This certainly wasn’t the best looking Northwest Derby game ever played but for those who made the trip from Manchester to Anfield, they wouldn’t have it any other way. After 77 minutes of Manchester United was seemingly completely disinterested of even shooting at the goal, Wayne Rooney scored the game winner in the 78th minute after Marouane Fellaini headed the ball off the crossbar.
May be a great idea to rewind to the start of the game. The first half would be remembered more for typical derby physical, bordering on dirty, action from both teams. Particularly the interaction between Fellaini and Lucas Leiva. After an unintentional knock of the heads that left Fellaini down, he got back into it and minutes later, got into it with Lucas whereas Lucas claimed Fellaini intentionally stepped on his foot. If it wasn’t a derby match, this kind of behavior would probably warrant at least a yellow card but referee Mark Clattenburg kept the cards in his pocket and let them go. It was probably the best move. Make sure things didn’t get too out of hand but it’s not shocking given the game.
The first half also showed how both teams were going to play all game, with both teams playing the wrong strategy. For Manchester United, they very deliberately tried to keep possession and only made very safe passes. They weren’t afraid to pass back to David de Gea many times and reset and didn’t even look as if they were interested in going for goal at times where they could’ve been more urgent. Considering Simon Mignolet has allowed some completely preventable goals and is having a confidence issue, along with the pressure of Danny Ward coming back from loan, United probably could’ve done better with peppering the goal and try to get Mignolet rattled as much as possible.
For Liverpool, they tried to press and press hard and get forward as much as possible. They weren’t afraid to shoot but their issue was they couldn’t get anywhere close to the goal. Except for a couple slow shots that went wide and an Adam Lallana header that just couldn’t get over de Gea, Liverpool’s shots all went wildly over the goal and deep into the stands. They had stints of good passing in the attacking third, they maybe should’ve been more patient and find better shots than wildly shoot from 25-30 yards away.
The second half opened things up a bit more. Liverpool was finding their way and forcing de Gea to make some world class saves while Anthony Martial was actually getting in on goal to somewhat test Mignolet. Then off of a short corner, Fellaini hit the crossbar and fell to an open Rooney, who cleaned up the rebound to give United the lead and ultimately the 1-0 win.
The big Manchester United win puts them solidly in 5th, just two points behind Tottenham for 4th and two points in front of West Ham for 6th. United has been unbeaten since Boxing Day and are unbeaten in their last five games. For Liverpool, they fall to 9th, tied with struggling Crystal Palace, eight points behind the top four. Liverpool didn’t want to lose to Manchester United for obvious derby related reasons but now they’re really in a hole in the Premier League table and really need to turn things around if they want to have a chance.