The sun shone brightly on Merseyside as Manchester United emerged 2-1 victors against archrival Liverpool, as both teams battled for a top 4 spot to ensure qualification for the next season’s UEFA Champions League.
Spanish international Juan Mata secured a brace as Manchester United celebrated a double over Liverpool, winning just their second match in 7 years at Anfield. The game will no doubt go down as one of the matches of the season, as the memorable North-West derby provided spectacular goals and moments of ill-discipline.
Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard lasted just 35 seconds after being substituted in for an injured Adam Lallana at the interval. In his last match against Manchester United, Gerrard saw red after a stamp on Ander Herrera, rending referee Martin Atkinson no choice but to send the 34-year-old off the field.
Liverpool center-back Martin Skrtel could also face retroactive action after stamp right at the end of the match on Manchester United goalkeeper David De Gea. Converted German center-back Emre Can gave a penalty away after fouling Manchester United’s Daley Blind. However, Simon Mignolet was more than equal to Wayne Rooney’s shot, boxing the United’s captain penalty away allowing Rooney’s 10 year goal drought at Anfield to continue and allowing many to question why Mata wasn’t allowed to complete his hat-trick.
Despite that, Juan Mata’s performance at Anfield was one for the ages as the Manchester United wizard slotted home the opener after a great ball from compatriot Ander Herrera fourteen minutes into the match. United’s midfield of Carrick, Herrera, and Fellani held the ball well and kept Liverpool at bay.
Manchester United manager Louis Van Gaal praised Mata for his performance at Anfield.
“Juan is one of my better players, I looked for balance and now I have found a position where he plays very good and he also scores two goals and marvellous goals.”
Merserysiders looked far from the team that held the only unbeaten record in England for 2015, and it wasn’t until late in the first half when Daniel Sturridge tee’d up Adam Lallana for their first real attempt at goal.
Gerrard’s dismal right as the second half begun seemed to all but ended Liverpool’s chances. However, the Reds rallied on, forcing Manchester United back. United held on and eventually scored again in the 59th minute, with Mata scoring a contender for goal of the season, one that would make even Brazilian legend Pele proud as the three time World Cup winner watched on in the stand at Anfield.
Liverpool eventually scored through Daniel Sturridge, but could not find the will to score again as Manchester United held on to the 2-1 win to move 5 points ahead of their rivals. Liverpool will have their work cut out here on in as they slip further away from the top 4 with just 8 matches left to play.
[Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images]