The Capital One Cup (previously the Carling Cup) is normally considered by managers of top tier teams as a competition for breeding young players or just a plain, unwanted distraction in an already congested season.
However, at the final whistle in Wednesday's match between Manchester United and Liverpool, Old Trafford bore a zealous, frenzied reaction.
Manchester United had beaten Liverpool - nothing else mattered to those fans, let alone the fact that it was in Capital One Cup competition. United’s previous loss to their arch-rivals and their worst start to a Premier League season in years only added to the significance of winning this match.
The Red Devils needed a response, what with their derby mauling still fresh in supporter’s minds. David Moyes had called on his troops to put in a worthy performance in this fixture and they duly answered his call.
A vastly changed side stepped out into the Old Trafford turf on Wednesday night amid the backdrop of expectation, pressure and urgent need to impress.
Javier Hernandez, Shinji Kagawa, Nani, Alexander Buttner, Jonny Evans who have been on the fringes so far, were given a chance to impress….let’s just say they played much better than their woeful ‘seniors’ a few days prior.
United looked fresh, hungry and full of verve. Some fluidity was lacking though, for obvious reasons, this particular group never really gets to play together.
Its almost like the players knew they would be instantly compared to the man who had played in their assigned position against Manchester City last Sunday and thus each tried to play better.
Phil Jones tackled more than Fellaini, Evans and Smalling stuck tighter than Vidic and Ferdinand, Buttner tracked back more than Evra, Rafael ventured forward, taking on players more than Smalling, Hernandez made more runs than Welbeck, Nani was more threatening than Young and to top it all off, Rooney was….well….typical Rooney.
In total, United looked a much, much better unit against Liverpool. They ran more, had fight and, most importantly, created scoring opportunities.
All this, it must be added, against a Liverpool side that has already beaten them once this season and had Luis Suarez making his long-awaited comeback.
Liverpool also had their moments, Suarez heavy touch allowing De Gea to smother, Sturridge wasting another opportunity, Victor Moses saw his powerful header spectacularly saved by De Gea before Kolo Toure shot wide when it seemed easier to score.
Still, United played better and deserved their goal after the break when the lively Hernandez got just reward for his efforts when he instinctively lost his marker to volley home Rooney’s corner. Yes it was yet another set-piece goal for United and this is surely to worry Moyes but as long as they score, it won’t bother him much.
The United DNA once again came to the fore. A response was needed…a response was duly delivered. They won, against Liverpool, at a time they needed it more than any other and this victory may just be the catalyst for United to embark on a road to redemption.
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