Moyes gets key win as United bounce back

Posted by Mark Payne

Javier Hernandez fires home Man United's winner against Liverpool.GettyImagesJavier Hernandez fires home Man United's winner against Liverpool.

Just 18 months ago, these sides were managed by Sir Alex Ferguson and Kenny Dalglish, two of the grand old men of football who dueled in these fixtures across the decades. David Moyes and Brendan Rodgers are younger men, but are fully aware of the passion that bristles under these games. After tasting first blood at Anfield earlier in the month, Liverpool were defeated 1-0 at Old Trafford on Wednesday as Manchester United sought to exorcise the trauma of their weekend.

This was not a classic, but it didn’t need to be. From United’s perspective, victory was the only option; they had to react after the humiliation at Manchester City on Sunday. The fans were looking for a response and the team could not be faulted for energy in the early exchanges. United were dominant in possession and feisty in the tackle. The listlessness that was on display Sunday was nowhere to be seen. Whatever Moyes said to the players had been heard.

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It was 10 minutes before the returning Luis Suarez got a touch of the ball. Whenever he did, his class told. The Uruguayan is the kind of player you can’t take your eyes off for a second. He is always dangerous. The wisdom of Moyes' changing his entire defence, in a selection with eight changes, was bold to say the least.

Liverpool edged the first half for possession, but were largely impotent. Nonetheless, it was telling that United’s most cogent player going forward was right back Rafael da Silva. There was tension in the air.

United flew out of the traps again in the second half and immediately scored from a corner, Javier Hernandez rising near the front post and kung-fu kicking the ball into the goal. Old Trafford erupted -- how United needed that goal. The entire stadium experienced the same cathartic moment.

Shinji Kagawa started his second match of the season but did not make an infallible claim for his place. Everybody is aware of Kagawa’s quality -- seen briefly in this match with a quick turn, burst and shot in the 63rd minute -- but his form is rusty at best. Perhaps Moyes should be allowed to manage the team, rather than picking players based on fan demand.

Liverpool were not about to let United play out the game after their goal, though. As the second half wore on, Liverpool tested the United defence more and more. There was scrappiness on display, both in United’s defending and with Liverpool’s passing.

Around the 70-minute mark, the visitors had two opportunities that could easily have been goals. First, goalkeeper David de Gea made an excellent reaction save from a powerful Moses header. Then Suarez hit the crossbar on a free kick. United were wobbling but holding firm.

In an immediate response, United romped forward and came close with two efforts by Wayne Rooney. Liverpool keeper Simon Mignolet was at full stretch to save both -- the first a free kick, a skill Rooney looks to be mastering.

De Gea was called into action again in the late stages, producing another stunning save. While those ahead of him have been incoherent, the Spaniard has been quietly exceptional for a while now. At times, he kept United in the game.

Neither side played with distinction, but United have bounced back. They face a run of league games that look eminently winnable in the next month. And Moyes now has a win over Liverpool, too. It is always darkest before the dawn, they say -- perhaps the sun will now rise on Moyes’ tenure.

Follow Mark on Twitter @markjpayne


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