Barclays Premier League
Manchester United 2-1 Liverpool

 

Luis Suarez refuses to shake the hand of Patrice Evra amidst the racist row (above top); while Wayne Rooney celebrates giving United the lead just after half-time (above below)

 

By Adam Higgins
Chief Football Editor from Old Trafford

 

Manchester United propelled themselves back to the Premier League summit with Wayne Rooney stealing the show during a 2-1 victory over Liverpool in a stimulating match which was overshadowed by other events on the field.

Another two goals from Rooney, coming within three minutes of each other at the start of the second half, wrote some of the headlines as United lead at the top of the table by one point ahead of Manchester City's match at Aston Villa tomorrow. England's main striker, who had netted twice from the penalty spot at Chelsea six days ago, blasted in from close range after a corner was glanced to him in the box and then a simple finish after good work from Antonio Valencia. Although the game was lit by the refusal by Luis Suarez to shake the hand of his adversary Patrice Evra before kick-off. The Uruguyuan scored the consolation goal for the visiting Reds ten minutes from the end.

Sir Alex Ferguson stated this week that the match would not surround the two players and he had no issue about the two shaking hands prior to the game. He made one change to the team that remarkably came from three goals down to earn a point against Chelsea last Sunday with Paul Scholes coming in for his fourth start since resigning after retirement as Ashley Young was left out of the squad altogether for reasons that were unclear allowing Ryan Giggs to move to the left hand side. The two old stalwarts, Scholes and Giggs, starting together for the first time since the 2-1 defeat to Liverpool in the FA Cup at Anfield a fortnight ago. Tom Cleverley was back on the bench after three months out with an ankle injury while Javier Hernandez remained there in spite of his equalising goal at Stamford Bridge. Chris Smalling wasn't deemed fit enough to return.

Liverpool made four changes from Monday night's 0-0 draw against Tottenham, that their fourth goalless draw of the season, with the main news seeing Luis Suarez start alone in attack for the first time since Boxing Day after completing his nine-match ban. Jose Enrique returned at left-back after sitting out of the Spurs stalemate with a stiff back with Glen Johnson swapping full-back positions. Jordan Henderson and Stewart Downing were also recalled to the side. Eleven different nationalities were fielded including ten Englishmen with no England manager to watch them infront of a worldwide audience.

It was an unfolding story from the start when Luis Suarez and Patrice Evra were both confronting one another for the first time since the Uruguyuan striker was suspended for eight matches for racially abusing the Manchester United left-back when the two sides met in a 1-1 draw back in October. Evra tried to grab Suarez as he walked past as Rio Ferdinand also refused to shake his hand in the pre-match formalities as it threatened to descend further.

In the first minute of the game, Rio Ferdinand had a nasty fall as he and Evra collided when converging to stop Luis Suarez from getting to the ball. The match was stopped for a minute as he recovered on the ground. When play resumed, Valencia almost fed Rooney after a strong surge from Danny Welbeck who was allowed to come along way with the ball. Enrique brought down Valencia after the winger tussled with the former Newcastle defender who was beaten in the one-on-one with the Ecuadorian. The free-kick from Giggs was planted into the penalty area where it was taken off Rooney's head by Glen Johnson.

 

? DID YOU KNOW ?

Manchester United have now won 22 of their last 25 home Premier League games while it was their 38th victory in the league over the Merseyside outfit at Old Trafford.March 1990 was the last time that Kenny Dalglish led a Liverpool side to victory at Old Trafford with a couple of goals from John Barnes- he was also back on the ground where he lost his first match back in his second spell as boss last January in the FA Cup 3rd round against Manchester United.

Johnson looked likely to cause trouble to United with a few early forward runs from right-back and he once again skipped forward where he saw a gap emerging and bent a left-footed effort which went just wide of the left post after twelve minutes- his other goal was the winner in a big match against his old club Chelsea in the 2-1 win at Stamford Bridge in November.

With Liverpool having the extra man in the middle of the park, Giggs, who this week agreed to a one-year contract extension for next season, was moving infield to support Carrick and Scholes when the away side were in possession. United were wearing black armbands marking the first home match since the 54th anniversary of the Munich air crash which was officially on Wednesday.

It should have been 1-0 to United after half an hour when the golden oldies rolled back the years with Scholes spraying a pass out to Giggs who teased Johnson infront of him before delivering with his left peg for Scholes who had continued his run into the box however his header came back off Pepe Reina when had it gone either side of the Liverpool goalkeeper it would have been a certain goal. United began to step it up at this point moving the ball quicker with Welbeck playing well with some honest play and wasn't afraid to get himself on the ball and help out Rooney. It was a first half where he didn't do a lot wrong- he won the second penalty last weekend in the 3-3 draw at Chelsea.

