Defeat at Liverpool only emphasises United’s midfield flaws

Robin van Persie failed to find the back of the net against Liverpool

Author: Doron

Follow Doron on Twitter

United’s hardest fixture of the domestic season came early, before autumn had even hit. Moyes was dealt a blow on Saturday as Rooney needed stitches to a facial injury sustained in training – he and Valencia were replaced by Young and Giggs. Liverpool were forced into one change from their last league game as Skrtel replaced the injured Toure. We welcome comments from both sets of fans.

United create their own problems

That Liverpool took the lead within four minutes was mightily frustrating. Not just because we’d conceded early but that it was a preventable goal, one that came off the back of a rare individual error rather than good football.

It can be argued that the corner was sloppily given away in the first place but the corner itself is a new phase of play and one that the majority of the time is successfully defended by teams. The vast majority of corners do not end with goals. Ferdinand is seldom beaten to headers and his marking is usually first rate but on this occasion he lost Agger – maybe being so early in the game he wasn’t quite focussed yet or something distracted him but in the end he wasn’t close to Agger and his header was flicked in cleverly by Sturridge who’d reacted far faster than Evra.

Going behind so early meant the pressure was on United to force the game into the Liverpool half but Carrick and Cleverley struggled to match up to Liverpool’s three of Henderson, Lucas and Gerrard. Two versus three is something United have come up against numerous times and that United still don’t have the right personnel to match up to a three is going to continue to make these situations hard. Gerrard in particular did a good job of screening Liverpool’s defence, cutting out any direct service to van Persie and as such Liverpool forced United to play the game in parts of the pitch that wouldn’t harm them. Sloppiness and individuals playing within themselves meant that for long spells Liverpool were comfy.

Liverpool impressively gritty

It’s fair to say that we’ve become accustomed to dross when we go to Anfield. Liverpool seem much more able to ‘get up for the game’ than we do and it’s no secret that we struggle against teams who play three in the middle. Having got the early goal, Liverpool were happy to sit deep and defend their lead rather than open themselves up in search of a second goal. Some may say it was unambitious but it won them the game.

Liverpool sit pretty at the top of the league with a perfect record so far after three consecutive 1-0 wins. Overall they’ve not played consistently good football but they’re showing good fight and some excellent tactical discipline that’s not been seen in a Liverpool side for a while. All of their midfielders knew their roles today and there were excellent defensive performances from the centre backs. I’m not sure anyone expects them to be fighting for the title come May but their start to the season has been efficient and quietly impressive.

Where was Kagawa?

Shinji Kagawa travelled to Anfield with the squad but didn’t make the bench. Post-match, Moyes was asked why and he suggested that there was one undecided place among the subs and he had to choose between Nani and Kagawa for it. Neither are fully match fit yet but with it being feasible that both wingers would need changing, have a second winger was a safe option. It may be worth asking why say Buttner was needed on the bench ahead of Kagawa but we’ll never know.

Leaving Kagawa out has coincided with three things: 1) Dortmund fans want him back; 2) United badly need some creativity; 3) Moyes told the media on Friday that Kagawa still isn’t quite ready in terms of his fitness yet. The third point appears to have been somewhat overlooked. Kagawa joined up with United in Japan during pre-season and was then given more time off. Fergie even said last year that the club were aware that Kagawa’s played a lot of football the last few years without much of a break and that he’d need a rest. Upon reuniting with the team in Manchester, Moyes made various references to Kagawa’s lack of fitness and then on Friday confirmed he’d been given another week off. Meanwhile, the club let him get a game with Japan to get some minutes under his belt – a sensible move as risking an unfit player isn’t something the club could afford to do (even if he’s made the bench lately) but his country could.

Kagawa will no doubt be in the side soon and United will benefit from his creativity, calmness and composure but that he’s not started any of the opening games has been blown way over the top without people actually assessing the situation. Getting the most out of Kagawa will be a challenge – as we saw last season, it’s not something Fergie managed to do as we’ve seldom played with someone in the role he flourishes in. He alone won’t solve United’s midfield problems though, the club head into deadline day desperately trying to bring in a couple of central midfielders to add guile, subtly, strength and a presence. As has been well covered, it’s frightening how long this has gone ignored but Moyes made a point of saying he wanted two central midfielders and hopefully we’ll eventually get them.


