Brendan Rodgers feeling the pressure as Liverpool continue to struggle

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Sunday's trip to Manchester United could have proved a turning point for Brendan Rodgers' side. As the countries two biggest football clubs, Man United and Liverpool may have clashed for major honours in the distant and recent past, without much in the way of niceties or decorum.

But local bragging rights and pride aside, this encounter was more about redemption and an effort to steer the ship in the right direction, and proving that relative success could still be achieved.

United came into the game with a good run of form, but had yet to convince us that they truly were back in contention for Champions League football. Liverpool meanwhile badly needed a result to restore confidence in a side riddled with inconsistent performers and a lack of tactical nous.

Lack of cutting edge costs Liverpool dear

A win here for the Reds could have given them much needed momentum, and propelled them to a strong run of form, much like their opponents over at Old Trafford. In some respects, this derby meant more than it has done since the two sides were at loggerheads for the title in 2008-2009.

The stats will tell you that the visitors deserved to win the game, let alone lose 3-0. Liverpool had a total of 19 shots to United's 11, with 9 of the former's on target to the latters 6. Liverpool also had a higher number of corners at 7, with United's totalling just 2.

De Gea makes the biggest difference

The 55% possession to Liverpool's 45% was the only aspect where the Red Devils were on top. But stats don't win you a football match. The result should reflect how lacking Liverpool are both defensively and up top, making poor mistakes at the back and squandering the host of attacking chances that they created.

They will point to the outstanding man of the match performance from David De Gea, who is looking better every week, and who arguably, was the only reason United were able to keep the Reds at bay. But Liverpool must look to their own failures here.

Sterling not clinical enough

Raheem Sterling had a number of opportunities to give his side a foothold back into the game, in particular the one on one with De Gea which should really have been capitalized on. Rodgers' decision not to play a striker was also a strange one. As much as either Balotelli or Lambert have not really been performing, having neither on the pitch didn't exactly make things any easier going forward. Mario Balotelli in fact, even looked quite dangerous when he came off the bench, though yet again showing the good and the bad side to his game without really making a true impact. It was he who forced perhaps the best save from the remarkable De Gea.

Brad Jones in the opposite net on the other hand, showed no signs of rising to the challenge of such an occasion, diving bizarrely in the opposite direction to Rooney's strike to put United 1-0 up. To be fair to the Australian, he wasn't helped by some incredibly lacklustre defending during the build up to the first goal.

Awful defending continues to be theme under Rodgers

Although the second looked easily offside after Robin Van Persie flicked a header onto Juan Mata, the Liverpool defending was atrocious. The three centre backs held no line whatsoever and Skrtel gave Van Persie an enormous amount of space to attack the ball. The third goal pretty much summed up Dejan Lovren's career at the Anfield outfit so far. Giving the ball away to a re-surging Juan Mata on the edge of the box enabled to Spaniard to pick out Van Persie for an easy finish, leaving Jones in no man's land.

The United defence made mistakes too, much of which consisted of giving the ball away in dangerous areas, but generally stood firm, and at times of danger, were bailed out by their Spanish goalkeeper.

In short, both sides attacked fairly well and defended relatively badly. The difference was that the cutting edge of the likes of Rooney, Mata and Van Persie were able to take their chances when they came, even if they didn't come as frequently.

Boxing analogy sums it up perfectly

As Gary Neville pointed out, Liverpool gave United a lot of jabs but United delivered the knockout blows. The home side were patient, composed, and clinical because they knew they could be. Rodgers' side on the other hand didn't have the quality needed and haven't all season, to put the ball in the back of the net, and snapped at a number of well created chances.

As much as the Liverpool manager will take encouragement from the chances created, this should be treated as a cause for concern, as not one was turned into a goal. With Daniel Sturridge out until at least early January, the Christmas period at least, looks bleak. Even with the front man's return you cannot expect Sturridge to work miracles immediately.

Rodgers will be feeling the pressure and may need to spend in January, but spend well, as many of his signings in the past haven't proved to have been of the best quality. He will be looking over at Old Trafford and eating his words from the start of the season when he suggested United would struggle. Liverpool are now the ones who face a very hard fight to finish in the top four and need to hit form quickly.  

United on the other hand will feel as though anything is now possible, and with a goalkeeper like De Gea, coupled with the firepower they have available, who can really blame them.

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England Football
Robin Van Persie
David de Gea
Manchester United
Premier League
Brendan Rodgers

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