Rooney, Mata and Van Persie score as Manchester United thrash Liverpool in Premier League clash

Louis van Gaal's team just two points behind Manchester City, reigning champions and derby rivals, after 3-0 victory at Old Trafford.
Manchester United's Juan Mata celebrates after scoring during the English Premier League match against Liverpool at Old Trafford on Sunday. Jon Super / AP Photo
Manchester United's Juan Mata celebrates after scoring during the English Premier League match against Liverpool at Old Trafford on Sunday. Jon Super / AP Photo

Manchester United 3

Rooney 12’, Mata 40’, Van Persie 71’

Liverpool 0

MANCHESTER // Anybody who did not watch Manchester United might be tempted to think that all is well, that a corner has been turned and that Louis van Gaal has shaped this side into ruthless winners.

As it is, the key figure in this run of six league victories in a row has been David de Gea, who again produced an outstanding display. United won the game in both boxes, but the flaws in between were all too evident.

For Liverpool, it was just the reverse. Through midfield they produced probably their best performance since beating Tottenham Hotspur in August, but they were undone again by individual laxity in each box.

The shot count is not always a guide to how a game has gone, but after winning at Southampton on Monday having had only three shots (their lowest tally since data analysts Opta began counting such things in 2003), they won here having had just 11 shots to Liverpool’s 19 – and they are, of course, the side who found themselves 2-0 up at Arsenal last month having had one shot on target.

In part, that is a reflection to the form of Wayne Rooney and Robin van Persie in front of goal, but it also suggests a team riding their luck.

The difference between the two sides, their sharpness, their confidence and their fortune was exemplified in the 12th minute.

Adam Lallana played in Raheem Sterling who was denied by De Gea, making one of the saves that have become his trademark, standing tall, exuding authority, drawing the striker to hit his shot straight at him.

Seconds later, Antonio Valencia nutmegged Joe Allen and pulled the ball back into a strangely vacant space at the edge of the box. Wayne Rooney, playing deep in a midfield role, ran on and, as Brad Jones, selected ahead of Simon Mignolet, trying to anticipate, flung himself to his right, Rooney swept a first-time shot.

The second, nodded in by Juan Mata five minutes before half time, was clearly offside, the linesman presumably believing Robin van Persie had not touched Ashley Young’s cross.

That was unfortunate for Liverpool, but it was much for their flatness that nobody seemed to question the decision: they have come to believe they are a side to whom bad things happen.

There might, even then, have been a route back into the game and it took a stunning save from De Gea to deny Mario Balotelli. But just as Liverpool threatened to mount concerted pressure, Rooney led a break.

His ball towards Van Persie was cut out, falling for Mata who shaped to shoot, wrong-footed Jones and played in Van Persie to knock the ball into an unguarded net.

United’s run goes on and, even if they have been fortunate, there is optimism in the thought that when everybody is fit, when they do find their form, they will be starting from a position of relative strength.

Van Gaal was very critical of how often United gave the ball away and how they used possession.

“We have to improve out play-style still, and I’m saying that nearly every week,” he said. “We are forcing the luck now and at the beginning of the season we were not working our luck.”

But he knows that cannot go on forever, that eventually there will be a correlation between results and performances.

sports@thenational.ae

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Published: December 14, 2014 04:00 AM

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