Manchester United entered Sunday’s match against Liverpool as one of the hottest teams in all of English football; having won their last five matches in league play. They continued that streak against the Reds with a fantastic display of goalkeeping by United keeper David De Gea (nine saves) and a tremendous all-around effort from midfielder Juan Mata (one goal, one assist) on route to a 3-0 victory for the Red Devils.
With exception of goals and possession, Liverpool dominated every facet of the game. As the Reds had eight more shots (19), three more shots on goal (9), and five more corner kicks (7) than the Red Devils. Liverpool forward Raheem Sterling probably had more opportunities than both sides combined. Unfortunately, the 20-year-old midfielder couldn’t convert a single one of his chances.
The game got off to quick start, and shortly after United’s De Gea made a magnificent save on Sterling’s close range shot just outside the six-yard box; United countered. Midfielder Antonio Valencia made a fantastic run down the right side of the pitch, beating two Liverpool defenders and perfectly picking out forward Wayne Rooney at the top of the box for the first goal of the match (12th minute).
The second goal came right before half off a brilliant cross from United midfielder Ashley Young which looked to be flicked on by forward Robin Van Persie to find the head of Juan Mata at the far end of the net (40th minute). There was some controversy as to if Mata was offside, but the line judge kept his flag down and Man U lead 2-0 at the half.
The Reds almost stole one back five minutes into the second half when Sterling intercepted a poorly placed ball back to De Gea from defender Johnny Evans, but again couldn’t convert after yet another impressive save from the United keeper. Liverpool would once again call De Gea’s number a few minutes later when substitute Mario Balotelli ripped a shot from point blank range, in which De Gea’s fingertips pushed it against the crossbar before it was turned away from danger.
United finally put the game out of reach in the 70th minute when Mata made a splendid run down the middle looking to shoot, but instead found Van Persie for an easy tap in: sealing a 3-0 victory for the home side.
Man United (31 points) continues to gain ground on both first place Chelsea (39 points) and second place Manchester City (36 points), with back-to-back meetings with the two in April having possible title implications. Three months ago, most would say Man U manager Louis Van Gaal would be looking for a new job come the end of this season. But with his team currently in the top four and pushing for a Premier League title; his tenure at United seems to be secure.