We took our moment for praise, acknowledging that David de Gea was decisive in Manchester United’s 3-0 win today over Liverpool. But there’s still blame to be handed out. A team can’t lose by three goals in a derby without some accountability, even if every indicator but the all-important scoreboard hints on most other days, against most other goalkeepers, Liverpool would have been fine. Should we really act like the Reds are going to run into a de Gea-esque performance every day?
Yes, which means crisis. It means Brendan Rodgers needs to get his shit together. It means the whole squad needs to be overhauled. And to do so, we need to take inventory of everything that went wrong on Sunday:
Steven Gerrard and Joe Allen – Liverpool’s final numbers were dominant (19 shots, total), but most of the game, the team was chasing the game, with United allowing its goal-shy guests to do so. Unable to break through de Gea, Liverpool gave its hosts no reason to change approach, something that contributed to the lopsided numbers.
Before the score became imbalanced, though, Gerrard and Allen had difficulty making an impact on the game. With Jordan Henderson shoved wide right and Philippe Coutinho doing little to even out the numbers (see Wayne Rooney’s opening goal), Gerrard and Allen were effectively working in a two-man middle, a seemingly terrible idea.
Neither Gerrard nor Allen are bad players, but they’re not a duo you should trust to win a midfield battle against Rooney, Juan Mata, and Marouane Fellaini. Perhaps they deserve some of the blame for today’s result, but the pair was set up to fail.
Alberto Moreno – The Liverpool fullback managed to make Antonio Valencia look like one of the most influential wide players in the world. Rodgers left him on an island (one only Allen comically tried to invade, at times), but it was a one-on-one matchup Moreno could have handled. But Valencia looked like a world beater today. Great job.
Raheem Sterling – This is a thing that happened in real life:
Dejan Lovren – This clearance? Also a real occurrence in our present dimension:
Brad Jones – Now we know Brad Jones is Rodgers’ panic button. As bad as Simon Mignolet has been, dropping him for today’s derby reeked of desperation. While you want to give the manager the benefit of the doubt (acknowledging something on the training ground could have convinced him Jones was a viable option), today’s performance was on the opposite end of the spectrum to De Gea’s.
Not only was he grossly unprepared to challenge the third goal (above), but what was this … technique? … on the first goal:
Mario Balotelli – Everything is Mario’s fault, except today, he was one of Liverpool’s best players:
Still, we’re obligated to put him on any list of blame-worthy individuals. He certainly could have done more, I’ve been told.
Brendan Rodgers – There were so many areas where Rodgers seemed to get it wrong, from …
- deciding to go three at the back (against a team that’s now used to playing three at the back), to
- dropping Mignolet for Jones, to
- both his midfield set up and its personnel, to
- employing an approach that allowed a player like Valencia to be so influential, to
- starting three attackers but no true strikers against team likely to start Michael Carrick in the middle of defense.
There were large stretches of today’s game where Liverpool looked like the better team, something that can be used to exonerate Rodgers. Luck, you could say, ran against the Reds, an excuse that would carry more water if the team wasn’t down for most of the match. United certainly didn’t seem bothered by Liverpool’s control. Had Rodgers made better choices before kickoff, his rivals wouldn’t have been so comfortable.