The first card of the day was dished out a minute before half-time by referee Phil Dowd, who was in charge of the 3-1 win for Liverpool over United at Anfield last March, when Stewart Downing brought down a galloping Rafael Da Silva cynically when making a charge down the right hand side. At this point, Liverpool were enjoying a decent spell with a couple of corners and some pressure on the United defence. Suarez was the eye of the storm was again when he was enraged by the fact he didn't get a free-kick and Rio Ferdinand wasn't sent off when an interchange between he and Kuyt with Ferdinand and Suarez coming together with the centre-back winning the ball when the striker would have been clean through on goal.

Suarez then seemingly incurred the wrath of the United management staff and playing personnel alike when he shanked the ball in the general direction of the dugout on the sounding of the half-time whistle. Tensions spilled into the tunnel area where it was reported that Evra tried to speak with Suarez however was separated by Martin Skrtel sparking other players to get involved leading to a mass brawl with both sides taking several minutes to reach the changing rooms.

It was a great commencation to the second half for Manchester United when they took the lead within two minutes of the restart with Rooney giving the home side the lead on his 350th appearance for the Red Devils. An inswinging corner from Giggs was touched on by Jordan Henderson and Rooney was close enough in to volley home for his 16th league goal this season.

The owness was now on Liverpool but they gave away a second goal three minutes later. Rooney, formerly of Everton who had only scored two previous career goals against the Reds from Merseyside, doubled that total and his tally for this particular game when Spearing, on his 40th Liverpool appearance, played a risky ball at the base of the midfield with Valencia picking off his dithering and when he played the only option he had- Rooney said thankyou very much to slide past Reina to give his side a 2-0 lead.

Experienced players Scholes and Giggs helped United to try and see the game through rather than go for a killer third goal as they kept the ball well with the duet with the addition of the likes of Rooney, Carrick and Valencia trying to maintain the cushion they had and the firm grip on the scoreline. The aforementioned Manchester United striker, who already has two Premier League hat-tricks this season against Arsenal and Bolton, may well have had a third when he poked wide when Valencia's ball which came into the box was dummied by Scholes.

 

? DID YOU KNOW ?

Liverpool have won only one of their last five Premier League games which came in a 3-0 victory over Wolves at Molineux last month- but have still conceded only 23 league goals this season which only Manchester City can better.Liverpool made a double change with Craig Bellamy and Andy Carroll sent on in place of Jay Spearing and Stewart Downing on 61 minutes. The visitors looked slightly dishevelled with United dictating the happenings in the match at this stage as frustrations grew for Kenny Dalglish.

The man in the middle Phil Dowd, who has played his part in the Suarez-Evra incident when note-taking in his role of fourth official when the two sides met at Anfield which was then handed onto referee Andre Marriner who wrote up his match report which was sent to the FA who then took action against the £23 million man. He showed great man-management skills to break up situations which could have blown out of proportion in particular at the end of the match itself.

The consolation goal for them came ten minutes from time when Charlie Adam, the summer signing who was the only visiting player to score in the first half of a match at Old Trafford last season on the final day for Blackpool, sent a free-kick into the box which came off the body of Rio Ferdinand and presented the ball to Suarez who prodded in from close range as the hostilities appeared to galvanise him in this situation. United who had kept an unrivalled twelve league clean sheets this season let one slip away as it was a goal out of nowhere.

Liverpool could have stolen a point right at the end with Johnson's bobbled effort producing a superb one-handed save over the crossbar from the Spanish Under-21 international David De Gea, who was praised for a couple of magnificent stops last weekend against Chelsea and earlier in the season when the two sides met at Anfield. Suarez also had a headed opportunity over the bar which was flagged for offside anyhow. It was a spell of urgency which was long overwaited for the travelling band which didn't contain as many fans as the visitors would have liked with their allocation cut to just over 2000 supporters.

The scenes at the end were unsavoury for the advert of the Premier League when Evra milked the celebrations by cheering on the United fans whilst expressing his delight of winning the match with Suarez close by. Referee Phil Dowd stepped in and took the stance by rightly separating Evra from the gathering of other Liverpool players around him who were furious with the Frenchman's actions as the skipper lapped his elation.

The victory took United to the top of the table while Liverpool were left in 7th place on 39 points. The aftermath of the game will be about the refusal of Suarez to shake Evra's hand in a heated racist row which should have been put to bed a long time ago. As far as the three points go, it was crucial for the Red Devils to focus on winning the match with some tricky away matches against Norwich and Tottenham to come. Before that, they embark on a new experience- a Europa League last 16 tie against Dutch side Ajax on Thursday night- Live on Channel Five- laugh out loud if you must.

