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As always, match data from Stats Zone and Squawka.
As the possession stats suggest, it really was a game of two halves. Although, as we've painfully learned time and time again, possession stats certainly don't equate to winning performances. So does the shot chart. Just one, Suarez's wild effort following a throw-in, came in the first half. Wisdom added a second prior to United's eventual game winner. And then Liverpool took 11 shots, including Sturridge's goal, after United's second, while the home side managed just three more efforts.
Cleverley and Carrick, two of the three United players to attempt more passes than their Liverpool counterparts, made 64% of their passes in the first half, 44 and 46 respectively. Carrick's drop-off was especially noticeable, with Suarez and Sturridge taking turns dropping deep when United were in possession, giving the midfielder none of the time he had when Allen was the most advanced midfielder. In addition, Suarez playing between the lines forced United's midfielders to pick him up, allowing Gerrard much more freedom to operate. That was the main difference in his night and day performances in the two halves, and it was no coincidence that his interception of a Cleverley pass to Carrick led to Liverpool's goal (as well as actually getting a Liverpool shot on target).
Also, once again, the Reina Passing Theory™ holds true. Reina completed 15 of his 24 passes; 10 were long passes. Liverpool's record when he completes fewer than 20 passes is now 1W-3D-6L and 6W-1D-1L when he completes 20 or more.
Liverpool made 11 more successful tackles than United, but that was partly because United were successful on only 15 of 25 attempted tackles. Lucas, despite going off at halftime, made four of those tackles, surpassed by only Glen Johnson. Taking off Lucas was a surprising decision, despite being on a yellow card. Gerrard hadn't made a single tackle or interception, Allen had made two tackles but no interceptions. It was a surprising decision that worked surprisingly well, although I'm still not sure what it means going forward.
Pity no one made a tackle during the extended stretch leading to the opener. That Kagawa, Cleverley, Carrick, Welbeck, and Evra were able to string so many passes in front of Liverpool's box is criminal. I implore you to go back and watch the sequence (unless you treasure your sanity); watch Downing, Gerrard, Allen, and Wisdom stand off as United players knock the ball back and forth. All four are on the back foot, sucked out of position – mainly by Kagawa's excellent movement – as Evra drifts into space, unable to cut out the cross which travels between five Liverpool players before reaching van Persie. That sort of timidity, which seems to be a reoccurring trend in big games (at least until the opposition score), is primarily what made the first half so infuriating.
However, where United's defense was successful was in stopping Liverpool's take-ons and clearing Liverpool's crosses. Just four of Liverpool's 21 dribbles were successful, none of Liverpool's 11 crosses found a target (nine from open play). Meanwhile, four of United's 15 crosses were met by a United player, including Evra's low cross for the opening goal and van Persie's free kick which led to Vidic's deflected second.