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Mature in Miami: Rooney Takes the Armband!

 Posted by on August 6, 2014 at 10:17 am  Blogs/Media, England, Friendly
Aug 062014

Manchester United 3-1 Liverpool
76744313 023407038 1 1 Mature in Miami: Rooney Takes the Armband!Calling it a Friendly was a bit rich. Yet it actually turned out to be the most interesting, wide-open competition between the two sides since Busby/Shankly days. A true treat for the crowd of 50,000 in Miami, Florida. A really entertaining game and surely an apt test of personnel for both managers in the run up to the first game of the Premier League season on August 16.

Indeed, both sides showed very clearly that there’s still a lot of triage and tweaking to be done. Most impressive of all for me as longtime United fan was to see Wayne Rooney’s night of complete commitment. Relentlessly ra-ra with his team, he took a leaf out of his opponent Stevie Gerrard’s book in keeping up the cheerful chit-chat with the referee. Always subdued against Liverpool, even in his Everton days, Rooney was committed throughout. Better yet, after being accidentally/on purpose kicked in the chest by the Liverpool CB, Martin Skrtel, early on, Rooney took his lumps, gasped, recovered and got on with it. Tested early, he did not allow himself to be so easily provoked. It was very impressive.

Just as joyful for fans was the hard graft put in by both Ander Herrera and Ashley Young. And although Luke Shaw made a few positioning errors, his muscular presence as a tackler and runner is like night and day compared to his long past-it predecessor. What was worrisome, however, was the casual way that Little and Large, Raheem and Rickie, repeatedly carved up and humiliated dumb and dumber, Phil Jones and Chris Smalling. And, although Jonny Evans was strong on the ball and put in some nice tackles, his sense of positioning is still frighteningly lacking in any kind of tactical nous. What Van Gaal will do when United have to deal with the likes of Alexis Sanchez, Theo Walcott, Eden Hazzard and Oscar surely gives him much food for thought. The 3-5-2 formation, which works remarkably well against slow teams, is going to be difficult to execute successfully against the P.L.s big boys. Otherwise we will be winning and losing a lot of 4-3, 5-4 and 3-2 games.

The first half was a fairly even affair, although, pressed tight by Liverpool’s central midfielders, everybody but Herrera had difficulty holding on to the ball. Sterling, though, was the stand-out performer in the first 45 minutes, as protected by Lambert, he would zigzag around the box, praying to get fouled. Consequently, frustration and ineptitude came together in the 14th minute as Jones bundled the little winger to the turf and the referee, Mark Gieger, pointed at the penalty spot and Steven Gerrard casually fired home to score from the penalty spot. The rest of the half remained interesting as Liverpool dominated midfield while United more than held their own as they repeatedly dominated the flanks.

Liverpool’s star midfielder, the Brazilian Philippe Coutinho, almost made it 2-0 for the red scousers when he forced David de Gea to make a superb cat-like low dive by the post in the 23rd minute. Why was Coutinho allowed so much space over the whole game? Good question. Minutes later, Jones executed a dreadful pass to his comedic partner Smalling which Lambert jumped on and should have easily stroked home, but didn’t. Minutes later, a clever pass from Lambert found Coutinho alone again and Herrera got away with a horribly late tackle on the little Brazilian pest thanks to referee Mark Geiger.

4ad7179f a6a3 41fd abdc 98f758b49959 620x372 Mature in Miami: Rooney Takes the Armband!Liverpool would rue their missed chances because the worm turned nine minutes into the second half. Javíer Hernández saw little of the ball in the opening period, but his speed was always difficult to cope with for Liverpool’s Agger and Skrtel. Herrera executed a superb long pass from central midfield and the Mexican striker was waiting for it on the left flank. His cross was chest high and deep. The red scousers center-back Martin Skrtel completely misjudged the ball’s flight, missing it by at least a foot as it arced over his head and dropped into Wayne Rooney’s wheel house. The art and artifice of making a perfect valley out of such a difficult pass was incredible. Nine times out of ten, I’m sure Wazza would have missed it, but this one he smashed home perfectly.

Two minutes later, United took the lead after a Herrera to Shaw one-two set up Mata, whose flicked shot from thirteen yards out, touched Mamadou Sakho and then ricocheted past Simon Mignolet into the net. A shocking coup over the space of 120 seconds! And somehow Liverpool were never quite in it again.
Wazza almost got a second in the 66th minute when a Young floater from 45 yards out hit the stanchion before United’s skipper tapped the rebound home. The referee gave it, but having been told that the stanchion was positioned off the field of play, he changed his mind and disallowed it.

Finally, with two minutes left in regulation time, substitute Jesse Lingard given all kinds of time and space in the box fired a low beauty into the Liverpool net after a sweet Cleverly set-up.
Thus Louis Van Gaal and his troops earned their first trophy of the 2014-15 season. It may not be as big or glittery as the Community Shield, but it’s a sweet, encouraging opening anyway. A handful of expensive tweaks and we’ll be on our way to even more silverware.76743984 lpoolmanu2 Mature in Miami: Rooney Takes the Armband!

Ivor Irwin

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