The Europa League: Liverpool vs Manchester United, Live!
by Ian | Mar 10, 2016
Context, context, context. It’s all about the context. Never mind the fact that the first meeting between these two clubs comes in the Europa League rather than the Champions League. Perhaps more than any other game between two English clubs, Liverpool versus Manchester United is the one which feels like the most like a clash between civilisations – between empires, if you wish. And as with most empires that have ever existed, the history between these two clubs hasn’t always brought out the best behaviour in some. From match-fixing in 1915 to CS gas canisters in the 1980s and the endless, witless celebration of tragedy, some have always taken it too far, although perhaps that’s inevitable when feelings run so high.
We marked this match a little earlier on today with our Video of the Day, a re-run of a First Division match played between the two teams in February 1983, and rather than seek to tell you myself about the nature of the rivalry between these two clubs, I’ll just point you in the direction of this outstanding piece of writing on the subject from The Anfield Wrap‘s Gareth Roberts, which appeared a little earlier on today, so there’s a little to chew on by way of introduction to it all, for now. I’ll be back about ten minutes before kick-off with the teams and a little of the pre-match atmosphere. Well, a screaming baby. The screaming baby may feature quite heavily tonight.
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Good evening, friends! I’ll be back in about fifteen minutes for the build-up and start of the match. In the meantime, what say you take a look at tonight’s team sheets?
Liverpool: Mignolet; Clyne, Lovren, Sakho, Moreno; Can, Henderson; Lallana, Coutinho, Firmino; Sturridge
Subs: Ward, Benteke, Touré, Allen, Origi, Smith, Ojo
Manchester United: De Gea; Varela, Smalling, Blind, Rojo; Schneiderlin, Fellaini; Memphis, Mata, Martial; Rashford
Substitutes: Romero, Darmian, Riley, Carrick, Schweinsteiger, Weir, Herrera
Referee: CV Carballo (Spain)
(In other news, Spurs got torn a new one by Borussia Dortmund this evening – more on that later, I should think, especially if I have a couple of glasses of wine.)
Yep, it’s Liverpool vs Manchester United. So, there’s five minutes to kick-off and the Kop is singing You’ll Never Walk Alone, from Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Carousel. And I quote: “In the second act of the musical, Nettie Fowler, the cousin of the female protagonist Julie Jordan, sings “You’ll Never Walk Alone” to comfort and encourage Julie when her husband, Billy Bigelow, the male lead, is killed when trying to escape capture after a failed robbery attempt when he falls and lands on his knife.”
So now you know.
So, Manchester United shooting from left to right, towards the Kop in the first half. Two minutes in and there’s a yellow card for Jordan Henderson. Let’s assume that he isn’t starting as he means to carry on, there.
Liverpool have come out all guns blazing, and not only in a Jordan Henderson kicking someone in the stomach. I forgot to mention that, within thirty seconds of kick-off, by the way, that Memphis crossed for Marcus Rashford, whose first touch let him down when a shot on target would – insert Simon Mignolet joke here – have almost certainly have opened the scoring. Already, this match has the frantic, chaotic feel of Real Madrid vs Barcelona being pushed down a flight of stairs.
Well, this is all a bit scrappy at the moment. Probably just as we might have expected. Liverpool and Manchester United supporters might disagree with me on this, but I fail to see the point of two legged European ties, these days. It just feels to me as though they clog up the fixture list, and there’s nothing that grinds my gears quite like getting to the end of a match and realising that, actually, it’s only half-time.
Goal! Nineteen minutes and sixteen seconds on the clock and it’s… Liverpool 1-0 Manchester United. Nathaniel Clyne ran into the penalty area and got around Memphis, who tugged him back and the referee pointed to the penalty spot. There was a yellow card for Clyne and Daniel Sturridge put the penalty kick wide to de Gea’s right to open the scoring. BUT, it looked as though the foul may have started outside the penalty area, in which it probably should have been a free kick rather than a penalty. There certainly wasn’t very much in it.
Liverpool’s tails are up. Sturridge pulls the ball across from the right hand side and de Gea saves brilliantly from Coutinho, though the Liverpool player should surely have scored from the position in which he found himself. Cut to camera shots of Manchester United supporters looking extremely troubled indeed.
The goal has really thrown a cat amongst the pigeons. Manchester United might not have offered a great deal in terms of attacking threat, but they had looked reasonably composed in midfield and a little more settled on the ball. Since the penalty kick, though, United have gone to pieces a little bit, to the extent that Louis Van Gaal is making copious notes and may be preparing to shuffle his pack a little already.
Chance for Manchester United, in a roundabout sort of way. The ball gets tangled up on the edge of the Liverpool penalty area and Sakho got himself in the vicinity of Juan Mata, who might easily have tripped over a leg but opted not to and saw his shot blocked. At the other end of the pitch, a long, rangy pass finds Sturridge, whose shot is blocked by David de Gea.
There have been three really good, clear chances for Liverpool so far, of which they have converted one. It’s straying into football cliches territory to ask the question of whether they may come to regret missing those chances, but it doesn’t seem implausible to suggest that missing opportunities like this may play on the minds of players after they’ve missed them. In other words, they become A Thing.