There seems to be a clamour to fit a United defeat to a pre-determined narrative. The response, particularly from our own fans is predictable and always over the top. There is a middle ground too, not every defeat is ‘the worst ever performance’ and sometimes you have to praise the opposition too. It’s worth reminding those who claim that it was “awful” that we’ve won at Anfield in more recent years playing worse than that.

Liverpool’s early goal ended up deciding the result but United weren’t without chances. Van Persie had early chances – an overhead kick and what seemed a tap-in at the back post; Welbeck had a couple of half chances and then in the second half Young saw a goal-bound effort blocked; Nani a fizzing drive saved; and van Persie couldn’t find the target after being played in by Hernandez. Not only did United create those opportunities but they restricted an admittedly defensive Liverpool to a few long range efforts.

There were other plus points too. There was some fight to United with four bookings and some ballsy tackles. Andre Marriner may have been inconsistent with his decisions and bookings but United tried to be physical. Tom Cleverley once again was one of the better players – fighting a hard midfield battle particularly as his partner, Carrick, had a rare off game. Valencia looked sharp and strong at right back when he replaced the injured Jones and although irrationally unpopular, Young put some excellent crosses in and provided nice balance to the left hand side of the team. On the other flank, Giggs’ position and role were confusing as he tended to drift in-field and it was a surprise he wasn’t subbed off earlier than 73 minutes.

United probably deserved a draw today and on reflection some may acknowledge that the performance wasn’t as bad as a defeat at Liverpool suggests. Moyes told the media that he was happy with the performance and gave some sound-bites about being able to see why we’re champions – nothing more than diversionary tactics one imagines. In general, defeats and draws have never been met with any kind of rational thoughts from United fans and this season more than any other the negativity and outright nonsensical moaning will be greater than before because there’s a new manager. The international break probably therefore comes at a good time – when Palace visit Old Trafford in two weeks the likes of Nani, Young, Hernandez and Kagawa will all be fitter whilst hopefully some midfield signings will be added.

27 Comments on Defeat at Liverpool only emphasises United’s midfield flaws

  1. I think what we need more than creativity, is a spine. We need someone rock solid to grab hold of that midfield and dominate it. Someone with a bit of drive. Both Carrick and Cleverley aren’t exactly players who control and dominate the midfield. Some fans have been critical of him, but Fellaini is exactly what I think we need. Someone with that extra strength and agression.

  2. Thanks for this analysis I read this following a search aimed at finding out why Kagawa wasn’t picked, which given Wayne Rooney’s injury was surprising. You provided a reasoned answer. Thanks.

  3. Cleverley had a good game?

    Are you having a laugh? I agree, ive seen United play worse. We are not far off being an absolute belting team .. however, every fan i meet says the same…. critics say the same … what does Cleverley do???

    he had a headache whenever asked/tried to pass the ball fwd. No, sorry, but he is an English version of Gibson.

    Truelly, truelly not United standard.

    Moyes will get things right/

  4. I’m sorry, Cleverley one of the better players? I can’t tell if you’re being particularly uncomplimentary to United’s performance, or whether you’re being wilfully ignorant. Cleverley was poor today. Consistently lost out in the tackle, took too long on the ball inviting pressure on himself and the team, gave the ball away at key moments and played others into trouble. He’s not United quality I’m afraid, as much as people like yourself would like to be believe otherwise. Whenever he comes up against half decent opposition, the inadequacies of his game are glaring. If you think what he served up today was acceptable, then I worry for you.

