De Gea Saves Goals – And United Blushes
Unlike BT Sport’s coverage of the match this isn’t a blog that focusses on Manchester United. Nor is it a chance for me to slag off Simon Mignolet, especially after the Belgian has had little to do in the last two games and what he has done he’s done well.
Yet make no mistake, without David De Gea in goal for the Red Devils last night this tie is dead and buried before the teams even head to Old Trafford for the second-leg.
The Spaniard was in sensational form, conceding two whilst also managing to stop the scoreboard reading like an incredibly one-sided basketball game. As good as Liverpool were, and they really were rather good, it was nothing compared to how extraordinarily good De Gea was in the United goal.
Jesus, de Gea is amazing. Could be 4-0 without him. But must be embarrassing to have to rely on your keeper so much.
— Paul Tomkins (@paul_tomkins) March 10, 2016
He proved once and for all, were proof needed, the importance of having a world-class goalkeeper between the sticks. Jordan Henderson’s side-footed shot midway through the second-half wasn’t a bad miss so much as it was proof proper that De Gea was inside Henderson’s head, causing him to try to be as precise as humanly possible in order to score a goal.
Where players will take potshots at Simon Mignolet, secure in the knowledge that he concedes more often than he makes saves, the Liverpool team felt as though the had to have heatseeking missile type accuracy in order to breach Manchester United’s net. It is why, despite the incredible performance from Liverpool, United could yet progress to the next round of the UEFA Cup at our expense.
2-0 is a great result to take to Old Trafford, but an early goal from them in the second-leg combined with more phenomenal goalkeeping from De Gea and the men in Red might just start to get a little bit nervous, believing that his impenetrable goalmouth is a task too great for us to overcome. We should be delighted with the performance from our players and cautiously optimistic about the second leg. But we should also be aware that David De Gea could still have the last laugh on behalf of a team that don’t even come close to deserving him as their goalkeeper.
the Klopp Effect Is Kicking In
There was a moment in the second-half when I started to think United could yet get the crucial away goal they were after. The first-half saw witness to one of the most toothless Manchester United performances I can ever remember seeing, with no attempts on target and the Red Devils limited to dreadful potshots from distance.
Then in the second-half Michael Carrick came on to replace the ineffective Markus Rashford and the match started to turn briefly in United’s favour. They began to dominate possession, pushing and probing in Liverpool’s half of the pitch and taking a strong foothold in the game that looked as if it could cause us serious problems.
Jürgen Klopp wasn’t oblivious to the situation, though, spotting the danger and reacting accordingly. It was clear after the match that Daniel Sturridge was a little annoyed to be taken off, saying that he’s 100% fit and keen to play as much as possible. His influence on the game was waning after Louis Van Gaal’s tactical switch, however, and the Liverpool manager saw a chance to rest his star forward and wrestle control of the match back from his Dutch counterpart in one swift move.
Off went the penalty scoring Sturridge and on came the much maligned Joe Allen. Almost immediately it was clear that the decision to regain control of the middle of the park would do Liverpool a world of good, with the Welshman not only being strong and secure in possession but also winning headers against players significantly taller than him, such as Fellaini.
Hard to pick out anyone in Red tonight but special mention for Joe Allen. Assurance personified. Surely has to be kept on next season.
— Sachin Nakrani (@SachinNakrani) March 10, 2016
As much as Allen’s performance was outstanding, with the former Swansea man hitting the ground running and getting up to the speed of the game without even a second to think, the real key was the tactical switch that was implemented by the German in the dugout. It’s no surprise that Liverpool’s second goal came after Allen’s introduction from the bench, nor is it the first time that a Klopp substitution has changed the face of the game.
Liverpool aren’t home and hosed yet, with a touch second-leg still to come. They’ve held 2-0 leads in Europe ten times before, though, with only one of them not resulting in the Reds proceeding to the next round. The pressure is well and truly on United to respond at Old Trafford, but with Klopp in the dugout I feel an awful lot more confident than I have at any time since the halcyon days of Rafa Benitez’s management of the club.
