After the plain ridiculousness of handshakegate, there was actually a football match played on Saturday at Old Trafford. The game wasn’t the greatest spectacle for a worldwide TV audience. In fact, the first half may as well not have happened. With the exception of a good chance for Paul Scholes, and Suarez further endearing himself to everyone congregated at OT that didn’t wear Dalglish’s tinted specs, there really wasn’t anything to shout about.
United got off to a flyer in the second half with their two goals in the first five minutes and never really looked in any danger until Suarez nicked one back with seven minutes left. Rooney took both goals supremely well and with four goals in his last two games, he looks to be hitting form at the right time of the season.
Watching the game what struck me was how well United distributed the ball from the middle of the field. Scholes coming back into the team has been like having a new signing. Looking at the Opta stats from Saturday, you can see how United’s midfield two kept possession in comparison with Liverpool’s midfield three.
United’s central midfield partnership of Scholes and Carrick kept the ball on average 93% of the time whilst Henderson, Gerrard and Spearing managed 85%. It’s also interesting to see that pure number times that Scholes and Carrick passed the ball, certainly in comparison with Henderson and Spearing. If anything this still proves the theory that everything goes through Gerrard when he is in the Liverpool line up.
It wasn’t just in the midfield where United were more efficient with the ball. Across the pitch their ball retention was much better than their rivals.
Man Utd also did well to limit the supply to Suarez who ran around an awful lot but hardly saw any of the ball.
Looking at where teams created chances, you can see that United limited the visitors to mainly shots from outside the area where in fairness De Gea usually performs well.
On the whole it was always going to be a day where whichever team took what limited chances they had was going to win the game. United took two of theirs, and in reality could have had more if Scholes and Rooney hadn’t been guilty of missing clear cut chances, whilst Liverpool created just one clear cut opportunity, and duly scored from it. With just two goal attempts inside the box it’s very hard to win a game, let alone at the home of your biggest rival.