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    Groundhog Day Again For Manchester United

    After the dust has settled from the rather tepid affair between Liverpool and Manchester United, the United hierarchy will be feeling pretty happy this evening as they look ahead and try and kick start their faltering season. Liverpool will be left licking their wounds in contrast, wondering quite how they lost a game they seemed so in control of for large periods. They now face a massive task to qualify for the Champions League, or even the Europa League for that matter given their incredibly inconsistent form. Thinking long term though who will be more happy? 

    Manchester United won the game but once again struggled for offense

    Once again Manchester United struggled to create any attacking threat. Their only goal came from their only shot on target, which is the fourth time this has happened this season. Normally, any side would have been keen to test a keeper who's confidence would have been knocked badly in his last appearance, such as Simon Mignolet's was midweek against Arsenal. However Mignolet was as much a spectator as the crowd for the vast majority and it was David De Gea who had the much heavier workload, once again claiming MOTM for saving his teams skin with three excellent saves.

    You can call Manchester United clinical, taking their only chance and punishing their opponents but they just aren't playing well enough up front. Ironically, United also scored with all three shots on target against Liverpool at Old Trafford - I would say that's more down to poor defending from Liverpool. You cannot rely on your team to score with their only opportunity of the game as Van Gaal does. It's no wonder they are currently the lowest home scorers in the country, when the onus is on them to take the game by the scruff of the neck LVG says no and seems to prefer to hold the game at arms length until a suitable opening can be found. 

    The Red Devils have become the champions of sideways passing under Van Gaal. You can argue that there is nothing wrong with keeping possession, even the great Barcelona sides of 09' and 11' and the World Cup winning Spain side played slow, tepid football but the difference being they could inject lethal pace at key times - Manchester United can't do that. Only certain players have the pace to trouble top sides, players like Anthony Martial, Memphis Depay and Luke Shaw. Sadly they have all been limited by being played out of position, by being out of form and by being out with long term injury. They don't play expansive football designed to stretch defenses, no balls over the top for Martial to show his pace or even trouble opposition defenders. LVG's philosophy seems to limit the key attributes of all his attacking players.

    Mata, Memphis, Rooney and Martial have all struggled for form this season

    They could do with the movement of Javier Hernandez, a sale which in hindsight now looks incredibly silly. The Mexican striker was a master of movement and would stretch defences creating space for others. How his movement is missed in this static United side. To add insult to injury he has been in fine form since he left Old Trafford, picking up goals and awards for fun in Leverkusen to show LVG was wrong to send him packing last Summer (without a suitable replacement as well).

    Yes United won today and you will say they should be happy, but next week versus Southampton the exact same story will unfold. They will control possession whilst having no threat. They will not test Southampton's goal, nor will they get Old Trafford on it's feet throughout the afternoon. The ironic cheers when Memphis Depay finally had an effort on goal versus Sheffield United in the FA Cup show just how fed up fans are. Watching United has become a draining chore rather than the joyful experience the Old Trafford faithful are used to.

    Liverpool on the other hand, despite losing today and enduring a relatively tough season to date, are only going to go one direction under Jurgen Klopp. His enthusiasm for the game is infectious and you can see that it rubs off on his players and fans alike, he is the polar opposite to the calm and controlled Louis Van Gaal. He has already shown what he can achieve in his time so far, with fantastic wins over Chelsea, Manchester City and Southampton and he could well end up with a trophy with a League Cup final looking likely on the horizon. 

    Once he is able to get some of his own players into this side and get a full preseason in then I think he can make Liverpool contenders again. He picked up a fractured squad from predecessor Brendan Rodgers and has had terrible luck with injury since, but you can see what he is trying to achieve with his tactics. This is something which is missing under Louis Van Gaal, much of the time you cannot see what he is trying to achieve with his tactical decisions and it shows on the pitch.

    LVG has been criticised for not showing enough desire from the bench since his arrival in England

    When Manchester United and Liverpool meet this time next year we will know more, but despite United's win today the regression was quite unbelievable. Considering they went to Anfield last year and blew Liverpool away with an attacking performance that any team would have been proud of, their win today could not have been more different. Bear in mind Liverpool were also missing key attacking threats Coutinho and Sturridge as well as defensive pair Skrtel and Lovren. 

    For Manchester United, success would be another Top 4 finish and hopefully a run in the FA Cup, as the title is clearly beyond them whilst playing this style of football. Anyone who thinks they can challenge for the title under LVG is hopelessly misguided, and almost as stubborn as the man himself. Liverpool's Top 4 hopes now look over unless they can go on a huge run between now and May, that itself looks unlikely given the players they're missing and the level of inconsistency they've shown. However, if LVG is in charge this time next year, don't be surprised to see Manchester United languishing in Liverpool's current position if not worse.

    By Darren Beck (@DarrenBeck13)

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