|photo by MÃ´sieur J. [version 3.0b]||via PhotoRee|
Q. Did Manchester United's starting lineup meet the pre-game predictions for this most important of games?
A. Not by a long shot. We don't believe there were too many people who would've predicted a start and the team's Captaincy for Ryan Giggs, Jonny Evans filling in for Nemanja Vidic, and Anders Lindegaard being preferred to David De Gea -- again. But Sir Alex apparently did, and that's all that mattered.
Q. Who was most impressive for United in the early going?
A. The away fans, who were in fine voice. Unfortunately, they were much sharper than the away team, who offered up repeated opportunities to the home side, giving them way too much space and time on the ball.
Q. Was that the United game plan?
A. We hope not, although it was difficult to determine exactly what the visitors' game plan was, as the eleven men in white seemed intent on playing as individuals who seemed only vaguely acquainted with each other rather than as a unified team. United appeared content to sit back deeply and give away possession cheaply, as if offering their own kindness to Liverpool on a day which saw the Hillsborough 96 remembered in the pre-game ceremonies.
Q. Was there a defining event of the first half?
A. If there was it was Jonjo Shelvey's rash challenge on Jonny Evans, which resulted in a straight red card for the Liverpool midfielder. Sir Alex thought so, too, as he and Shelvey exchanged verbal volleys as the hairless scouser took an early walk toward the home locker room.
Q. And so a man up, United must have dominated the second half. Correct?
A. A funny thing happened on the way to an easy victory at Anfield. Steven Gerrard came up with yet another goal against United before the clock had even ticked off three minutes of the second half. Once again, a Liverpool player found himself in acres of space in front of Lindegaard's net; this time the home team took advantage.
Q. Did RVP step up to level the game?
A. No. This time the equalizer came from a rather unlikelier source: Rafael. The Brazilian right back found the side post and received a friendly bounce to beat an outstretched Pepe Reina from an extremely tight angle. His defense may be a bit suspect at times, but the kid has turned into quite an attacking weapon this season.
Q. How did Liverpool respond?
A. The Russian judge handed Luis Suarez an average score of 8.0 for his dives in the box, while Raheem Sterling finished a very close second in the competition.
Q. Did United pull away after that?
A. Actually the second half play was fairly even, with Liverpool creating some real chances, many of which came off the foot of Luis Suarez. Then a devastating turn of pace by Antonio Valencia, who left a trail of Liverpool defenders in his wake, finally separated the two sides. That is, after Van Persie ended the squad's recent woes from the spot by banging home the penalty drawn by the Ecuadorian winger.
Q. Anything strange happen toward the end of the match?
A. As a matter of fact, yes: the injured Rafael was replaced by Danny Welbeck. A striker replacing a defender with a one goal lead at Anfield in the final minutes of the game shows us one of three things: either United have a severe shortage of defenders, or Sir Alex was deadly serious about this goal differential stuff. Or both.
This is farlieonfootie for September 24.
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