MANCHESTER UNITED 3 LIVERPOOL 0
UNDER-FIRE Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers insists he does not fear for his job yet despite yesterday’s comprehensive defeat at Manchester United deepening the gloom on Merseyside.
Goals from Wayne Rooney, Juan Mata and Robin van Persie earned United a sixth consecutive Premier League victory to tighten their grip on third place and continue their resurgence under Louis van Gaal.
Rodgers, by contrast, has presided over five defeats and just two wins from Liverpool’s last 10 fixtures, leaving them 10th in the table and already 18 points behind leaders Chelsea.
That desperate sequence has prompted questions about Rodgers’ position just seven months after he led the Reds to the brink of the title, though he played down suggestions his time could be running out.
“I do not feel any additional pressure,” said Rodgers, whose team suffered Champions League elimination in midweek and face a Capital One Cup trip to Championship leaders Bournemouth on Wednesday.
“We had huge changes in the summer and it has taken time for us to find our way. The most important thing for me today was we looked like scoring and I didn’t think we deserved to be on the end of the scoreline.
“United were much more clinical when they needed to be, but it was not a 3-0 match. For the [United] goalkeeper to get man of the match tells you everything.”
Defeat capped a miserable few days for Liverpool, after their failure to beat Basel at Anfield condemned them to a Champions League exit and relegated them to the Europa League.
Yet they started at Old Trafford with vim, and versatile forward Raheem Sterling’s deployment in a centre-forward role unsettled United’s defence and led to an early chance.
De Gea thwarted Sterling from an acute angle, however, in what was to be a recurring theme and United doubled the blow by sweeping down the other end and taking the lead.
Rooney side-footed home from the edge of the area after right wing-back Antonio Valencia had nutmegged Joe Allen and cut the ball back to the unmarked England captain.
United enjoyed a touch of fortune for their second just before half-time. Mata was offside when he dived to meet Van Persie’s glancing header from Ashley Young’s cross but the officials missed the Dutchman’s flick-on to the Spain midfielder.
Rodgers introduced Mario Balotelli at half-time but the misfiring striker also found De Gea in stubborn form after he again thwarted Sterling in a one-on-one situation.
Liverpool’s best attempt came when Sterling cut back for Balotelli only for the Spanish stopper to tip the rising effort on to the bar. Moments later United had their third.
Reds centre-back Dejan Lovren’s weak clearance fell to Mata, who capitalised on a stretched visiting back-line to pick out the unattended Van Persie, who passed his third goal in two games into a virtually unguarded net.
There was still time for Balotelli to race clear against De Gea, though there was an inevitability about the United goalkeeper’s nerveless save.