  5. Agreed. I’ve not been a huge fan of signing Fellaini, but since a while back I’m starting to reconsider. We do need to strenghten our midfield badly IMO, and not only the central positions, but our wingers aswell. At the momemt I’d say that Valencia is the only real winger good enough to start games. I like Welbeck and Kagawa aswell, but I don’t count them as real wingers. I really hope that the Kagawa situation is what Moyes say it is, cus I believe that guy has SO much potential, given the oppurtunity. And I have to disagree with you on Cleverley, I just don’t think he’s good enough to be a starting man at Man Utd, but he’s probobly the best we have atm, hence the necessetiy to strenghten the midfield. If I could get some semi-realistic pre-Christmas gifts, I’d take Özil, Fellaini and Baines before 24.00 tomorrow. Without adding to the squad it will be very hard to fight for the title this year, not to mention the Champions League, even tho I still think we have top-3-PL team as it is now.

  6. I think it was unfortunate for United that this fixture fell so early in the season. Moyes record with Everton was invariably awful at the beginning of the season, and generally his teams become much stronger as the season progresses. Strange really, some Everton fans probably have a rational explanation why. Much as Liverpool have had a good start, we will end up fighting for 4th position. United will end up slugging it out with Chelsea come May.

  7. Thought united were poor and Liverpool were okay. Noticed similar tactics from Liverpool against villa. Score then sit back and defend. Don’t think rogers trusts his defenders enough to keep te back four line high with pressure from the front. Seen the unite game v Swansea too and felt united were poor then until Rvp sved them. Think try will need him on top form this season or they will struggle (all relative of course. Think an excellent Liverpool season puts them about 5th while a struggling united season about 4th)

  8. In the game against Liverpool Manchester U misses two key players: Rooney and Jupp Heynckes, and they have one more (totally absent in the game: R Giggs)

    Sorry for loss,

    Dealu Mare

  9. Midfield aside, poor team selection by Moyes I have to say. What’s with his obsession with ryan giggs ffs?! Keeps giving the man a start! And in midfield too? Unbelievable! Jones…wow where to even begin. Hilarious! Future MUFC and England captain? What an absolute load of rubbish! Average footballer! Simply not United class and looks so out of his depth at right back its quite scary. Id rather fabio started at right back today or even antonio(who was probably our best player when he came on). Nani on the right from the start as well. Missed wazza obviously. Cleverley’s simply too lightweight. Anderson? The lad can’t sniff a minute on the pitch at the moment! Its disappointing! Davide petrucci? Larnell cole? Jesse lingard? What is uniteds plan for these youngsters exactly?? What’s the point keeping them in the reserves with the talent they have?! Wasted!

    Kagawa?? What’s the deal with the lad? Injured? Or moyes just hasn’t a clue where to play the guy? Who knows. Mystery.

    Zaha? The lad played throughout pre season, started in the comm shiled…where is the lad?? Get him involved ffs!

    Sign a bloody player or 2 tomorrow moyes, or else we’ll make a fool of ourselves in europe this season. Imagine if we come up against madrid or bayern. G-d help us.
    Fellaini will do for me. Exactly what we need. Big strong tall lad! Will help us greatly I rate! Ozil? Can’t see it happening at all. Herrera. Also not! What a shambles of a transfer window! Pathetic! Woodwards made a massive twat of himself! So has moyes to be fair! Are players just not interested in coming and playing for moyes or are we just not offering enough at the end of the day??

    Get rafel fit, sign fellaini, give cleverley and jones a squad role(caus that’s all they’re good for to be quite honest), get kagawa fit and involved, get nani involved too and we’ll be good to go.
    Poor result! Poor performance, poor team selection by moyes but we move on.
    We’ll win the league again. Have no doubt whatsoever!

  10. cleverley was terrible as usual. why are you defending him you think people are stupid and don’t watch games?? or he is your relative or something. HE JUST NOT GOOD ENOUGH. hope he leaves. as for moyes i don’t think he gonna last two years nevermind 6. problem is he just plays this kind of football safety first it not suits united it might suit clubs like everton but not united i am afraid. he is confused and don’t know that to do it looks from his interviews and actions in transfer market. fucking pathetic. giggs.. wdf? kagawa not fit? not buying it, feel like he will be gone tmrw on loan somethere or maybe there is deal already fuck knows. the bottom line is moyes is a mistake. no disrespect but we need something better than this…

  11. @max – Lingard, Cole, Petrucci – if you’re annoyed about today, it would have been even worse if they’d played. Lingard linked with a loan to Everton; imagine the other two will go on loan too.

