This awful season of disappointments and dreadful results in the big matches continues for Liverpool and Brendan Rodgers, although it could have been very different if Raheem Sterling was able to score at least one of his many wonderful chances, left alone to beat David de Gea.
Sterling had two such chances in the first half, one of them coming 30 seconds before the opening Manchester United goal. His inability to beat the Octopus-like Spanish goalkeeper seemed to be synchronized with the scoring from Manchester United, striking with perfect accuracy on the few chances they did get through the first 70 minutes, before Liverpool completely fell apart and lost control of the match.
Rodgers spoke after the match and said, not far from the truth, that his players did enough to win. They dominated possession through the 4-6-0, they created chances, they managed to beat a slow Manchester United defense time after time to put themselves in one on one situation with De Gea. Only the ball refused to go in. Or De Gea refused to let it in. Semantics. The bottom line is Liverpool losing again, and Rodgers getting the tactics right before decimating it all in the second half.
Why was there a need for Mario Balotelli on the pitch? He did get his chances, but Liverpool played better without him. Why was there a need to move to three centre backs? Only Rodgers knows. The moment he threw Lazar Markovic into the match and left Kolo Toure, Dejan Lovren and Martin Skrtel on the pitch together, the Liverpool midfield dominance disappeared and confusion spread through the ranks, with the final whistle coming in time before Manchester United, enjoying some garbage time minutes of domination, could score again.
This blow isn’t as bad as some may think, but when you bring it into the context of just 21 points through the first 16 matches, Liverpool’s worst start since the 1964-1965 season, it doesn’t really matter that they played well. If this season is to be with some sort of challenge for a European spot through the league and Rodgers wants to keep his job, a chance has to come quickly. He has made the right move in terms of his formation. Now he needs to see it through, because returning to the 4-5-1 that looked so bad each time he has tried it will be setting himself up as a lamb for the slaughter.
Sterling is a wonderful football player, but a poor finisher. With every miss his confidence in the penalty box seemed diminished. A confident player scores at least one goal with so many opportunities inside the penalty box, especially the one early in the second half, enjoying another blunder in the Manchester United defense which also caught De Gea off guard, just for once. Someone on the current decimated Liverpool team doesn’t.