“Demands of the Job: Part Deux”

When Roy Hodgson welcomed Manchester United to Anfield in the 5th game of his tenure we spent the first 45 minutes defending with 10 men.
There was no attempt whatsoever to play the ball out from the back, and even in what looked like a policy of “clear the lines hoofball” there was little attempt to clear it to a red shirt upfield.
We went in 0-1 at half-time, and it could have been a lot worse…. 14 minutes into the 2nd half it was. We started as we’d left off and were 0-2 down.
Then something remarkable happened…
… we decided we’d had enough of that crap…
… we went at them, they made mistakes, and on 60 minutes we won a penalty which Stevie G scored, then he added a 2nd 6 minutes later.
United were rattled, their back 4 were looking shaky and making mistakes and their midfield looked all at sea.
Unfortunately, after clawing our way back into the game, we eased off a bit, and couldn’t finish them off… instead Berbatov finished us off by completing his hattrick with the winner on 84 minutes.

Now some people would look at that game and see a dominant, title-contending Manchester United that simply showed its strength by scoring more goals than they conceded, or more simply… winning.

Me… I saw a Man Utd that aren’t as good as their full-court press would have you believe, and have both midfielders and defensive players that either aren’t as good as they used to be, or aren’t as good as their reputations. (in spite of them losing the title only on goal difference.)

So I was more than a bit annoyed at the way we approached this first half, whether it was under direction, or the result of under-performing players, the result was the same… and almost carbon copy approach to this game as we took at home under Hodgson.
And as impressive as their strikeforce is, hence the belief some have in caution being the bets approach, their midfield and defense, just isn’t all that great.
Now that’s not to suggest that Man Utd players are shit… that’s going to an extreme about 5000 miles down the road from what I’m suggesting… which is that they are simply not as great and unbeatable as is widely suggested or accepted.

… but… Great or Shite, simply good or not so much…
…Go to Old Trafford with the intention of defending for 45 minutes and trying to get to half-time 0-0 and… while that will occasionally work for a few teams… 9 times out of 10… you are basically fucked from the off.

I don’t have a particularly big problem with the players selected for Sunday’s game. It wouldn’t have been my selection, but there was an argument for it.
I don’t have a problem with the overall idea, when we face the big teams, of keeping it tight, playing it out from the back and maintaining possession…
… but I have no idea if that was the instruction our players had been given… coz a few looked like they were trying to do that, but other just didn’t.
…and nor did those players look like they were looking to play it out and break fast.
Our approach just seemed completely disjointed…
… but ultimately it led to us defending in our own half for 45 minutes, barely getting the ball across the half-way line and even when we did, it was largely in the shape of a long ball to a player who had 3 defenders on him, with no one breaking forward in support, and going in at half-time 2-0 down.

I don’t know if Brendan got it badly wrong, or his players just let him down. (there were 3 or 4 sub-par performances to point to and that’s never gonna help.)
Either way, it wasn’t an acceptable Liverpool approach/performance against Man United
… just like that game under Hodgson.

A lot has been said about Raheem Sterling’s selection. To be honest I wouldn’t have picked him for this match, I’d have had him on the bench.
But then again, the idea of isolating Raheem Sterling to attack Fabio one-on-one, wasn’t an entirely bad idea.
Unfortunately, in hindsight, Fabio had Raheem in his back pocket from the off.

Luis Suarez can handle Vidic and get the better of him.
Luis Suarez can handle Rio Ferdinand and get the better of him.
Luis Suarez can handle Patrice Evra and get the better of him.
Put the lad up against any two of the above three and he can even get the better of them occasionally…
… but all 3 at the same time (and with little support from midfield or his wide men)… they had him in their collective back pocket for 45 minutes.

There has been a fair bit of criticism of Downing for not trying to get past Patrice Evra.
It’s a fair comment… Evra was constantly showing him the wing, and Downing seemingly refused to go there…
… but was that coz he’s a pussy, coz he’d been told not to, or coz no one else was breaking forward, so even if he had gone there, there was no one to cross to?
(yeah, I know, its coz he’s a pussy, :) but I’m trying to be objective)

I said to my mates before the game, we should go with a 4-4-2 (which could have morphed back and forward between that and a 4-4-1-1 or a 4-3-2-1) with Sturridge and Luis up top and one midfielder breaking into that support role.
They wouldn’t have expected us to do that.
We could have nullified their “not that impressive” midfield and put their “frankly less than impressive back four” under some real pressure… (you know, like we did in the 2nd half.)

The saddest thing about Sunday… is simply that it confirmed to all and sundry that United are dominant and favorites for the title
… when it could have showed everyone just how truly unimpressive they really are.

The 2nd saddest thing is that it confirmed for many that we truly are nothing but a mid-table team right now…
… when it could have showed that there really is some promise in what Brendan Rodgers is trying to do… and by association… in the decisions that the Owners made last summer.

To be clear… in my opinion… in all honesty… it showed both.
…The first half showed everything that is wrong with the club.
…The second half showed the promise.

Now then… a bit of housekeeping…
Dear Mr. Sturridge,
I’m writing this letter to let you know that I was a bit of a cunt a few weeks ago. It wasn’t that I thought you were shite or “not good enough for the Liverpool shirt” but I also wasn’t convinced that you were what we needed.
Boy, have you proved me wrong in your first two outings. And I’m holding my hand up to say “you’ve converted me” and “keep it up lad”.
I don’t know if I owe you a formal apology, as such, coz its only two games and not full outings at that, but I did find an easy recipe for “crow in plum sauce” and I must say it was more than palatable.

(It needed to be said… :) )

It is massively early to comprehensively judge Sturridge on only 2 halves… (look at the difference between Allen in September and Allen now?) but fuck me if I’m not impressed with the way this lad has applied himself.
Not just his goals… I’m talking about the way he’s looking for channels to run into, dropping back to receive the ball, running into space (and as important, space that makes sense) when others have the ball, and his all round basic hunger for the ball.
He looks eager to impress.
He looks to be on a similar wavelength to Luis Suarez.
He looks… well… so far, worth every penny of 12 million.

I’m actually really eager to see how their partnership develops… and if that will make a difference to the performances of Sterling, Borini… hell, maybe even Stewie (..er :) well, okay, maybe that’s a pipe dream, but you get my drift).

So Norwich next, which should be, not only a 3 point banker, but an opportunity to do some much-needed renovation to our goal-difference.
… but could just as easily be yet another fuckin embarrassment…
… so start strong from the off… get Danny out there alongside Luis…
… and if you must tap it about, feel free to do so in bits, but get the ball forward to these two, and lets go 2-0 up first, coz I reckon they’ll do the biz for us.