De Gea impresses but Man United are wretched overall in Liverpool defeat
It's not often that Liverpool anthem "You'll Never Walk Alone" is drowned out at Anfield, but that's exactly what the 2,685 travelling Manchester United fans managed to do on Thursday. However, that was about as good as the evening got for the visiting supporters, as the home side totally dominated from the first whistle.
At half-time, Liverpool should have been three or four goals ahead but, instead, were leading only through a controversial Daniel Sturridge penalty, which Memphis Depay conceded in the softest of circumstances after a challenge on Nathaniel Clyne.
After that, David De Gea kept United in the game, making great save after great save, while the players ahead of him gave very little protection. At the final whistle, United can probably be relieved the game finished 2-0 and that they're still in the tie, because they don't deserve to be.
The best United can hope for is another injury crisis so that youngsters can save the day, as they did against Arsenal a few weeks ago. To see so little fight from at Anfield is desperately disappointing and says a lot about manager Louis van Gaal and this current group of players.
Player Ratings (1-10; 10=best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK David De Gea, 9 -- The Spaniard will be disappointed he didn't save Sturridge's penalty after getting his hand to it. Thereafter, he made a string of world-class saves to deny Sturridge, Lallana and Clyne but his first-half stop, from what should have been a certain goal from Coutinho, was the best of the lot.
DF Guillermo Varela, 5 -- The youngster has done well in recent games but struggled at Anfield. Having the inexperienced and out-of-position Marcus Rashford playing in front of him probably didn't help matters.
DF Chris Smalling, 5 -- While he made a couple of crucial clearances, he can thank De Gea for saving him on a couple of occasions. In the first half, Smalling slipped when trying to make a headed clearance, which let in Sturridge. Lallana then got a toe to the ball in front of Smalling, only for De Gea to save from point-blank range again.
DF Daley Blind, 5 -- There was nothing awful about Blind's performance this evening and he got forward on occasion. There was nothing great about it either.
DF Marcos Rojo, 4 -- He's still finding his feet after returning from injury. Rojo was unable to support the attack as well as he can do and was beaten on too many occasions.
MF Morgan Schneiderlin, 6 -- Of the two central midfielders, Schneiderlin will wonder how his performance led to a substitution. While hardly setting the world alight, the Frenchman was among the least mediocre players in white.
MF Marouane Fellaini, 4 -- Fans will wonder how he lasted the full game. One of United's few attacking tactics appeared to long balls into him but, when he finally managed to get on the end of a cross, he headed wide from a few yards out. Fellaini could also miss the second leg if UEFA take a look at his late elbow on Emre Can.
MF Memphis Depay, 5 -- Another disappointing performance saw him lose the ball time and again, and conceding the penalty which gave Liverpool a grip on the game. However, on a night when United created very little, Depay was behind their best chances. He put in a perfect early cross to Rashford, who couldn't make the most of it, before playing in Anthony Martial in the second half.
MF Juan Mata, 4 -- The captain for the evening didn't really do anything. As likeable as he may be, he's hardly a leader and it was bizarre to see him wearing the armband at Anfield. In the first half, he had a few nice touches but didn't do enough to help his team. The Liverpool players crowded him and he usually came off second best.
MF Marcus Rashford, 4 -- Had a great chance to give United an early lead, but probably didn't expect the ball to come to him, so it just bounced off his thighs and wide. The youngster worked hard and shouldn't really be held accountable for the fact he got played out of position when he'd done so well playing centrally. His pace could have been a threat, had he stayed on in the second half or been moved to his proper position.
FW Anthony Martial, 4 -- The Frenchman was anonymous all game. He got into a great position when Depay put a ball through in the second half, but he couldn't get it out from under his feet.
DF Michael Carrick, 2 -- Playing in a back three, he passed the ball to Lallana, who then nutmegged him to set up Roberto Firmino for Liverpool's second. Carrick did make a few interceptions but, in that moment, essentially did the opposite of what he was subbed on to do.
MF Bastian Schweinsteiger, NR -- In his first appearance since the beginning of January, Schweinsteiger put in a great ball to Fellaini, but that was about it.
MF Ander Herrera, NR -- Didn't really notice him at all.