‘A Game of 2 Halves’ – Man Utd 3-1 Liverpool -Apostolos Lambrianides

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To pinch one of football’s most over-used clichés – this was truly a game of two halves. What promised to be an utterly dull, anti-climactic United vs. Liverpool encounter was transformed into something special thanks largely to a couple of stunning goals late in the game.

Firstly there was Benteke’s ludicrous overhead kick that give’s Rooney’s ‘Premier League Goal of the 20 Seasons’ award-winning effort vs. City in 2011 a run for its money. However the real story of the afternoon was the final goal of the game that came only minutes after Liverpool’s Belgian striker gave them a glimpse of hope by taking the game to 2-1.

In a substitute performance reminiscent of Kiko Macheda’s debut against Aston Villa six years ago, Anthony Martial introduced himself to the Old Trafford faithful with a fantastic solo effort – making a total fool of Martin Skrtl in the process – and sealed a 3-1 win in what turned out to be an excellent victory over our old rivals, one helped largely to the inadequacies in Liverpool’s performance.

Of course the big difference between Macheda in 2009 and Martial at the weekend is our goal-scorer this time was not a player drafted into the first team from the youth squad. This was a £36million risk that many dubbed a “panic buy” when the news of his signing broke on transfer deadline day.

Given that United had sold van Persie and Hernandez during the window, while failing to sign Falcao after his loan spell, we were left with only Rooney and the inexperienced James Wilson in attack. We desperately needed a striker…however for that sort of money, a 19-year old unknown from Monaco was not what United fans had in mind. After this cameo however, I’m sure I speak for all fans in saying I cannot wait to see what the youngster does next. With Rooney still out injured, Fellaini doing little on Saturday to suggest that he is a decent replacement up-front, and a Champions League game vs. PSV on Tuesday, we may not have to wait very long at all.

With all the Martial Mania (© the Cockney Red) however it’s easy to neglect others who played their part in the victory – namely Ashely Young, who’s break up the pitch set-up Martial for his goal.

Young’s introduction at half-time – triggered by an utterly unadventurous first 45 minutes – changed the game. Whether people like it or not (and by “people” I’m referring to those still obsessed with his reputation as a dishonest, diving player) when Young comes on for United we usually score goals. In his nine substitute appearances during Van Gaal’s reign, we have scored 13 times with Young on the pitch. In four of his most notable substitute appearances during this time – away to Arsenal in the league last November, against Preston in the Cup in February, coming on to score the last minute winner against Newcastle in March, and at the weekend against Liverpool – United were yet to score before Young emerged.

After Di Maria was sent off in the FA Cup Quarter Final vs. Arsenal last season (the game after the aforementioned Newcastle league match) Ashley Young regained his place in the starting XI – and as we saw on Saturday, with Depay still struggling to make a significant impact, he could earn another promotion. Van Gaal has previously said he “fits my profile” and it is easy to see why, such is Young’s industry and productivity on the wing.

Credit should also go to the manager here who is gaining a reputation of making pro-active substitutions at the break. Young’s introduction for the erratic Memphis was Van Gaal’s 17th half-time change as United manager and his decisive decision not only sparked life into our lethargic first-half display, but allowed us to win the game.

When called into action this season Young has been was a reliable source of innovation for the manager. After being dropped following his mediocre display on the opening day against Tottenham, Young has responded positively and will hopefully be rewarded with a start against PSV.

The headlines following Saturday’s win all went to Martial for his moment of magic in front of the Stretford End, however as we look to finally string a run of decent performance together while getting our Champions League campaign off to a solid start, it was one of United’s less glamorous squad players who sparked life into our performance that lead us to victory.

APOSTOLOS LAMBRIANIDES

MAN UTD FAN.

more from Apostolos at www.followingthetrawler.com

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