The brilliance of David De Gea and Marouane Fellaini’s role in the Manchester United side feature in our look at the talking points from the their victory at Anfield.
Wayne Rooney proved Manchester United’s matchwinner as Louis van Gaal’s side claimed a 1-0 victory at Anfield, but it was far from a vintage display as the Red Devils secured their a back to back league double over their fiercest rivals.
De Gea the best this country has to offer
Before the match kicked off, David De Gea had conducted an interview in which he stated not only his happiness at Manchester United, but also his desire to become a legend at Old Trafford.
“I think he’s already there,” said Schmeichel, analysing the match in the Sky Sports studio. “This is the guy who has won the club’s Player of the Year award in the last two seasons. He’s their most important, and probably their best, player.”
It’s certainly hard to disagree with the Dane – himself one of the greatest this country has ever seen – and three brilliant saves to deny Adam Lallana and twice Can, underlined not just his importance to United, but also why he almost single-handedly holds the key to their top-four hopes.
Hugo Lloris, Petr Cech and Jack Butland have all excelled at various times this season, but none are as consistent and produce as many big saves as the Spaniard.
‘Smash-and-grab’ United fortunate to claim win
“How they won that, I do not know,” was Schmeichel’s honest assessment at full-time. United had been second best for most of the match at Anfield, and although Liverpool were far from polished in their display, Jurgen Klopp’s men can feel angry at themselves for taking nothing from the game.
Louis van Gaal’s tactics for the game quite rightly came in for plenty of criticism, with his side set up to contain – rather than attack – their opponents.
It took them until the 56th minute to have their first shot through Anthony Martial, and it’s far to say they scored the goal with their only meaningful attack in the match.
Certainly their style drew criticism in the Sky Sports studio at the interval, with Jamie Carragher saying: “It’s not the Manchester United way. “Since when did United become a side that were happy simply to contain teams?”
“It’s sad to see,” Peter Schmeichel responded.
The gamble for Van Gaal may have paid off, and the record books will only show the 1-0 scoreline, but questions surely remain about United’s style, formation and ‘philosophy’ under the Dutchman.
Fellaini not suited to deep role
He’s operated in a number of position for United under Louis van Gaal, but one thing today underlined is that Marouane Fellaini simply isn’t good enough to play as a holding midfielder for Manchester United.
Selected alongside Morgan Schneiderlin, Fellaini proved little more than a battering ram – and a clumsy one at that – who time and again found himself lumbering after the far-more mobile Emre Can and Roberto Firmino. The way football is set up today – with many teams favouring the 4-2-3-1 formation – means the holding midfield role is becoming increasingly important in the modern game.
But the leggy style of Fellaini just isn’t up to scratch. In fact, he only had to look across to his opposite number, Lucas (in the first half at least) to see that his game just isn’t suited anymore against the free-movement of the trio he’s meant to shackle.
So what role is he good for at United? Well, probably very little, but he did show his aerial qualities when hitting the bar with a header to set up Rooney for his volleyed winner. If Fellaini is to be anything for United, it can only be as a Plan B option from the bench.
Square pegs, round holes
Winger Ashley Young started at right-back; Matteo Darmian, a right-back, started at left-back; Daley Blind (probably best as a left-back or holding midfielder) started at centre-half. Van Gaal certainly knows how to muddle up his line-up and probably confuse his players at the same time.
It probably wasn’t until the injury suffered by Young towards the end of the first half that United, inadvertently, discovered a better shape, with youngster Cameron Borthwick-Jackson coming on at left-back at Darmian switching flanks.
It was certainly a point picked up by Oliver Kay, who tweeted.
Concern for Van Gaal as an injury to Young forces him to play two specialist full-backs in their correct positions. 43 min 0-0.
— Oliver Kay (@OliverKayTimes) January 17, 2016
A brutal assessment perhaps, but sometimes managers need to understand that footballers are a simple bunch. Use players in their favoured positions and play to a player’s strengths. It shouldn’t be rocket science.
By James Marshment