Sunday, March 15, 2009

The title's awake - Pool thump United

Well that’s what happens when all the chickens come home to roost in one day. This United side had been getting away with some average enough form for a time, been making mistakes but dodging the bullets. Not Saturday lunchtime though, not when Liverpool came to town and notched an astounding kind of win on the craziest kind of day.

Suddenly Vidic was mortal again (though there’d been signs of unease as recently as Wednesday v Inter), Evra’s poor form since his injury was exposed and John O’Shea couldn’t get away with being a fill-in. Michael Carrick’s excellence was possibly shown up as being misleading. Cristiano Ronaldo’s general disinterest was now a problem. Tevez’s lack of killer instinct was serious. And all thoughts of this United somehow being unbeatable were blown to pieces quicker than Ireland’s notions of being a real economy.

Look, Liverpool will bask in this glow for a time and rightly so – a 4-1 thrashing at Old Trafford really hurt United – but these were strange circumstances. United made a seasonload of mistakes and all were punished. All their big players failed to perform on the same day. Liverpool weren’t even that great, they never outpassed or outplayed United, but they were solid, made much fewer mistakes, were more sure of themselves, and in Gerrard and Torres, their matchwinners did just that. At 1-2 with fifteen minutes to go and United having created a few half-chances (Rooney’s volley that Tevez just missed, Tevez’s snatched shot when he was probably offside), you’d have bet your life on a late barrage from the champions and at least a couple of chances to equalise. Then Vidic’s second moment of madness and a wonderful Aurelio free-kick ended the match. Dossena’s strike in injury-time was simply the cherry on top for Pool.

Not that there’s any getting away from how awfully poor United were. No tempo. No direction or purpose. No control midfield from an impotent Carrick and a lacking-in-form Anderson. Rooney and Tevez had workrate but little oomph. The complex psychology of Liverpool needing to win and knowing that while United didn’t have that desperate will.

Will this thumping impact on the title chase? It very well could – United will surely self-doubt for a spell, Pool will have to be energised. It was another let-down from Ronaldo on a game he was badly needed. The United midfield might now be a genuine worry against the top teams. Dunphy/Giles would surely have latched onto Scholes not starting but the great man just may not have the legs for a side as dynamic and hardworking as Liverpool. The scousers now have a momentum and more confidence than Bono at an I-love-Bono convention. Game on, as they like to say.

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