Hope in your heart takes a look at each player’s performance in yesterday’s 2-1 defeat at Old Trafford.
Pepe Reina: (6) Can’t remember Pepe being decisive, apart from a good save from a shot coming from outside of the box in the second half. Looked very nervous before the second goal, and didn’t manage to organise his defence well enough for that free-kick.
Glen Johnson: (6) Didn’t do enough when going forward. Was mostly pinned back in a defensive role due to United’s effective tactics. Therefore Sterling had little support further ahead.
Andre Wisdom: (6) Same comments as for Johnson. This match will be a good learning moment for him. Lacked composure on the shooting opportunity he got, but defended well enough.
Daniel Agger: (5) Seemed to struggle when the mancs launched their many bodies towards the box, especially in the first half. Lacked to bring any of his usual qualities when the team was building up attacking moves. Both goals were soft goals to concede, and the central defenders take a big part of responsability in this.
Match Report: Pride and Promise at Old Trafford, but No Points
Martin Skrtel: (5) Same as Agger. Struggled the whole match and was never at ease at the back when the mancs applied pressure.
Lucas: (5) Not the best match we have seen from Lucas. He’s clearly not up to pace yet physically, and it was a sensible move from Brendan Rodgers to remove him at half-time as he had been booked too.
Joe Allen: (5) Desperately insufficient performance in the first half. Was meant to be the most advanced of the 3 central midfielders but failed to stop Carrick controlling the game. Based on the first half performance, I’d give him a 4, but fortunately, he managed to raise his game during the second half and looked far more efficient on and off the ball when played in a 4-2-3-1 alongside Gerrard.
Steven Gerrard: (7.5) Looked comitted and had some good moments in the second half, when pinging balls left, center and right from his deep position. Fantastic pace and energy on the action leading to Sturridge’s goal: Sterling gives him the ball, he takes it and after a short and energic twist, he shoots hard and low, forcing an excellent save from De Gea, before Sturridge can pounce on it. Had we had the same quality and comittment from all other players, then we’d maybe cheer for a victory today, instead of having to settle for a defeat.
Raheem Sterling: (6) Looked a bit lost and nervous. It’s good to see Sturridge coming in, because it will eventually take off a bit pressure from Raheem. Playing him every game isn’t really what he needs for the time being, although he’s in a great learning curve, and this kind of games will help him to develop further in the middle-term. Clever little ball for Gerrard in that previously mentioned build-up leading to the goal. Otherwise, he lacked any effectivity in his game and got lost a bit too much during the game.
Luis Suarez: (7.5) Completely isolated upfront in the first half, with the three central midfielders pinned back all the time, and the wingers ineffective as hell. But when Sturridge was brought on, he immediately began to shine again, this time as a slightly withdrawn second striker (the number 10 role), creating the link between midfield and attack, and working incredibly hard to get the ball back and then launching a new attacking move. A very promising 45 minutes with Sturridge and Suarez playing together, and showing how they could soon become a lethal partnership.
Stewart Downing: (4.5) Generally a poor showing. As a senior member of the team, he should be one of the players to drive the others forward, to display some fighting spirit, but as almost everytime when the going gets tough, he’s one of the first to disappear from the game. It’s understandable for a youngster like Raheem (although it’s something to work at) but not from a seasoned pro like Downing. Lacks game intelligence.
Daniel Sturridge: (7) (on for Lucas, 45 min) Immediately changed the game when he came on as an advanced striker. Gave us what we have lacked so much since Torres left: a player who has real pace, is ready to take his chances, and has a feeling for where he should position himself when going into the box. His goal was a real poacher’s effort, and bodes well for the future. Missed one or two chances to equalise when shooting near post which was disappointing. That’s two goals in 100 minutes played now.
Fabio Borini: (6.5) (on for Raheem Sterling, 62 min) It’s good to have Fabio back, as it immediately gives us more attacking options and energy upfront. Hopefully he can now improve from game to game and make a significant contribution during the next months. Looked energetic and worked hard during his cameo. Had a big influence on us being able to put pressure on the mancs during those last 25 minutes.
Jordan Henderson: (6.5) (on for Joe Allen, 80 min) Looked good when coming on. Helped to apply even more pressure on the mancs towards the end. With hindsight, it would maybe have been better to play him instead of Allen, as his energy could have been useful for this match.
General thoughts on the match/manager:
Our lack of fighting spirit during the first half was a big disappointment, and the two goals we conceded weren’t the best from a defender’s point of view, although RvP took his goal well enough. The second goal was offside, but this time, the ref can’t be blamed. The main point from this goal is that we defended the free-kick very poorly. In the last 25 minutes, we started to play real football, and got a reward for this with Sturridge’s goal.
As for the gaffer, it must be said that his line-up with the three central midfielders Lucas, Allen and Gerrard didn’t work at all. But credit to him for seeing this and changing the line-up after 45 minutes, going for a 4-2-3-1 which showed some promise. It will be interesting to see how we line up against Norwich next Saturday.