Javier Hernandez lifts gloom as Manchester United advance past Liverpool
Much changed home side give David Moyes reasons to be cheerful
Manchester United manager David Moyes celebrates his side’s goal against Liverpool during their League cup tie at Old Trafford. Photograph: Phil Noble/Reuters
Manchester United 1 Liverpool 0: For David Moyes, it was a result to lift some of the foreboding that had begun to descend on Manchester United after everything they had suffered in the Manchester derby.
His team prevented Luis Suarez from making this another ordeal and after a difficult few days, the mood at Old Trafford should be vastly improved by Javier Hernandez’s winning goal.
The alternative, after all, was barely worth thinking about for Moyes, bearing in mind his side have already lost to Liverpool in the Premier League this season. Their opponents certainly made a good fist of it but the vulnerabilities that epitomised United’s performance in the 4-1 pummelling at Manchester City on Sunday were replaced here by the collective determination of a side that seemed glad to be back out on the pitch, with the chance to shake their heads clear.
Hernandez struck early in the second half and though Suarez gave everything to get Liverpool back into the tie, the visitors did not do enough with their possession to make this a more challenging night for David de Gea in United’s goal.
Liverpool certainly played their part but the night finished with Moyes on the pitch, shaking the hand of every one of his players and enthusiastically applauding the Stretford end. He looked a man with a weight lifted from his shoulders.
Suarez was partnering Daniel Sturridge in a new system that had Victor Moses operating with a free role just behind the attack, a three-man central defence and Jordan Henderson and Luis Enrique playing as wing-backs. To begin with, it took the Uruguayan a little while to feel his way into the game. Yet it quickly became apparent that his ability to turn with the ball, always with the first thought of driving towards goal, would make him a difficult opponent.
At first United had looked a like a team desperate to get Sunday’s harrowing defeat out of their system and deliver the reaction that Moyes had demanded immediately after that match. Moyes had made eight changes but this was not the assembly of reserves and youth-team players that United traditionally put out in this competition. Moyes, to put it bluntly, could not afford to take such risks.
They put Liverpool under some prolonged pressure in the opening exchanges. Nani was busily involved on the right, with Shinji Kagawa on the left, and Ashley Young and Antonio Valencia, the two players who have come under the most sustained criticism since the weekend, given the night off.
Brendan Rodgers must have been dismayed by the soft manner in which his team went behind.
Hernandez deserves acclaim for his movement in the penalty area, his opportunism and unerring ability to make sure he turns these chances into the hard currency of goals but, from a Liverpool perspective, it was a galling one to concede.
Enrique was the most culpable, losing his man far too easily. Steven Gerrard was under Rooney’s corner and Lucas Leiva, the other Liverpool defender in close proximity, was not marking anybody.
Hernandez spun away, read the trajectory of the ball and turned his shot beyond Simon Mignolet, who was badly exposed in the opposition goal.
A striker of his ability should never have been allowed so much space inside the six-yard area and Hernandez made Liverpool pay for their generosity.
The reward for United is a home fourth round tie against Chris Hughton’s Norwich City next month.
MANCHESTER UNITED: De Gea, Rafael, Evans, Smalling, Buttner, Jones, Rooney, Giggs, Nani (Welbeck 90 mins ), Kagawa (Januzaj 73 mins ), Hernandez (Carrick 74 mins ). Booked: Jones, Giggs. Subs not used: Amos, Fabio, Anderson, Zaha.
LIVERPOOL: Mignolet, Toure, Sakho, Skrtel, Jose Enrique, Gerrard, Moses (Sterling 82 mins), Henderson, Lucas (Kelly 67 mins ), Suarez, Sturridge. Booked: Toure, Henderson, Lucas. Subs not used: Jones, Wisdom, Alberto, Ibe, Aspas.
Referee: M Clattenburg ((Tyne & Wear)