By Rasheed Abu Bakar
When Johnny Evans was declared unfit for this fixture, I had my worst fears. Luis Suarez’s speed has always troubled Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic in past fixtures, and the latter has been used very carefully in selected games since coming back from injury.
Thankfully, Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers chose to be cautious playing Suarez alone upfront in the first half - a half that was completely dominated by United.
While I am frustrated with the missed opportunities in the first half, there were plenty of positives and promise for the future.
Shinji Kagawa’s start did surprise me; I expected Paul Scholes to start in a match of this magnitude, but Sir Alex Ferguson kept faith in his Japanese playmaker.
I thought Kagawa had a decent game - he may not have threaded through balls for Robin van Persie or Danny Welbeck, but he kept calm in midfield and played a part in the build-up for Van Persie’s opener. Pepe Reina also did well to parry away Kagawa’s goal-bound shot in the second half.
Slowly, and hopefully surely, Kagawa can reproduce the terrific form that convinced Ferguson to part with £17m for the 2012 AFC International Player of the Year. All he needs is more games, and I am convinced the Japanese will come good.
Goals, not possession, win you games
There were plenty of positives from the game even though United looked in all sorts of trouble when Liverpool brought on Daniel Sturridge in the second half.
Some press lauded Liverpool’s play in the second half and commended them on their possession and chances created but the fact is, statistics and shots on goal don’t win you games. Putting the ball in the net does.
United’s back-line, buoyed by the return of a familiar pair in Vidic and Ferdinand, stood strong when Liverpool kept pressing for the equalizer. Even when Chris Smalling and Phil Jones came on, United kept their shape and limited Suarez and Sturridge to shots off target.
Full steam ahead
Interestingly, I don’t feel United has yet to play to their fullest potential. The sensational comebacks demonstrate the hunger and attitude but there is a lot more in the tank.
Scoring has not been a problem thanks to the mercurial Van Persie but if the leaky defense can clean up their act, title number 20 could be in the bag as soon as April (I hope).
Currently, United has conceded as many as Sunderland and more then West Ham and Stoke. If Ferguson can instill some confidence in David De Gea and make sure his first-choice defenders stay fit, we could see a premature end to the usually tense penultimate months of the season.
Rasheed's love for Manchester United started way back in the nineties after he watched a crazy old Scot named Sir Alex Ferguson run onto the sacred grass of Old Trafford, screaming and jumping for joy as Steve Bruce headed in the winner against Sheffield Wednesday in the 1992-93 season – easily one of the most influential games that spurred United to claim the the inaugural Premier League title. Since then, it has been Manchester United and nothing else.