The game between Liverpool and Manchester United at the weekend sent Liverpool to the top of the Premier League, and left many United fans wondering just what their future held under new manager David Moyes. It was a tight affair, and in the end it could have gone either way, but not many people could begrudge Liverpool the victory, especially after their dogged defensive display in the second half. But how did the game compare to the corresponding fixture last season?
Liverpool 1 Manchester United 2 | 23rd SEPTEMBER 2012
This match was a great victory for United, and showed every side of a title winning team. Even with Liverpool down to ten men, United were second best for large portions of the game, and after going behind to a Steven Gerrard goal in the second half, things were looking increasingly difficult. In true Manchester United fashion, they got the equaliser and went on to eventually win the game. Liverpool, during the match, had more possession, more shots (with more on target), and a greater pass accuracy in the final third, but they lacked the cutting edge with which a team like Manchester United have been so famous for over the last two decades. Indeed, the sign of a title winning side is to be second best, and yet still win.
Liverpool 1 Manchester United 0 | 1st SEPTEMBER 2013
Fast forward almost a year and how times have changed. No longer is Sir Alex Ferguson at the helm of United, and at Liverpool, Brendan Rodgers seems to be brewing something potentially very special at Anfield. This, though, is a North West derby, and nothing is taken for granted. Liverpool went into the match as slight favourites, and the first 20 minutes showed why. A relentless attack on United when in possession, and extreme pressing when not, led to a very early and deserved goal for Daniel Sturridge. Liverpool, however, should be very aware of how taking early leads against Manchester United can backfire. Michael Owen and Fernando Torres had done at Old Trafford what Sturridge had done at Anfield, and ended up on the losing side, and as mentioned already, Liverpool were 1-0 up in this fixture last season, and lost. As with the result, the stats were set for a reversal during this match too. Unlike last year, it was United who had the greater share of possession, the greater passing accuracy, and a similar amount of shots as their opponents, and yet failed to pick up any points.
PLAYING THEM AT THEIR OWN GAME
A telling statistic in both games is the percentage of ground duels won by the eventual victor. Last season, it was United who came out on top here, winning 53%, whereas in the last game, Liverpool won 55%. This has a lot to do with the pressing of the opposition when not in possession, and something United have been good at for a very long time. Brendan Rodgers has Liverpool playing the this way now, and as proved on Sunday with their tireless closing down of United, if at first you can’t beat them at their own game, join them, and if you can join them at it, you can beat them. David Moyes, on the other hand, still has a little way to go to win over the Old Trafford faithful, and will be hoping the winning mentality of the squad is still there, even if Sir Alex Ferguson is not.