Manchester United 3 Liverpool 1 – Five home truths

Manchester United claimed bragging rights in the perennial Old Trafford grudge match against Liverpool yesterday, winning 3-1 to get their campaign back on track.

Goals from Daley Blind, Ander Herrera and debutant Anthony Martial were enough to secure three points, while Christian Benteke netted a spectacular consolation for the visitors.

In the aftermath of the game, a number of interesting sub-plots became apparent.

Benteke able but isolated

The manner in which the Belgian powerhouse took his goal proved his undoubted ability, but in truth the former Aston Villa centre forward was feeding off scraps all evening.

Although Philippe Coutinho’s considerable vision was absent on the day, Benteke has not been properly assisted in the final third in any of Liverpool’s games this season.

The Congo-born striker can score a hatful of goals for the Reds this season – but only if those in support start to get closer to him and make creating chances for him their main prerogative.

Smalling developing into top central defender

Chris SmallingA lot has been made of Louis van Gaal using countryman Blind in an unorthodox central defensive role this season, but the Netherlands international has acquitted himself well more often than not.

However, a key reason why the Red Devils have only conceded three goals in five matches is the stellar form of Chris Smalling.

The England international put in another accomplished performance this weekend and is fast developing into a top player for the Old Trafford side.

Rodgers uses square pegs in round holes

Brendan Rodgers deserves to be commended for the manner in which he has switched formations in the past, but his current set-up of a bespoke 4-3-3 looks slightly unbalanced.

Wide areas in particular look suspect, with Roberto Firmino and Danny Ings asked to start from wide yesterday but clearly preferring to operate centrally.

With Benteke craving quality supply, Rodgers needs to sort out the wide positions in his current formation or switch to another system that suits the players he has at his disposal.

Martial a special talent, Fellaini playing out of position

Anthony MartialWith Wayne Rooney injured, Van Gaal opted to play Marouane Fellaini as a centre forward with mixed results.

The giant former Everton man has been used as an attacking weapon in the past, but mostly as a forceful second striker rather than the furthest man forward.

Although he has the stature to fill the role, Fellaini will need time to adjust to this new position if he is to be successful.

Anthony Martial on the other hand introduced himself with aplomb by scoring a spectacular solo effort to seal the game for his new employers.

The transfer fee paid for him and his growing reputation will only raise expectations, but it should be remembered that the young Frenchman has played less than 50 senior football matches in his life and is still very raw.

Liverpool missing Henderson, Gerrard

Emre Can was arguably Liverpool’s best player on the pitch and put in a mountain of work to try and turn the game in his side’s favour.

However, those around him lacked the influence, quality and distribution to compete against the dominant trident of Ander Herrera, Bastian Schweinsteiger and Michael Carrick.

Captain Jordan Henderson was a real miss for the away team, who were overrun in the centre of the park and exposed as a result.

Although Kop icon Steven Gerrard’s importance to the team dropped last season before his departure, most of the travelling support would have preferred the now LA Galaxy man in their team yesterday ahead of James Milner or Lucas Leiva.

By
I am a freelance football journalist from Northern Ireland living in Broome in Western Australia. I have worked for top media outlets such as FourFourTwo, goal.com, Soccerlens, Football Fancast and Here is the City. I am a lifelong and long-suffering Tottenham fan. Follow me on Twitter at @90MinsOnline
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