Shankly would have been proud
Feature by Lewis Richardson
Updated Tuesday, 3rd September 2013
Liverpool sent a strong message to their premier league rivals defeating reigning champions Manchester United 1-0 courtesy of Daniel Sturridge's third league goal in as many games.
A consistent team effort and imperious defending saw the Reds hang onto their lead for the whole match after Sturridge flicked Daniel Agger’s effort into the net from inside the six yard box in the 4th minute.
Both teams walked out to a rapturous reception from the Anfield crowd as the Liverpool faithful were anxious to find out whether their Reds were genuine top 1-4 contenders this season or whether the hype of their previous two league fixtures would come crumbling back down to Earth.
The crowd and both teams stood tall for a minute’s applause for Liverpool legend Bill Shankley who would have celebrated his 100th birthday on Monday. The tribute the Reds provided over the next 90minutes would prove to be a fitting one.
Manchester United got the ball rolling as the game started with a frantic pace that we have become a custom to with this fixture over the years. There were no genuine chances in the very early stages as Liverpool won the game’s first corner as the clock ticked 3 minutes gone.
Gerrard stepped up to take the kick and fired it directly into the box where Reds central defender Daniel Agger leapt highest to meet it and fire on goal, however it would be hitman Daniel Sturridge coming off the line with luxurious space in the six yard box who would manage to flick Agger’s effort beyond two Manchester United players defending helplessly on the line.
Anfield erupted as Sturridge sprinted off unable to contain his excitement; this led to him celebrating with various teammates before embracing Manager Brendan Rodgers. It was early in the match but Sturridge had layed the Liverpool’s platform for the third time running this season, however the team was aware of the mammoth task still ahead of them and immediately switched back on.
The match began to heat up after the early goal as United marksman Robin van Persie saw a bicycle kick sail over the bar whilst Reds captain Steven Gerrard fired a 22 yard effort straight at United goalkeeper David de Gea.
The Red Devil’s soon had arguably their best chance of the first half in the 12th minute as an Ashley Young corner trickled straight across the face of goal, it seemed to fall to van Persie at the back post however it looked as though the striker was not expecting the ball to have travelled that far and was unable to conjure up an effort on goal.
Soon thereafter, Danny Welbeck negotiated his way into the Liverpool box and was only denied a shot on goal by a fabulous lunging challenge courtesy of Glen Johnson, van Persie also seemed destined to score on a follow up shot until Jose Enrique rushed a clearance to deny the prolific Dutchman a chance.
From the 25th minute the game appeared to steady into an end to end pace, however Liverpool maintained dominance as United seemed to be giving away easily in the final third allowing the Reds to provide a genuine goal scoring threat every time they bombed forward.
Liverpool's three deadline signings Tiago Ilori, Mamadou Sakho and Victor Moses all watched on from the directors' box, looking visibly impressed at the way Liverpool were controlling the match.
Tempers begin to fray as there were visible disputes between players all over the pitch. Most notably, Iago Aspas’ reaction to Tom Cleverly’s late challenge in the 36th minute, this led to both players being booked. However Phillipe Coutinho could only put the resulting free kick into Row M.
Injury time saw Manchester United have a late corner as the crowd sensed something about to happen. Nothing went goalward from the corner however van Persie aggressively pushed returning Reds defender Martin Skrtel which received a huge unwelcome reception from fans in the Kop.
Both players came together in a fiery exchange before teammates and the referee decided to intervene. This also led to a strong coming together of van Persie and Gerrard just after the half time whistle as emotions hit overdrive, however both teams made their way off the pitch leaving anxious fans disappointed they had to wait 15minutes to see more.
The second half saw a strong start from both teams as they both tried to further put their stamp on the match; Liverpool looked to kill off any chance of a United win, whilst the Red Devils went on a frantic search for an equaliser.
United’s desperation won out as they began to enjoy the most forward play. Although chances were few and far between as Liverpool’s defence stood exceptionally strong whilst behind them Simon Mignolet looked naturally comfortable. In particular, Martin Skrtel impressed highly keeping van Persie quiet amidst a summer of transfer speculation; his performance would have undoubtedly pleased Rodgers.
Raheem Sterling was introduced for the Reds in the second half as Iago Aspas departed, an average yet commendable display from Aspas. He never stopped trying and produced the odd moment, however he seemed out of place in a match this stature. Hopefully the experience can help his development into a big game player.
Andre Wisdom also featured for his first Premiership cap of the season, replacing an injured Glen Johnson. Johnson will now miss England’s two upcoming qualifiers however it is believed the injury is minor.
The introduction of Portuguese winger Nani sparked the Manchester clubs attack; however it was to no avail as the Reds defence stood tall in front of the Kop. The second period was all-in-all a statement of Liverpool’s richness of defensive distinction and the Red Devil’s shortage of ideas going forward.
Liverpool’s best chance of the half came in the 88th minute as de Gea superbly tipped a curling Sterling effort over the bar whilst United had their moments but were unable to eventually penetrate the Reds defence as Mignolet maintained a 100% record as a Liverpool player in the Premiership.
A fantastic result for the Reds which shoot’s them to the top of the Premier League table, however it is only three weeks in to the competition and the usual suspects are nipping at the Merseyside clubs heels.
Three clean sheets has been pleasing although the inability to take a second goal to bury an opponent has not yet been showcased, however the re-introduction of Luis Suarez later this month will no doubt aid that cause.
The transfer window slammed shut with a massive bang yesterday, a reported £26million spend from Rodgers in deadline day in the big acquisitions of previously the mentioned Sakho, Illori and Moses. All three players will no doubt have key roles to fill this season.
Liverpool players will now break for the International matches to be played over the next couple of weeks before returning to action on the 17th September, taking on Brendan Rodgers former club Swansea at the Welsh team’s home ground.
However, until then Liverpool fans, players and staff can smile and gloat proudly about the current League table and the fact they handed Manchester United their first defeat of the season. The Reds announced themselves as a genuine top four contender on a day where Bill Shankly would have been smiling down proudly.
With new signings, outstanding individual and team performances and a brimming dressing room confidence and unity, it’s an exciting time to be a Liverpool fan!
Follow Lewis on Twitter @lewisricho11
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