Premier League

The Juan And Only

Manchester United's players celebrate their 2-1 win over Liverpool at Anfield.

Manchester United’s players celebrate their 2-1 win over Liverpool at Anfield.

Juan Mata scored twice as Manchester United ruined Steven Gerrard’s final Merseyside derby with a just about deserved 2-1 win in the big Sunday lunchtime game.

The hosts who’s last defeat came against the Red Devils in December, were unchanged – which meant club captain Gerrard would have to come off the bench to appear in this one. As for the visitors United who looked to have returned to form after an impressive win over Tottenham last week, they make just the single change as Ashley Young comes in – but the returning Angel Di Maria who was sent off in the FA Cup against Arsenal starts this one from the bench.

As for the match itself, United got out of the blocks the quicker. The visitors midfield of Fellaini, Carrick, Mata and Young were slick in their passing – and were operating at the tempo which blew away Tottenham last week.

Liverpool had no answer – and despite having the majority of the possession, it was indeed Louis Van Gaal’s side who looked more fluent in attack – and it was a little of surprise that United would take the lead in the 14th minute.

Juan Mata who was brilliant in last weeks win at Old Trafford, was equally as brilliant here. The Spaniard who had been subject of transfer speculation at the start of the season , latched on to a fantastic Ander Herrera through ball- and beat the on rushing Liverpool goalkeeper Simon Mignolet with a brilliantly placed finish into the bottom corner.

The visitors at the point were in complete control – but rather naively took their foot off the pedal, which allowed the hosts to come back into the game. After going a goal down Liverpool’s response was good as Adam Lalana missed a great chance to level the scores before halftime.

The former Southampton captain who earned a reputation for scoring goals by arriving late in the box did that here – but disappointingly fired wide when maybe he should have scored. That missed chance was one of the last bits of action of the first half as United went in at the break a goal up.

Liverpool who have been in brilliant for since that defeat to United were in dire need of shaking things up in midfield. So who better to bring on at the start of the second half than club legend Steven Gerrard. The Liverpool skipper who has only just returned from a hamstring injury, would have been determined to end his associations in Merseyside derbies on a high – but there was no fairy tale ending for the Liverpool captain here.

Gerrard who was brought on to provide a calmness into the Liverpool midfield that was lacking the first half, inexcusably lost his head – and was sent off. The 34 year old Gerrard who had barely been on the pitch for more than two minutes was involved in a 50/50 challenge with United’s Herrera – and then rather foolishly stamped on the United midfielder’s leg, which didn’t go unnoticed, all be it with some assistance by the referee’s assistant.

That Red card was to prove costly as Juan Mata scored with a wonderful goal to apparently put the game beyond doubt. The Spaniard started a well worked move – and the 28 year old passed to Di Maria which lead to the Argentine to provide a well judged chip over the Liverpool defence – and set Juan Mata up to acrobatically place a left strike in the bottom corner of Mignolet’s goal.

With the game seeming out of Liverpool’s reach, United became complacent – and despite having 10 men it was Liverpool who looked the better side, despite having 10 men. The visitors sloppiness allowed Daniel Sturridge to pull a goal back with a near post strike, which David De Gea maybe could have done better with.

Fortunately for United there were no more goals in this one. The visitors did have time to win a penalty in the dying minutes as Emre Can clumsily brought down Daley Blind in the box. The resulting penalty kick was missed however as Wayne Rooney’s kick was at a nice height for Liverpool keeper Mignolet to save.

Advantage United then in the ‘rat race’ for fourth, as Man United manager Van Gaal put it -but with both sides needing to play the big sides such as Arsenal and Chelsea, the race for fourth isn’t over just yet.The

Queens Park Rangers Vs Manchester United Match Report

Marouane Fellaini opened the scoring in the 2-0 win over QPR.

Marouane Fellaini opened the scoring in the 2-0 win over QPR.

Manchester United overcame a spirited Queens Park Rangers performance, to return winning ways after last weeks defeat against Southampton.

The Reds recalled striker Radamel Falcao after Robin Van Persie was unavailable for this one. Di Maria is again up front for the Reds in a new tactical formation for Manchester United.

As for QPR, the hosts included Nedum Onuha – but new loan signing Mauro Zarate only could make the bench as Rangers looked to maintain their impressive home form.

It was QPR who started the better as Manchester United were struggling with the 3-5-2 formation, which at times Louis Van Gaal blindly choses it seems. Not to take anything away from the West Londoners who were impressive and matched United for certain parts of this game.

Main man Charlie Austin had a couple of efforts brilliantly saved by Man United keeper David De Gea on both occasions . United were second best in the first half and Manchester United fans let their feelings known to their manager Van Gaal.

Radamel Falcao had a couple of opportunities at the other end, firstly hitting straight at Rob Green then in the second half forcing the QPR into an unbelievable save – but the facts were clear Manchester United were poor.

The Man United fans made their opinion very clear of the first half and what should be done to change it. The Manchester United fans chanted for a change of formation and got their wish of a change of formation as Van Gaal switched to the more renowned United formation of 4-4-2.

With in minutes it lead to the first goal. Antonio Valencia set up Marouane Fellaini who emphatically beat Rob Green in the Rangers goal. QPR pushed for an equaliser but to no avail.

James Wilson who came on as a second half sub, killed the game off as a contest with a classic breakaway goal. The United sub went on a surging run, only to see his shot at the end of it blocked – but fortunately for the youngster he got a second chance.

A good result for United – but the Reds will have to improve on their away from. Manchester United might have won here – but in the last month to many dropped points on the road have allowed United’s rivals back into the race for a top four position.

As for QPR, the Hoops can be proud of such a brave performance. Rangers’ performance wasn’t a performance of a team that is at the wrong end of the table. The performance although a defeat will be encouraging for Harry Redknapp who has been subject to rumours this week of losing his job.