By Daniel Rhodes and Mihail Vladimirov.
Moyes started with his usual 4-2-3-1 formation, with Vidic returning to the side in place of Smalling, to partner Jones at the heart of the home team’s defence. Januzaj started on the left, Mata on the right with Rooney in behind Van Persie to create an attacking quartet expected to cause Liverpool problems within the 4-2-3-1 shape. This narrow front four would allow the full-backs – Evra and Rafael – to attack and cause overloads down the flanks.
Rodgers decided to stick with the diamond in midfield, although there was a personnel change, with Sterling playing as the ‘1’, more as a runner than a traditional number ten such as Coutinho. Johnson started at right-back, presumably to deal with Januzaj’s pace, and Flanagan switched to left-back.
Liverpool, from a tactical perspective, dominated Moyes’ team from start to finish; the diamond midfield caused all sorts of problems. Included within this were the different phases of the defensive set up, the pressing and the high line. Furthermore, the attacking players’ ability to target specific weak points in the defending champions’ defence, ably supported by Henderson and Allen, caused United – and their manager – a variety of trouble throughout.
Liverpool’s defensive structure
During the defensive transitions, Liverpool pressed high up the field with both full-backs sticking tight on Mata and Januzaj. This added numbers to the press, provided the required number of pressing lines, and enabled Allen and Henderson to target United’s midfield and back four. The positive impact of the pressing, for the away side, was enhanced by the lack of any counter-attacking threat from Man Utd. Moyes’ team not only had a static midfield, devoid of runners, but the front four are not direct, pacey players; this allowed Rodgers to push his defensive line high up the field. This was evident when Skrtel and Flanagan were in line but still pressing inside the United half, a tactic that further encouraged Allen and Henderson to deny any easy passes out from the back.
The rest of this article is for subscribers only.