There has been a cavalcade of praise for Luis Suarez following yesterday's match. A deservedly massive sack of love letters and valentines for the player.
He had his tantalizing moments against Stoke, Wigan, and West Ham, but we saw the total package yesterday, a comprehensive beatdown jam-packed with all-around brilliance.
His barbarous run to set up the first goal was obviously the highlight (and Liverpool Offside has the video), but Suarez never stopped contributing. A quick glance at his passing and tackling chalkboards helps demonstrate the full weight of his influence.
The passing chalkboard shows an archetypal second striker, busy all over the pitch. He came deep to cover and help start the attack, and spread play well throughout the United's end of the pitch. A 64.4% completion rate leave a little to be desired, especially when crossing in the final third, but it's still a full day's work.
The tackles chalkboard is arguably more impressive. Suarez won more individual duels than any other Liverpool player yesterday – seven successful take-ons, two tackles, and one aerial challenge. The two red blotches are both halted dribbles, but a seven of nine success rate is still superb, something Liverpool has desperately lacked. And as in the passing chalkboard, Suarez shows up in both halves, not restricted to waiting for Liverpool to cross the center circle (unlike a certain striker sold in January).
Plus, to my infinite delight, he's got more than a touch of the devil in him.
It all kicked off yesterday after Carragher and Rafael's tackles. During the handbag-filled melee following the Brazilian fullback's idiocy, Suarez played peacemaker. And by peacemaker, I mean tried to rile the frustrated Rafael up even further.
Pulled away from the fracas by Carrick, Rafael was moments away from calming down. Until Suarez cheekily yanked his faux-fro behind Dowd's back, which prompted a second round of stomping like a toddler who had his favorite toy taken away.
That's not nice. It's sure to provoke the ever-righteous 'spirit of the game' brigade into howls of condemnation. But it is funny. I'm sorry, but it's always funny when it happens to the opposition (yes, I'm a hypocrite). And I doubt it'll be the last time we see similar.
The dark side is strong in this one, and that image sums it up. Suarez will poke at the rhinoceros until it charges. He'll get so far under your skin it'll cause an infection. And then he'll smile in holy innocence.
Gamesmanship works, and Rafael didn't have anywhere near the same impact after the incident. Having a yellow card restricted him more than anything else, but Suarez adding fuel to the fire helped put the player off. Every little bit makes a difference.
Liverpool needs a Slytherin-esque dark side as much as they need a speedy, dribble-happy attacker who creates and scores goals. The club's gotten two for the price of one in the feisty Uruguayan.
Long may it continue.
Edit: I'm an idiot, and rushed this. There's another chalkboard I wanted to include.
Suarez won six free kicks yesterday, conceding just one. Liverpool won 15 in total. Kuyt and Lucas were joint-second for most won with two each; Kuyt conceded three while Lucas conceded two. That's a fairly big gap.
Suarez is already picking up a reputation for diving, so it remains to be seen whether he can keep us this pace. But those each of those free kicks won represents a goal-scoring opportunity – especially the three closer to United's penalty area – despite Liverpool's frequent inability to convert set plays. It's yet another weapon in his armament and another sign of his menace. Either he dribbles by you or you foul him, because chances are you aren't stopping Suarez any other way.