Match Analysis: Can Fellaini fix Man Utd’s creative crisis?

Liverpool 1-0 Man Utd 

Another Premier League game and another 1-0 victory for Brendan Rogers’ side, with Daniel Sturridge once again dominating the back pages.

His fourth minute improvised effort proved the difference between the two fierce rivals, finally turning in Daniel Agger’s goalbound header direct from a corner.

Although both sides were fairly evenly matched throughout the game, it was the visitors who failed to impose themselves on the contest, despite dominating possession.

So were Liverpool just resilient or did Wayne Rooney-less Man Utd simply fail to turn up?

Here are the two key points from the big game on Sunday which left Moyes under pressure and saw Liverpool’s impressive 100% record intact.

Sturridge 1-0 Welbeck

Two strikers in the same mould and seen as the potential future for English football, Daniel and Danny went head to head at Anfield. Although it is Welbeck who has accumulated more caps for England, I fully expect him to be usurped by Sturridge for the World Cup Qualifiers, who has enjoyed an emphatic start to the season.

The Liverpool man has scored eleven goals in his last nine appearances in all competitions for the Reds (including his winner against David Moyes’ side), helping his side win the first three consecutive Premier League fixtures since the 1994/95 season. In stark contrast, Welbeck has managed only three league goals in his last thirty outings in the Premier League.

Although both players only managed one clean effort each on goal on Sunday, it was in form Sturridge who made his count and has appeared to relish the extra responsibility upfront in the absence of Luis Suarez.

Man Utd’s midfield lacked creativity, starving star striker Robin van Persie

For all their possession (57% in total), impressively so in an away match at Anfield, the visitors’ midfield failed to make the impact Moyes’ would have hoped for. They failed all too often in finding their biggest threat, Robin van Persie, who only managed three attempts in the whole game, all off target.

Midefielders Cleverley, Giggs, Carrick,  Nani and Ashley Young only created four chances between them – highlighting Moyes’ need for a world class centre midfielder. In Rooney’s absence, the away side lacked a link between midfield and attack, and where Rooney would naturally drop deep, Welbeck failed to replicate this. With Kagawa not even on the subs bench, there was only really Young (and Nani when he came on) who looked to drive at Liverpool’s defence which created a sea of red that the visitors found tough to break down.

Carrick and Cleverley sat back, as expected, however Giggs’ positioning was too narrow and failed to trouble Jose Enrique down the right wing. Would the box-to-box prowess of Marouane Fellaini be able to bridge this gap?

In contrast, Liverpool’s attacking midfield was fast, mobile and effective. Although Iago Aspas’ performance left a lot to be desired, Sturridge and the ever-impressive Coutinho linked together well, with Raheem Sterling making a decent impact from the bench.

For me the game was won and lost in the centre of the park, and Moyes’ may require more time to find his best balance. Liverpool’s midfield closed down well and forced mistakes out of their counterparts. In fact, it was an error by Ashley Young, losing possession near to his own penalty box that led to the corner, which subsequently led to the only goal of the game.

Liverpool missed Suarez, Man Utd missed Rooney

As mentioned before, although Liverpool’s attacking quartet looked dynamic, they were still missing a touch of class up front. Aspas has been encouraging in his first three games for Liverpool, however failed to trouble the opposition in a big match scenario. Time will tell whether the player who has only ever played one season in Spain’s top flight can adapt to the pace and quality of defending in the Premier League. Liverpool will look forward to his return, however, quite how this will affect Sturridge’s fine form remains to be seen.

Likewise, Man Utd were crying out for a game changer of their own. One thing Rooney possesses, just like van Persie, is the ability to create something out of nothing and in their starting line-up on Sunday, only the Dutchman ticked that box. Javier Hernandez has his moments off the bench, but when the service was dry, the probability of the Mexican creating something diminished.

Conclusion

Moyes’ steady start to his Manchester United tenure has hit a blip and he will be under pressure to deliver in the forthcoming fixtures against Crystal Palace and a treacherous away derby against Man City. A win would’ve done a lot for Moyes against his doubters, although I get the feeling he would’ve gladly taken a point.

For Liverpool, their 100% start to the season perhaps hides attacking deficiencies, however three clean sheets highlights the unity of a defence led by a fit and in form Martin Skrtel. Mignolet has also been impressive since his big summer move from Sunderland, and Glen Johnson constantly frustrated Young’s attempts to progress and penetrate down the left wing.

A stingy defence is the perfect platform for Liverpool to be able to push on and exert some more attacking creativity against their opponents over the coming weeks.

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