 

ANALYSIS
Adam Higgins
The Football Site- Chief Football Editor

"We all know what the game will be forever remembered for even though there was an added significance to the match. The Suarez-Evra episode which should have been a closed case months ago still lingered on and became unsavoury- the jury is still not out on Luis Suarez and his off the field antics regardless of how talented he is on the football pitch. If he had just shaken the hand of his counterpart before the game, then we wouldn't be having this debate afterwards. Besides which, Manchester United have picked up a vital three points here with City facing a potentially tricky task to win now at Aston Villa to restore their position at the top. They know that playing first is ideal and United have got their game out of the way with no problems against a poor Liverpool side it has to be said. Where they can finish in the table this season remains an enigma. The way things are going right now they may have a struggle to get in the top ten."

 

 

Saturday 11th February 2012

Barclays Premier League

Old Trafford

 

Manchester United 2-1 Liverpool                       KO 12:45pm           (HT 0-0)

Rooney 47, 50            Suarez 80

 

Manchester United:   1 De Gea- 6.5/10, 21 Rafael- 8/10, 5 Ferdinand- 8/10, 6 Evans- 8/10, 3 Evra (C)- 8/10, 25 Valencia- 9/10, 16 Carrick- 8.5/10, 22 Scholes- 8.5/10, 11 Giggs- 7.5/10, 10 Rooney- 9.5/10, 19 Welbeck- 8.5/10.

Subs not used:  40 Amos, 20 Fabio Da Silva, 13 Park Ji-Sung, 23 Cleverley, 42 Pogba, 9 Berbatov, 14 Hernandez

Booked:      Carrick (79)

 

Liverpool:  25 Reina- 6/10, 2 Johnson- 6.5/10, 5 Agger- 6.5/10, 37 Skrtel- 6/10, 3 Enrique- 5.5/10, 14 Henderson- 6/10, 8 Gerrard (C)- 6/10, 20 Spearing- 4.5/10 (Carroll 61- 2.5/10), 18 Kuyt- 6.5/10 (Adam 75- 2.5/10), 7 Suarez- 6/10, 19 Downing- 5/10 (Bellamy 61- 3/10).

Subs not used:  32 Doni, 23 Carragher, 34 Kelly, 33 Shelvey

Booked:      Downing (44)

 

My Man of the Match:    Wayne Rooney (Manchester United) Rating 9.5/10

My Poorest Performer of the Match:    Jay Spearing (Liverpool) Rating 4.5/10

 

Referee: Phil Dowd (Staffordshire)- 8.5/10
Attendance: 74,844

 

 

Match Facts

Possession: Manchester United- 53%                Liverpool- 47%

Shots: Manchester United- 11                    Liverpool- 9

Shots on target: Manchester United- 6                  Liverpool- 6

Shots off target: Manchester United- 5                  Liverpool- 3

Corners: Manchester United- 4                    Liverpool- 3

Fouls: Manchester United- 10                  Liverpool- 11

Offside: Manchester United- 0                   Liverpool- 4

Assists: Manchester United- 2 (Giggs, Valencia)              Liverpool- 1 (Adam)

 

 


Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson

"I thought it was a great performance; I'm really pleased with the players. With Wayne (Rooney) scoring, and then scoring immediately after, it put us in a great position. [My] only thought was, instead of going for the killer goal, they tended to just keep possession. That's a dangerous game to play - and of course with Liverpool scoring there was nervy moments towards the end. [Antonio] Valencia has been unbelievable and Jonny [Evans] has fantastic potential. He's had the consistency of [playing] games and I think that helps with young players. We are hitting good form now- we scored two goals straight after the half-time break which was important and was what we talked about in the dressing room. We wanted to increase the tempo quickly and we got that. It is an important win for us and I am hoping that this can be the springboard for some more good results to come. We want to get the momentum now to take us above City. I cannot be more happy with the lads today. Suarez is a disgrace to Liverpool Football Club. He should not be allowed to play for Liverpool again. He could have caused a riot."

Click here for the full interview with Red Devils boss Sir Alex Ferguson after the match

Click here to listen to the views of Manchester United's Wayne Rooney with MOTD's Jonathan Pearce

 

 


Liverpool manager Kenny Dalglish

"I don't think there was much [between the two teams]. It was pretty even and you expect the home side to have more possession. There wasn't much in the game and those five minutes in the second half gave us a mountain to climb after conceding the two at the start of the second period. I don't think it was a sluggish restart from us just a little incompetent- we didn't clear the corner it is touched on to the last person we wanted to see it fall to in Wayne Rooney who isn't going to miss a chance like that. They scored shortly after that and that was always going to be difficult to pull back but we had done it last season here at Old Trafford and we weren't giving up hope and certainly weren't packing it in. We left ourselves too much to do and that's why they walked away with a victory- the goal at the end was mere consolation. I think you're bang out of order to blame Luis Suarez for anything that happened here today. I never knew Suarez refused to shake Evra's hand. I wasn't there, I never saw it. It's contrary to what I've been told."


Click here for the full interview with Reds boss Kenny Dalglish after the match

 

Watch the pre-match Suarez-Evra handshake at Old Trafford here

Click here to watch tensions run high at the end as United's Patrice Evra celebrates the victory infront of fans

 

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