    Agree with you about RB.

  12. Mr. Moyes said that he was more than happy with united performance. Yes ofcause, he is use to gabbing 6 points in 5 matches when at Everton, so I wouldn‘t be suprise, but he has to bear in mind that he is in champions environment not mid-table runners. Millions of people all around the globe where wondering on united‘s failure to rectifiy their long term midfield problem, or is there any hidden agenda that engulf united transfer policy? Actually, there must be fault some where in the managerial hierarchy. Clearly, united needs to offload many weak players, buy quality players that can compete with any club within and outside England, know the fact that the more you buy quality players, the more trophies you gather. So club‘s performance goes hand in hand with their ability to attract quality players.

  13. @minimal that’s a bit extreme fella. Chill out ffs. Early days! United lost a game of football! Fuckin hell, is it the end of the wrold? Ye its disappointing and all but it happnes. Not a great start to moyes’ MUFC career but ill def give the guy some time to make his mark on the team and get going. There not too many managers in the game that could have replaced fergie. Simples. Moyes has my support for now.

  14. criously i think we missing rafael the most he adds tht attackinc dimension wich gives the righ winger freedom n space to move. if u check yesterday’s game Jones didnt move forward the same as chelsea’s game.

  15. Max has hit all the right nails on the right heads.

    Why does Kagawa not reach the bench?–why is Zaha not given game time?–why not use Fabio instead of Jones?–why start with Giggs who has lost pace and the ability to pass to his own team mates.—Is Janujaz going to see the bench He is quicker and stronger than given credit for (and with a bit of devil).

    As for Woowar–he actually gets paid for such a pathetic performance?–words fail me.

    Is Moyes too timid and conservative?–where is the swagger of a Premier league winning team–it has evaporated!

  16. Doron: “Tom Cleverley once again was one of the better players – fighting a hard midfield battle”

    You must have been watching a different match. To be sure, YoungTom wasn’t UTD’s worst player – that was AshleyBloodyYoung who was largely responsible for the corner that led to their goal and did the square-root-of-sweet-fuck-all when he had the ball. I suppose that in comparison with Young (and Giggs, too), YoungTom looked like “one of the better players” but that just means you are accepting mediocrity as good enough for UTD. These three guys – and DannyTheLad, too – are squaddies/depth players who should only be playing in the event of injuries to better players like TheWayneBoy, Chicharito, KagawaBunga, Nani and – yes – even AV25. Since those five players were “coming back from injuries” the manager suited up the squaddies and their comparative lack of quality was there for all to see – as long as you were looking at the match I witnessed.

    YoungTom was, as usual (and, alas, as always) out-of-his-depth. He continually received the ball and passed it backwards/sideways. The contrast between his timidity and the aggression shown by both AV25 and Nani (in his all-too-brief cameo) was just stunning. Cleverley always “played it safe”, slowed down play, and didn’t challenge his marker. This is his usual game; so, nothing different.

    The headline of this article mentions midfield “flaws” but, in reality there’s just one “flaw” with this partnership – and it ain’t MC16.

  17. after yesterday transfer fiasko moyes must go. moyes please fuck off from our club fucking avarage midtable coach fergie buddy from glasgow you don’t deserve to coach united nobody wants to play for you so fuck off!

  18. i telling you doron defends cleverley because he is his relative some cousin or something or he has no clue about football:)

  19. ozil went arsenal because a: he didnt wanted to play for archaic moyes and b: united dont have money and are fucking greedy run by stealing bastards who are stealing from club but nobody gives a flying fuck about this of course..

  20. @Minimal – You’re speaking out of your arse again. Why do you make out that everyone is a moron except you? Do you even like football? Or United for that matter? In case you’re confused, we want United to be debt free, attract great players and win trophies – like any other fan of a football club would do.

    Ferguson was the greatest manager that ever existed, yet you talk like he couldn’t even run a pub side. Open your eyes. Also, really don’t understand this thing you have with Doron. He writes some great stuff that is there to be debated, but yet you come out with nonsense.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.