The tweet is 2 years old, but as a rough indication ahead of next week… https://t.co/tsqqth81gj
— Andrew Beasley (@BassTunedToRed) March 10, 2016
Liverpool may not progress to the quarter-finals of the competition, but with Klopp in the management hot-seat you have to feel confident that the future is very bright indeed. Of the two teams on display last night one team seems to be heading in the right direction and one very much downhill. How nice it is that for the first time in my adult lifetime it is Liverpool who are getting stronger at the expense of their long-term enemy.
Firmino Growing Stronger
Just as it’s impossible to talk about last night’s game without praising David De Gea, so too a special mention must be given to the ever-improving Roberto Firmino. Having struggled to hit the ground-running during his first 24 games in a Liverpool shirt, it’s now fair to say that the Brazilian is very much showing up those that felt it ok to criticise him after his arrival in England.
It’s a beautiful thing Firmino is making a few impatient fans & pundits look daft – oozes class – becoming huge player for #LFC.
— Si Steers (@sisteers) March 11, 2016
Whilst the English press fawn over the impact of Dimitri Payet at West Ham and Arsenal fans refer to Mesut Ozil as the ‘King of the Assist’, Firmino has just quietly gone about the business of adapting to life in the Premier League. Yes he sometimes gives it away sloppily and yes he sometimes doesn’t seem to be as involved in games as other players like Emre Can, but that isn’t the be-all-and-end-all of life as a footballer.
He knows how to score, he knows how to help others score and if he keeps going along the same trajectory as he’s managed so far for Liverpool then there’s little doubt that he’ll be a vital cog in Jürgen Klopp’s ever-improving Liverpool team for the months and years to come.
Abhorrent Chanting Has To Stop
Before I get into this too deeply I want to make something absolutely clear: I am not for one second naive enough to suggest that some Liverpool fans don’t sing songs about or do gestures suggestive of mocking the Munich Air Disaster. That I have never seen or heard these things does not mean they don’t take place, so don’t for one second think I’m trying to suggest that Liverpool fans can take some sort of moral high-ground.
Yet the disgusting chants that emanated from the travelling fans last night need to be highlighted on the biggest possible stage, for shaming those responsible is the only way that we’re likely to be able to end these vile songs and insults. The press need to talk about it not in passing, making a brief comment about United fans ‘letting themselves down’, but in the strongest terms that they can find.
After a week of the press hand-wringing and moralising about Christian Benteke’s penalty-that-was-definitely-a-penalty being awarded, it’s ludicrous to suggest that a vast majority of Manchester United fans should be allowed to sing ‘The Sun was right, you’re murderers’ without any reaction from the mainstream press.
Man United Chants 1st half
Their own team 0%
Its 2016 you gang of cranks.
— Nicky Allt (@NickyAllt) March 10, 2016
I’m sure there are a minority of Liverpool fans who find it acceptable to mock the Munich disaster and I would be the first to call them up on it should I hear or see it happen. The problem with Manchester United’s singing last night was that it wasn’t just a minority of the fans, it was the vast majority. That it could be heard so clearly all through the match is a blight on a great club’s reputation..
Sadly drawing attention to this issue on any social media platform results in little more than a barrage of tit-for-tat like excuses, with claims that ‘United have had to put up with Munich mocking for years’ bandied about, as if that somehow makes it ok that people sing about the deaths of innocent human beings in order to score points during a football match. It isn’t even close to being ok. There are no circumstances in which it is ‘ok’ to laugh at the death of actual people in order to ‘win’ a tribal battle, regardless of the team you support.
The singing of these pathetic songs should shame everyone involved with Manchester United, not cause them to say ‘but you started it’ like a moronic five-year-old. There are plenty of genuine things that fans of the Red Devils can mock us for without the victims of Hillsborough and Heysel ever entering anyone’s thoughts. ‘Twenty times’ and ‘Have you ever seen Gerrard win the league’ hurts far more than such disgusting singing ever will.
I thoroughly expect any Liverpool fan that sees or hears references to Munich from a fellow supporter to hit the roof, making clear that that’s not how we operate as a group of supporters, no matter how antagonistic the opposing set of fans may be. Manchester United fans should follow suit, not either join in with the singing or make excuses for why it’s ok because of similar chanting that has gone on before. It’s sad that this even needs pointing out, but last night very much proved that it does indeed need to be drawn to everyone’s attention.