1. We wrote off Wayne Rooney too soon
Only a month or two ago, Rooney had been written off by almost every critic in town; too slow, too old, not the player he once was, past his best, no longer suitable for a central role. Many even suggested he was the root of the problem at Old Trafford; a player whose reputation demanded selection but whose contribution demanded he be dropped.
But recent matches have shown it was the position he was asked to play, and perhaps United’s overall malaise, that was the problem, not Rooney. Now selected as a centre-forward once more, and with an improved understanding with Anthony Martial, Rooney looks revitalised. His winner at Anfield was the fifth goal he was scored in the last four matches, taking his tally for the season to 15, and his work rate continues to inspire.
He may not have pace of youth or be able to exercise the same 90-minute impact on a game he once did; but he still has talismanic qualities for United in difficult times. In fact he has overtaken Thierry Henry in scoring the most goals for a single club in Premier League history (176 as is stands). As United legend Andy Cole tweeted: “Wayne keeps coming back and proving a point.”
2. The old world order still exists off the pitch — but on field, it is crumbling
A quick glance at the internet and dozens of Twitter feeds tells you that Liverpool v Manchester United is still a huge fixture right across the world. There were thousands of fans packed into thousands of bars and many more huddled in front of big screens in Asia and Africa, all bedecked in red and white scarves and passionate about their team. It’s a sight you’ll probably never see for Leicester City, Stoke City or even Tottenham.
On the pitch, however, the quality of this match told a different story; a story of two giant clubs now woefully behind the times in the Premier League. The quality of passing on show was so poor, the retention of possession a constant struggle, the creation of chances seemingly an impossible dream. In short, it was pretty awful match, in which the technique and tactics on show were well below the standards you would expect. Liverpool and United may be kings in continents far away; but in England right now, they are off the pace.
3. They may not be exciting — United are statistically ruthless
1:0 United lead. pic.twitter.com/NuL5rqg0yV— COPA90 US (@Copa90US) January 17, 2016
The big problem for United fans right now is deciding whether their glass under Louis van Gaal is half-full or half-empty. Supporters left Anfield in good spirits after they were spared yet another goalesss draw thanks to Wayne Rooney’s winner; but yet again the route to victory was hardly an entertaining one.
What you can’t accuse United of, however, is failing to take the few chances they do create. In fact, United have scored from all four of their shots on target against Liverpool in the Premier League this season. Is that clinical or boring? As Rooney said post-match, perhaps this was a game in which the result mattered and the performance didn’t.
4. Liverpool’s red revolution won’t begin until next year
Everyone got rather excited when Jurgen Klopp took over at Anfield, suggesting they could make a serious attempt at finishing in the top four. Now we know for certain that the revolution promised under the German cannot begin in earnest until next year, when he has had a chance to bring in players of his own.
The current squad is simply not good enough to finish in the top four this season, no matter how much of a genius their manager is. Serious question marks hang over players such as Jordan Henderson, Emre Can, and Christian Benteke who all failed to make an impact and whose performances have, largely, failed to inspire.
Don’t blame Klopp – his test will come next year.
5. Liverpool need a striker in the transfer window
There has been plenty of speculation around Anfield about which players Klopp will target in the transfer market; surely the priority has to be a striker who fits his system? Firminho has shown glimpses of promise, including against United, but he was wasteful with his finishing and doesn’t look the finished article.
Recent rumours have linked Liverpool with Brazilian star Alexandre Pato but any hopes of finishing in the top six depend on Klopp’s ability to bring in a goalscorer who can hit the ground running.
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