A couple of statistics: after about twenty-five minutes, Liverpool were at 73% possession. Elsewhere, Marouane Fellaini was on 55% passing accuracy. Kind of feels as though these two figures combined sum up Manchester United’s evening, so far.
A yellow card for Marcus Rashford, and then the half-time whistle blows. It’s Liverpool 1-0 Manchester United and, in all honesty, this could have been considerably worse than the scoreline suggests for Manchester United. Going back to one of my earlier comments on the penalty award, a closer inspection of the replay confirms that it probably was just about inside the penalty area, but these decisions can go either way. To be honest, though, the whys and wherefores are neither here nor there. Liverpool are good value for their half-time lead, and Manchester United have some reorganising to do in the second half if they’re to claw their way back into this. Back for the start of the second half, brothers and sisters.
HALF-TIME SUBSTITUTION! THERE HAS BEEN A HALF-TIME SUBSTITUTION!
Marcus Rashford has been the sacrificial lamb to the slaughter, and he makes way for Michael Carrick. On old head to steady a few nerves, I’ll wager.
Yellow card for Coutinho for a bit of the old simulation. Kind of feels like a let down in a match like this if a player is yellow carded for anything less than hacking away at an opponents shins like a drunken butcher going at a ham with a blunt pen-knife.
Another great save from de Gea. Coutinho is twenty yards out on the left hand side of the penalty area, being afforded the freedom of Anfield Road by the Liverpool defence, and his dipping shot is acrobatically tipped over the crossbar by the Manchester United goalkeeper.
Sixty minutes played, so here’s an update on the first third of the second half, if you catch my drift. Manchester United are being caught short by their technical limitations. Quite what Marouane Fellaini is doing playing for Manchester United has long been something of a mystery, and never more than tonight. Anthony Martial looks lost and lonely up front – Van Gaal has sacrificed his attacking partner for some stability in the middle of the pitch – and Manchester United look largely shorn of creativity and spark. Liverpool, meanwhile, look more direct and more threatening. Daniel Sturridge, who has just come off, looked very effective, and Coutinho, even though he was booked after a couple of minutes, has been a constant threat.
Still, Manchester United are at least having a little possession now. He says, as they carelessly give the ball away in the middle of the pitch.
Chance for Liverpool. Jordan Henderson, on the left hand side of the penalty area, shoots narrowly wide of the post after some tasty play to find him from Adam Lallana. Thinking about it, it would be quite a Liverpool thing to do to lose this in the last five minutes to two goals on the break.
Goal for Liverpool!
Remember all that stuff I said about Michael Carrick being a calming, experienced head on the pitch? Well, forget that. Adam Lallana’s cross from the right should have been the easiest clearance of the night, but Carrick side-footed it straight to him, and this time he pulled the ball back for Firmino to drive the ball in from about seven yards out. The sky has turned red over Anfield – someone has let off a flare or a smoke bomb, by the looks of it. This has been a terrible night for Manchester United, so far.
Substitution for Manchester United. Bastian Schweinsteiger on for Morgan Schneiderlin.
So, question time. Is this it for Van Gaal? I’ve suspected that they will keep him on until the end of the season, but it’s difficult to avoid the feeling that Liverpool supporters oleing – as they are as I type this – against his team at Anfield might yet be a step too far. Manchester United haven’t even got out of first gear this evening, and one of two conclusions arises from all of this. They run like this – either the players can’t motivate themselves for a first ever European match against their biggest rivals, in which case they possibly shouldn’t be playing for Manchester United, or, well, they’re just not good enough or set up completely wrong. Liverpool have outplayed them in just about every department this evening. There’s six minutes to play and things can change very, very quickly, but at the moment it’s very difficult to see a way back into this match for Louis Van Gaal.
Half a chance for Manchester United, as Fellaini gets on the end of a deep ball from the right and shoots narrowly wide. It’s as close as they’ve come all evening.
Latest possession statistics, by the way: Liverpool 68%, Manchester United 32%.
Full-Time: Liverpool 2-0 Manchester United.
So, here’s the thing. Nobody has the *right* to see their team win. There are, after all, two teams on the pitch at the same time. Supporters should, however, have the right to be able to expect their teams to give a shit and that’s the betrayal that Louis Van Gaal’s team has displayed. They didn’t much even look as if they knew what positions they were playing in, never mind having anything like a sophisticated game-plan to win this match.
None of this should take anything away from Liverpool. To take the pitch for a match such as this and play with such verve and self-assuredness takes cojones, and they displayed that in spades this evening, outplaying Manchester United after getting over a few minutes’ nerves at the start of the game. Jurgen Klopp has started to turn this team into a strong, cohesive unit. Manchester United, by contrast, looked as if they would have been anywhere rather than on the Anfield pitch this evening.
We’re only at half-time, so there is still something to play for. It’s difficult to see, however, where they’re going pull something out from in the second leg. Liverpool were excellent value for their win this evening, and on the basis of tonight it’s difficult to see how they could fail to qualify for the next round of this competition now.
Well, it’s time for me to wrap up now. Don’t forget, we’re podcasting the three stages of Match of the Day tomorrow evening, and tomorrow’s Video of the Day will be FA Cup quarter final related. Thanks for stopping by. It’s been emotional (especially, I guess, if you support Manchester United.)