If only Arsenal were a team with teeth, with an edge to it. Manchester United were blindsided by Liverpool yesterday. If the loss to Chelsea was understandable, a 2-1 defeat with everything, including the referee (although no to the degree Alex Ferguson wishes everyone to believe), going against them. United always lose there or struggle for a draw. But everything leading up from the Chelsea match to the Liverpool one just predicted another bad afternoon at Anfield (third straight defeat for Manchester United there).
Maybe it even began with Ferguson’s usual blind defense of his players after the Wayne Rooney elbow. Keeping his mouth shut would have probably done him some good. Wayne Rooney, despite recent goals, isn’t doing anything well on the pitch. Yesterday against an aggressive Liverpool Rooney was again a shadow of his 2009-2010 self.
And Liverpool were aggressive – Steven Gerrard and Lucas controlled the middle of the park while Jamie Carragher got too excited and injured Nani. At first I thought he was faking it, but I guess that one, a rare occasion, was real. The referee’s handling of the situation, only a yellow to Carragher, led to a violent finish of the first half with Rafael trying to break Martin Skrtel’s leg but only receiving a yellow, seconds after escaping a wild Maxi Rodriguez tackle.
Where did it go wrong for United? They’ve done well before with a makeshift defense. It seemed their head wasn’t in it. Maybe their most important member wasn’t truly in it (Alex Ferguson) focused on his boycott against the media and of proving his just ways. Like against Chelsea in the second half, the Manchester United players didn’t raise their aggression level when needed. Liverpool came out fighting from the start. United, far from a flair and brilliance side, can’t go down without a fight. Luckily for them, they got Arsenal as running mates in the title race and not Chelsea.
When Dalglish got the Liverpool job after an absence of 20 years, I read somewhere that he’s the only manager that can look Alex Ferguson in the eyes and not flinch. He attacked United where it hurt, and started with two strikers, attacking the Smalling – Brown combo which hasn’t been tested too much before. Dalglish stopped with the testing and defensive alterations and just went with the best he’s got. It may be not much, but the side had enough inspiration from Luis Suarez’ ability to dominate the Red Devils and allowed a super hard working Dirk Kuyt to come off with a hat trick.
With Andrew Carroll making his debut and probably soon to make his first start, Liverpool can mount up a very strong finish Champions League? That’s a long shot, but with this crazy Premier League season, anything’s possible, even for a side that flirted with relegation fears earlier this season.
And for Manchester United? On any normal season I’d bet against them. But it’s Arsenal we’re talking about. A goal at home against a slumping Sunderland would have meant they’d have the reigns in the title race. They have a much more talented side than United, but their fragility will probably cost them their first title since 2004. Or maybe I’m wrong. Alex Ferguson and his whole side are currently treating the media with a “I’m mad at you for not agreeing with me about the whole f’ing media and FA being against us so F U.” Despite missing Ferguson’s post game thoughts and his some times altered versions of the truth, this won’t do the Sir and his team a lot of good.