Liverpool made a statement — as much as a club can make a statement on the first day of September in a 38-game season — with a 1-0 win over Manchester United Sunday. Liverpool opens the new Premier League campaign with three consecutive nervy 1-0 wins, all courtesy of goals by Daniel Sturridge. The Reds have won their first three league games for the first time since 1994 and will go into the international break on nine points to lead the league, pending the result of the Arsenal/Tottenham result later Sunday.
Sturridge’s deflected goal in the fourth minute held up, although he should have been docked points for failing to dance after the tally.
The storyline for the next two weeks in England probably won’t be Liverpool’s strong start — achieved with Luis Suarez still serving his suspension for chomping on Branislav Ivanovic — but rather Manchester United’s 1-1-1 start under David Moyes. United solved one crisis this week, keeping Wayne Rooney from forcing a move to Chelsea. Rooney, however, sat out the game with a gash on his forehead due to a training ground collision with Phil Jones which will keep him out at least three weeks.
United now have about 24 hours before the transfer window closes to strengthen the squad or at least add some depth. Moyes’ former Everton midfielder enforcer Marouane Fellaini still appears to be United’s top target, but is he the player they need? He’d be a definite upgrade over Tom Cleverly and allow Michael Carrick a little more freedom to orchestrate the Red Devils’ midfielder. Still, is Fellaini the player who’ll help United get past the likes of Barcelona, Real Madrid, Bayern Munich or even PSG in the Champions League? Or Chelsea or Manchester City in the Prem?
A year ago United were dependent on Robin van Persie’s goals. Sunday the Dutchman, save for a late chance in the second half, never got into the flow of the game and appeared frustrated at one point lashing out for a yellow card. Liverpool schemer Philippe Coutinho (like Sturridge, picked up in January) got under the skin of van Persie, Ryan Giggs and seemingly the entire Manchester United side in the first half, helping to set an early tone.
United were certainly improved in the second half, but it was more through individual runs on goal by Danny Welbeck or long shots by Nani than a complete team effort.
How much difference does one man make? Were Sir Alex Ferguson still on the touchline for United, most watching would have fully expected an equalizer — likely in the five minutes of stoppage time. With Moyes? A 1-0 loss seemed inevitable, especially for Evertonians worldwide. As the season progresses Ferguson coaxing a title out of this United team last year will look more-and-more like one of his finer achievements.
Three games is hardly enough time to judge a manager, but that’s the world we now live in.
And if you want to jump to an early conclusion, expect Liverpool to fight for one of the final two Champions League places alongside United, Arsenal and Tottenham.