In the past few seasons the Liverpool v Manchester United rivalry had become less about football and more about everything else. Last Sunday, on Bill Shankly’s 100th (and Daniel Sturridge’s 24th) birthday, we saw a new shade dawn upon the fabled foes of English football. For once, it seemed more about tactics and style of play and less about individual hostility between players. Here are five points to take away from the game:
1. Brendan Rodgers is out to win games, not accolades
The stark similarity among the three straight wins for Rodgers’ team suggests one thing for certain - he not willing to give up points even if it results in criticism for his negative tactics. His agenda is clear. Press continuously until you get the first goal and then press some more and somewhere in the second half start defending with a high back line.
Fair enough, given that last season he was not able to gather three points from the games in which Liverpool took the early lead - most notably at Manchester City, Arsenal and Everton. Few have uttered any dissatisfaction against the new strategy and when this works against Manchester United, nobody is going to complain for a long time.
2. Dan’s the man
Daniel Sturridge has not quite regained full fitness and yet the impact he has made is phenomenal. His scoring style is somewhat similar to ex-Chelsea striker Didier Drogba. Both take microseconds to decide which side of the goal to strike and which foot to use. In real time their goals look scrappy and somewhat lucky, but when you look at slow motion replays you realise that they were nothing short of spectacular.
In terms of work rate, he is up there with top strikers such as Edison Cavani and Radamel Falcao. It seems that Suarez will have to fight for his place in the starting eleven. The other Dan, defender Daniel Agger, has impressed too. In the absence of Kolo Toure, the Danish Dan shouldered the responsibility of leading the back line and put in a man of the match performance.
3. United need Rooney
The quality of attacking play shown by United’s frontline made us realise that the team needs Wayne Rooney. Robin van Persie is happy lurking around the penalty box and does not get involved in the build up as much as Rooney does. Also, United need an alternate source of goals in case Van Persie has a bad day. Danny Welbeck and Javier Hernandez are reliable, but none of them have the flair of Rooney. Michael Carrick doesn’t score goals, Tom Cleverley doesn’t score goals, Antonio Valencia and Nani are usually busy supplying goals. Rooney, in short, is indispensable.
4. There is no such thing as the perfect transfer window
Though none of Rodgers' signings are yet to disappoint, it is unlikely that Luis Alberto and Iago Aspas will make any significant impact this season. Alberto put in a lackluste performance in the Capital One Cup tie against Notts County, while Aspas made a mess against United. The point is, no matter how well one analyses the players before buying, it is impossible that all of them will be success.
Fabio Borini and Nuri Sahin proved this point last season. So, it seems logical that teams go for buying more than they need. Let’ see how Mamadou Sakho and Tiago Llori respond to the English game. Owing to the injuries of Kolo Toure and Glen Johnson, they will be getting their starts sooner than they may have hoped.
5. The return of the big four?
Tottenham spent approximately £100 million in the transfer market but it was Arsenal who put in the goal that mattered at the Emirates Stadium on Sunday. There may have been doubts about the depth of Arsenal’s squad, but with victory over Spurs and German playmaker Mesut Ozil arriving from Real Madrid, the Gunners’ confidence is far from low.
Manchester City have had a mixed start to the season - unlike Liverpool, who could not have hoped for better. The events in the first three fixtures have fans hoping that the time has come for the so-called 'big four' to return. The dominance of United, Liverpool, Chelsea and Arsenal in the Premier League is what made the English game so popular among fans around the world. It’s high time we see them dominate the Champions League and provide some competition to their German, Italian and Spanish counterparts.
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