Contrary to what you may hear or read about this game, Rafa Benitez set his team out to win this game and somewhat surprisingly continued with an 'attack-minded' holding midfield player in the form of Lucas Leiva.

The Brazilian was given licence to roam forward at Old Trafford, as had been the case against Lille and with Aquilani against Portsmouth. These heat maps from ESPN emphasise this point, comparing Lucas' positions on the pitch with his midfield partner Javier Mascherano is key (note the orange blocks in opponents half).


Mascherano clearly sat alot deeper than Lucas and moved from left to right much more often in order to help out full-backs Insua and Johnson. Whereas Lucas' map shows he played alot more centrally and further forward.

Benitez's tactics seemed to be working perfectly as Torres headed in after five minutes. What will disappoint the Spaniard is the fact that Liverpool didn't hold on to the lead for nowhere near long enough to play the counter-attacking style they would have reverted to after taking the lead.

One of Ferguson's instructions was to exploit Liverpool's left hand-side, with Emiliano Insua clearly not comfortable dealing with players who have some pace and trickery, the United boss was inevitably going to use Antonio Valencia as his pivital man and the Ecuadorian rewarded his manager's faith with a run into the box to win the penalty (The foul should have been given outside the box but that's another issue).

United's equaliser seemed to be the turning point as United continued to target Liverpool's left after the break. With Fletcher, Carrick and Park in midfield, United dominated most of the possession and as a result Liverpool struggled to get a real foothold in the game second half.

Interestingly enough, despite numerous passes to Valencia on United's right, it was Darren Fletcher who delivered an almost undefendable ball that brought the winning goal (it was also Fletcher's crossing ability from the right-hand side that gave United their equaliser in Milan). Despite hysteria over Wayne Rooney's current form he was marshalled extremely well by Jamie Carragher and it was unsung hero Park who took advantage.

While Ferguson certainly targeted the vulnerable Insua, Benitez's ploy was to get Torres one-on-one with Vidic, and in the first half the Spaniard seemed to be giving the centre-back another torrid time. But after the break Torres was starved of the ball in dangerous areas, Liverpool looked a little jaded after three games in less than a week.

Ferguson's 4-3-3 come 4-5-1 formation is looking more impressive every week, especially when United took the lead, the midfield five kept possession and in doing so starved Liverpool of creating many chances.

Some would say a deserved victory for United, but in truth this game's major turning point was the decision to give Valencia a penalty.