Wing man: Van Gaal says it is up to Mata to perform to keep his place

Liverpool are woeful at defending set pieces, Louis van Gaal has not changed his ways and other things we learned from Liverpool 0 Manchester United 1

By Editor Wayne Veysey

United have zero ambition

Louis van Gaal got lucky, really lucky, at what must now be one of his favourite Premier League stomping grounds. He set his team up to defend, keep Liverpool at bay and with virtually no attacking ambition. It must have been excruciating for their fans to watch. United did not have a single shot on target until they took advantage of the home side’s set-piece weaknesses after 77 minutes when Wayne Rooney seized hungrily upon the rebound after Marouane Fellaini’s header cannoned off the crossbar. The midweek thriller at Newcastle may have provided hope that Van Gaal has changed his ways. He has not.

Klopp must address set piece weakness

Yet again, Liverpool were let down by their principal weakness – defending set pieces or, to be more precise, corners. They had dominated the play and created all the chances until Rooney profited from their nervousness whenever the ball is pumped in the air towards Simon Mignolet’s goal. It was no surprise to any regular Liverpool observer that Mignolet stood rooted to the line as Fellaini rose above everyone to create the equaliser that Rooney converted, while Jordan Ibe failed to track his runner. It was the seventh Premier League goal Liverpool have conceded from a corner this season, the worst record in the top flight.

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Soft underbelly: Liverpool have worst corner record in Premier League
Soft underbelly: Liverpool have worst corner record in Premier League

Firmino can be brilliant in consecutive matches

The Brazilian has given glimpses of his special talent in some big games, at Manchester City, Chelsea and, most notably, in the midweek thriller against Arsenal. But Firmino has found it difficult to be effective in consecutive matches. Until now. While not quite as electrifying as he was when scoring a spectacular double against Arsenal, most of Liverpool’s best play against United came from the former Hoffeinheim player. Used once again in centre-forward position, his touch, awareness and inventiveness caught the eye.

De Gea in line for third consecutive gong

For the past two seasons, David de Gea has been crowned the Manchester United fans’ player of the season. He is well on course to make it a hat-trick. The goalkeeper makes the brilliant look routine, particularly in one-on-ones, and he demonstrated the calibre of his positioning and reflexes when denying Liverpool with a series of mighty fine saves. Along with Chris Smalling, De Gea has been one of the few shining beacons in a generally forgettable season for United.

Red hot: Lallana delivered a much-improved display against Stoke
Red not: Lallana has had little reason to celebrate this season

More end product needed from Lallana

For a player of such technical gifts and awareness, Adam Lallana provides very little in the way of end product. The attacking midfielder is yet to open his Premier League goal account for the season, and has scored only twice in all competitions. Given his creative role and how close he plays to the opposition goal, this is a wretched return. One moment summed up the Englishman perfectly midway through the first half. Through on goal after latching on to a superb long pass, Lallana headed weakly at De Gea rather than powerfully over him. It summed up his lack of aggression and cutting edge.