Dimitar Berbatov was the star of the show as Manchester United defeated Liverpool 3-2 in a thrilling match at Old Trafford.
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The Bulgarian scored his first ever hat-tick for the club and drove United to victory when it seemed that yet another two goal advantage had been conceded. Sir Alex recalled his strongest squad after the wholesale changes in the Rangers game in midweek. van der Sar returned to goal, with O’Shea, Vidic, Evans and Evra — the same back four as against Everton — in front of him.
Valencia’s injury forced Nani to the right, and Sir Alex opted for Giggs on the left with the pairing of Scholes and Fletcher in the centre. Rooney and Berbatov started up top.
Right from kick-off United were the better side, and there was more than one occasion on which United laid a continuos barrage on the Liverpool goal. It became obvious from the beginning that United would find most joy from the wide areas of the pitch, and this in mind, Nani and Giggs constantly crossed into the box.
The best move of the first half came through some great interplay between Berbatov and Rooney. The Bulgarian dummied the initial pass, and played a one-two with Rooney who found Nani in acres of space on the right. Nani drove into the box, but should have done much better with his final attempt when he lashed a bobbling ball wide of Pepe Reina’s post.
In all this, Liverpool were limited to the occasional speculative efforts from far out, and only Glen Johnson’s curling effort — though wide of the target — had any goal-bound threat in it. The eventual and deserved breakthrough finally came three minutes before the end of the half, and in-form Berbatov was there to head home from a Giggs corner. Berbatov managed to get goal-side of his marker Torres, and despite having his shirt pulled, headed home from 6 yards out. United went into half-time leading one-nil, and deservedly so.
Liverpool came out with more determination in the second half, though United still dominated in terms of chances. It seemed only a matter of time before a second goal came, and Nani certainly came close after his rasping effort crashed off the post, from the edge of the area after 56 minutes. But Nani would then be involved in a goal — as provider. Fletcher found the Portuguese winger with a brilliant 60-yard pass, and the latter wasted no time in floating in a cross. Rooney missed his header — but Berbatov was there. He first controlled it beautifully with his left thigh, and then stunningly executed an overhead kick that went in off the bar. It really was a special goal, and never mind goal of the month — it’s one of the best goals United have scored over the past couple of seasons. United were coasting — or so it seemed.
Out of nowhere, Torres found his way into the box and was quite unnecessarily brought down by Evans. The resultant penalty was quite coolly converted by Gerrard. Six minutes later, O’Shea brought down Torres off the ball, and while he escaped a red card, his conceded freekick was converted once again by Gerrard, after Fletcher left a gap in the wall. A two goal lead given up for the second game in a row — surely the result wouldn’t be the same again?
But no — for that man Dimitar Berbatov was on hand to score once more and create history in the process. O’Shea crossed in after 84 minutes and the Bulgarian rose above Carragher to head past Reina once more. In doing so, Berbatov became the first United player in 64 years to score a hat-trick against Liverpool since Stan Pearson, and the first ever at Old Trafford. The last few minutes of normal time — plus four additional minutes — were relatively straightforward, and the team did not slip up again. A deserved win — though United fans could have done without so much tension!
It was a great day for the fans in Red, and a thoroughly deserved victory. There are still some defensive frailties that need to be addressed, and some lapses in concentration that need to be take care of. This season however (touchwood) scoring goals hasn’t been the problem, but rather the defending. Hopefully, time will solve this. Fletcher didn’t produce one of his vintage big match performances, but was crucial in limiting Gerrard’s threat. Vidic, who has had some tough days against Torres, was absolutely dominant and barely gave the Spaniard a sniff. Berbatov in particular will be delighted with his performance today, and at last, he seems to be repaying the faith that Sir Alex and (most) fans have shown him. He’s currently the joint top scorer in the league — let’s hope his magical form can continue!
Best Moment: Berba’s second/ winner
Worst Moment: Liverpool’s equaliser for 2-2
Man of the Match: No contest — Dimitar Berbatov
Written by Sownak27