The battle of two heavy-weights Manchester United and Liverpool was the most anticipated tie of the year for every United fan (including me). Yes, let me be honest I was really relieved to see that Coutinho was not playing the game as he is such a threat from the centre-mid region of the pitch. Also to see that Rooney was not in the starting XI (probably due to some injury) and replaced by Fellaini surprised me that Van Gaal would be utilizing the lazy Belgian’s head for sure. David De Gea was also back. It was a new joy for the crowd to see their best player on the pitch ready to save the team.
The Liverpool team also analyzed Man. United’s strategy and Clyne as well as Skrtel both were neck to neck with Fellaini. At times Fellaini did try hard to get out from their ‘chakravyuh’ but couldn’t succeed. The major fault in United’s play was that it was too much of a long ball game. Herrera, Mata were not being utilized properly. It was mostly Memphis lobbing the ball in the centre near Fellaini. The first half was absolutely lacklustre. It won’t be wrong to say but the first half was absolute NOTHINGNESS.
Real game began in the second half with the timely substitution of Ashley Young coming in place of misfiring Depay. Young intensified the attack from the wings with Shaw. The next moment United converted a brilliantly executed set piece. With Mata firing the free kick to unmarked Blind, and without stopping the ball, hitting it as it came, Blind had Manchester United in the lead. A pure training ground goal probably practised a million times. The happiness in the Van Gaal camp was evidently visible.
Next big moment of the match came when Hererra was tripped and Man. United was awarded a PENALTY. Hererra acted smart and took a well decided penalty kick to help Manchester United lead two goals to nil. Had he missed it then Liverpool would still have their hopes of winning the match. Daley Blind, Smalling defended well and stopped two great efforts by the Liverpool side.
Another decisive moment of the match came when Anthony Martial came on as a sub. A 19 year old whom most of the world had not seen playing was at the mecca of football with just one aim, to show the world why Manchester United paid such a hefty price for him. Within minutes of coming he showed immense skill to go past Lovren and then Skrtel, finally getting the ball right past Mignolet and scoring on his debut. The way how fluidly he moved past the Liverpool defenders showed that the boy has some serious class. All his critics were silenced.
A special mention to Christian Benteke. That bicycle kick came out of nowhere. No keeper in the world, be it Casillas or Neuer or anyone, would have saved that goal. It was absolute skill and proper presence of mind. But then that one goal was never able to save Liverpool and eventually they succumbed to a 3-1 defeat to Manchester United. It will always be a game to remember. After all Manchester United had defeated Liverpool three times in a row.