The tensions were running high as the two greatest clubs in the history of English football squared off at Anfield with the reward of Champions League qualification at stake. And it was Manchester United who had the final laugh as Juan Mata produced his best ever performance in a United shirt to secure a vital win for the visitors.
Mata was clinical for his first goal as he latched on to Ander Herrera’s through ball to slot the ball home past Mignolet. Liverpool brought Steven Gerrard on at the start of the second half but the outgoing Liverpool captain saw red in a 48 second cameo for a stamp on Herrera.
Mata doubled United’s advantage with an acrobatic strike, and Daniel Sturridge’s strike proved inconsequential as United held on for a historic win. Here is how the United players fared in a match that could well get Louis van Gaal’s men going for the remainder of the season and beyond.
David De Gea – 6
Beaten at the near post for Daniel Sturridge’s goal. Got his bearings all wrong for that one, and considering the standards he has set for himself this season, last night’s performance was pretty average.
Antonio Valencia – 7
Solid performance at right back and looked productive going forward.
Chris Smalling – 8
Calm and composed under pressure. Top draw performance from the English man once again.
Phil Jones – 7.5
A little wild on occasions but the nature of the game demanded that.
Daley Blind – 8
Never looked under pressure defensively and had a few tricks up his sleeve going forward.
Michael Carrick – 7.5
Controlled the pace of the game in the first half. Sloppy error to gift Liverpool a lifeline.
Ander Herrera – 8.5
Had the Liverpool midfield chasing shadows with his movement and linkup play.
Marouane Fellaini – 8.5
Unsung hero of the match. Made a difference all over the pitch and is pivotal to United’s current system as he wins almost all of the aerial duels he is involved in.
Juan Mata – 9
World class finishing for both the goals. Not to mention his composure and creativity on the ball, while keeping Alberto Moreno in his pocket.
Ashley Young – 7
Provided the attacking thrust down the left flank. A willing worker.
Wayne Rooney – 6.5
Sloppy on the ball at times and failed to get into the game. Missed a penalty at the end to add to his struggles.
Angel Di Maria – 6
Gave the ball away far too easily on occasions but a glorious chip assist for Mata’s second.
Falcao – 5
Epitomized United’s afternoon with his late efforts.
Rojo – NA