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5 talking points as Man United overcome Liverpool

De Gea Schmeichel-esque, Balotelli’s misery continues and more.

Liverpool's Mario Balotelli looks dejected after missing a goal scoring chance.
Liverpool's Mario Balotelli looks dejected after missing a goal scoring chance.

1. De Gea consolidates world-class status with Schmeichel-esque performance

ARGUABLY SINCE THE days of Peter Schmeichel, United have not had a truly world-class goalkeeper playing in his prime (Edwin van der Sar was great but had probably seen better days by the time of his arrival at Old Trafford).

However, on current form, David de Gea is looking like one of the best stoppers in the world.

The Spanish international has been United’s most consistent player this season, and has coped well with a difficult situation — playing in front of a back four that has looked conspicuously shaky at times.

Today against Liverpool, the 24-year-old goalkeeper earned a deserved man-of-the-match award, making a number of impressive saves at key moments to ensure United secured what was ultimately a comfortable 3-0 victory.

His performance too was reminiscent of Schmeichel, especially during one moment early in the second half, when he stood up very well to deny the consistently wasteful Raheem Sterling, after a careless backpass had put the youngster through on goal.

2. United’s strikers finally hitting top form

Britain Soccer Premier League Source: AP/Press Association Images

(Robin van Persie scored United’s third goal today)

There have been times this season, mainly early on, when Robin van Persie, Wayne Rooney and Juan Mata all seemed to be suffering from a lack of form.

Yet today, they were impeccable in front of goal, showing a stark level of ruthlessness when opportunities came their way.

Their efficiency was highlighted by one incredible half-time stat — United had scored four goals from just five shots (including two in their previous Southampton game).

With Angel di Maria and Radamel Falcao (who made a late cameo this afternoon) still to come into the side, not to mention the continuing presence of the exciting-looking youngster James Wilson in the first team, in an attacking sense at least, United look as strong as anyone in the league right now.

3. Balotelli running out of last chances

At 24, Mario Balotelli is already showing worrying signs of looking washed up.

Despite a promising debut in Liverpool’s 3-0 win over Spurs, the Italian has — for the most part — flattered to deceive since joining the club.

He was introduced at half-time today, missing some good chances thereafter, with Raheem Sterling also a notable culprit in that regard.

Yet perhaps even more worryingly for Rodgers, there were signs of the old immature ill-disciplined Balotelli this afternoon.

The Italian took little time to show his frustration, as not much went his way over the course of the game. Indeed, he was fortunate to stay on the field — despite two blatantly cynical fouls, he was booked just once owing to some rather lenient officiating.

4. What a difference a few months makes

Britain Soccer Premier League Source: AP/Press Association Images

(Louis van Gaal’s influence at United is starting to show)

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It seems much longer ago than last March when Liverpool came to Old Trafford and secured an impressive 3-0 victory.

United reversing that result today is perhaps the clearest sign yet of the positive impact that Louis van Gaal has had since taking over at the club.

Looking back on their previous encounter, it’s interesting to note that the United lineup isn’t drastically different — De Gea, Jones, Carrick, Fellaini, Mata, Van Persie and Rooney also all started that day. Granted, the Liverpool team has changed considerably since then, with Daniel Sturridge and Luis Suarez among the notable absentees this afternoon.

But even still, the increased confidence and general improvement in United’s play since then, with largely the same personnel (at least in the case of today), is remarkable and a testament to the good work that’s been done since the Dutchman took over.

5. Is patience running out for Brendan Rodgers and his coterie of expensive signings?

Even before this afternoon’s game, Brendan Rodgers was under immense pressure, after Liverpool were recently dumped out of the Champions League at the group stages, in addition to performing poorly on a regular basis in the league.

The 3-0 loss to United today — a reverse of the result in the same fixture last season — illustrates how much the team have gone backgrounds in recent months.

Granted, Rodgers has been somewhat unlucky — the losses of Suarez and Sturridge have clearly been pivotal, while even today, they came up against an inspired David de Gea, and the second goal they conceded should have been ruled out for offside.

Yet the Northern Irish manager can scarcely afford to lose many more matches, particularly with their expensive array of summer signings continuing to underperform, as Liverpool are now 10 points behind top-four rivals United.

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Paul Fennessy

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