21 October 2018   |  Last Updated 13-09-2015 03:39

      Saturday 12, September 2015

      Manchester United 3-1 Liverpool: Three things we learnt

      AFTER Manchester United recovered from their first loss of the season at Swansea to beat north west rivals Liverpool 3-1 at Old Trafford, Adam Higgins looks at three things we learnt from their victory...


      United still need support for Wayne Rooney    

      The loss of the United captain to a hamstring injury will scarcely be mentioned in the post-match discussion but, during a non-existent first period that did not belong in the record books of this famous fixture, his absence was keenly felt.

      With Louis van Gaal having spoken openly about Anthony Martial settling into the English culture, the Dutchman handed Marouane Fellaini his first start of the season having made his intentions clear in pre-season to deploy the Belgian as a number nine.

      But Fellaini looked uncomfortable at times as the emergency forward throughout an opening 45 minutes in which United struggled to come to life and lacked intensity for long spells.

      More suited to the direct style of his former club Everton, the 27-year-old lost the ball in promising areas and struggled to hold up play for advancing team-mates although, like his team, he improved dramatically in the second period.

      Nevertheless, the fact that van Gaal was forced to utilise the midfielder as a targetman and attacking spearhead in one of the biggest games of the season - even after spending over £150 million in the summer - further suggests his squad remains unbalanced.

      It again raises serious questions why the likes of Javier Hernandez, Robin van Persie, Adnan Januzaj and Angel di Maria have all been allowed to leave during the same transfer window.

      Rooney - who opened the scoring in United's 3-0 win in last season's corresponding fixture - continued his recuperation with a watching brief from the director's box.

      United supporters will understandably be delighted with the overall outcome but may have mixed feelings about how the 90 minutes panned out and whether there is enough strength in depth to cover the forward areas and cope should England's all-time leading scorer be unavailable.

      On this evidence, it would be fair to conclude that Fellaini is not a solution and, with James Wilson allowed to join a Championship club imminently, it remains to be seen whether van Gaal can extract a successful formula to his flexible attack.

      Anthony Martial can become a superstar   

      The 19-year-old has been much-maligned and highly-praised in equal measure since becoming the world's most expensive teenager in a mouth-watering deal that could amount to £58 million.

      Much of the pre-match talk centred around whether the deadline day signing from Monaco would be thrown in at the deep end but - although he only played a small part in proceedings after replacing Juan Mata on 65 minutes - he made a massive contribution with a magical moment that he will remember for the rest of his life.

      A debut goal in front of the Stretford End is the stuff of dreams and - at the Theatre of Dreams - the Frenchman demonstrated what all the fuss has been about by weaving away from Nathaniel Clyne and breezing past Martin Skrtel to sidefoot a composed finish past Simon Mignolet to effectively settle the contest for his new club.

      With Christian Benteke having given Liverpool a semblance of hope just 90 seconds earlier, Martial could not have picked a better time to leave a lasting first impression on the United faithful who celebrated his goal like he had been at Old Trafford for many years - some of which lifted welcoming banners reading his name.

      His brief cameo gave plenty to be optimistic about with a flamboyant touch of skill, strength and power to hold off challenges and accelerate forward as well as his ability to know what's around him and make himself available.

      Martial - likened to former Arsenal striker and fellow countryman Thierry Henry - has well and truly announced himself to English football and perhaps already silenced some of the doubters that have questioned his experience, talent and price tag.

      He may have only completed 90 minutes seven times in his short career thus far but, from the glimpses seen in his first 25 minutes in a red shirt, there is plenty more to come from the bright pink boots of this teenage sensation.



      Bastian Schweinsteiger can hold the key in big games

      The midfielder has played in countless high-profile matches throughout his distinguished career from Bundesliga battles with Borussia Dortmund, Champions League finals and a World Cup showpiece at the Maracana.

      But United's first-ever German international will have enjoyed his first taste of the biggest fixture in English football, not just because of the result but his own personal display which exemplified just why Louis van Gaal was keen to be reunited with him.

      Schweinsteiger, the victim of a host of injury problems in the past four seasons, has been quietly eased into Premier League action with a mixture of substitute appearances and starts during which he has been replaced in the second half.

      The former Bayern Munich man, though, produced the kind of evergreen and vintage performance that United fans had come to expect of him - one that came out of the Ryan Giggs manual and the assistant manager will have been delighted with.

      Schweinsteiger - preferred to Morgan Schneiderlin to partner stand in captain Michael Carrick in the defensive midfield berths - barely misplaced a pass and helped United gain command during the first half.

      His intelligence to choose the right option, dictate the tempo and keep possession flowing exudes confidence throughout the team while the pace he showed to move around the pitch and close down the likes of Emre Can and James Milner belied his age of 31.

      Unsurprisingly, few players covered more ground than Schweinsteiger, who showed that he can play a key role in the so-called 'big games' this season with his wealth of experience and positional awareness when United will need to be conservative to an extent - particularly away from home. 

      With news emerging that the fee paid to bring him to Manchester may have been £8 million less than first thought, it is becoming clear that the Germany captain will be worth every single penny.

      By Adam Higgins


      Published by Adam Higgins on 13-09-2015 03:39