trance. It's hard to fathom how you can come out so timid in a match with this much importance. But here we are. Because it really was there. But just because it's there doesn't mean it's going to come to you, and Liverpool did virtually nothing to grab it. Thoroughly disappointing.
Let's get to the bullets a little quicker than normal because that's where my main points lie.
-Before I get accused of not giving credit where credit is due, for what little they were asked I thought the United backline was fantastic. Whenever Suarez, Downing, or Sterling had a chance to face up and run at any of the four, they were thoroughly snuffed out. That includes Evra and Rafael, who I thought Liverpool could get at. Granted, they probably weren't tested enough, but they passed what they were given with flying colors. Only did Sturridge's running trouble them, and that was when the tiring legs took hold.
-Ok, let's get to it. There's been a disturbing trend with Rodgers in the transfer market, and now we're seeing it on the field. That is to play his pets. While all the decisions were explainable, that doesn't make them right. Obviously, my big fear was that Allen would start of Henderson, and so it proved. And my fears about it were realized. Whether Allen was supposed to be the "attacking" midfielder, or Gerrard was, it didn't matter. All three of Lucas, Allen, and Gerrard were on top of each other.
This led to myriad problems. First, Carrick and Cleverly had all day to pick their passes and run things. Whereas Henderson's or Shelvey's pressing would have prevented that, and might have gotten Liverpool into the match much quicker. It's no coincidence that Liverpool got into things when Gerrard said, "Fuck it" with nothing to lose and hassled both those United midfielders into giveaways.
Second, whenever Liverpool did bother to go forward, it was Luis Suarez playing the role of Munch's The Screamer, because there was no one in sight. Either Henderson or Shelvey would have gotten in the box at least. But Gerrard doesn't have the legs to do so on the break consistently, and Allen doesn't have the mentality.
Thirdly, when United were pressing the Liverpool defense -- something Liverpool should want for the space it should provide behind that pressing for a ball-playing defense that I'm told LIverpool have -- Skrtel and Agger could look up at a solid bank of central midfielders right in front of them. All those three did was heap on the pressure, because they weren't keeping any United player back with their positioning.
I can only guess that Allen started because he's Rodgers's guy. No one in their right mind would argue that he's in better form than Hendo or Jonjo, and yet there he was. Right now, it's got to be either Lucas or Allen in the starting 11, but not both. Allen's lucky he didn't give away a goal, as well.
-Ok, so mistake realized. Sturridge, another pet, brought on. But hey, that's the change to make because Liverpool need more threat. But it's Lucas brought off, exposing them to the counterattack they've struggled with all season. They weren't made to pay for this because United fell apart in the last 30 minutes, but Allen did give away enough free kicks around the box to put me back on blood pressure meds.
But still, Lucas was on a yellow, still finding his game, fine. Go 4-4-2? Mirrors United I guess, and Sturridge and Suarez made it work.
-Ok, now you've got it to 2-1. You're in it. And your change is to bring in Borini who hasn't played in months? To go with a 4-2-4 with an immobile Gerrard and a spastic Allen? Either Shelvey or Henderson for Sterling and back to a 4-3-3, with Borini ready for the final 10 minutes as part of it would have made more sense.
I want to believe Brendan, I really do. But decisions like today's are making it harder than it should be. Because it really was so simple.
-Positive: Suarez and Sturridge are already showing something, and Sturridge did a lot of unselfish and clever running. And Liverpool have been screaming for someone with the predatory instincts that he showed to score. On the other side, he's going to miss a few too, as he really should have equalized. He'll score some, he'll miss more. In other words, a perfect Liverpool player.
-As was my fear, Wisdom got lost at a critical moment, leaving Evra far too much space to pick out a cross. But it's futile to get upset about young players being cautious and making mistakes.
-Back to Borini, he was lively, and I do look forward to when he's fit again and gives Liverpool as mobile a front line as we've ever seen. Borini has his faults, his runs aren't one of them.
I want to get angry and throw things, but it's hard to do when your side merely spits it and willingly gives it up. It's what they asked for, it's what they got. Let's move on.