Manchester United 3: Rooney 12', Mata 40 Van Persie 71'
There aren't many more words left to describe what's become of Liverpool's season, with this afternoon's 3-0 loss at Old Trafford the latest crisis to land on their doorstep. Brendan Rodgers tried making further changes, shifting to three at the back and a false nine up top, and for the opening ten minutes it looked as though it might pay off. The pressing was back, the aggression was back, and the chances appeared to be on their way. More was requested, and more was delivered.
At least until Raheem Sterling failed to beat David De Gea at point-blank range after being played in by Adam Lallana. Less than a minute later, Liverpool were down a goal, with Antonio Valencia's low cross converted from the edge of the penalty area by Wayne Rooney past a hapless Brad Jones. Promise followed by disappointment, and Liverpool's season to date summed up perfectly.
They'd concede two more on the day, the first incorrectly allowed when Juan Mata was clearly offside from Robin van Persie's flicked header, the second a defensive calamity that gifted van Persie a wide-open net to pass into. In between Liverpool created and fluffed a handful of chances, which they'd continue to do even after United's scoring stopped. David de Gea was superb for the hosts, saving three times from Balotelli and recovering to stifle Sterling once more after he looked well beaten on the breakaway.
For all the ideas, changes, and, strange as it might sound, relative improvements on the day, Liverpool's ability to disappoint was far too familiar. The inability to convert clear chances and defensive mistakes have haunted Rodgers' side all season, and today was as good an example as any of the deficiencies that have cost Liverpool so dearly.
They've also been haunted by the decisions Rodgers has made at times, and today a few more items were added to a list that's been growing in recent weeks. Bringing in Brad Jones for Simon Mignolet today, of all the days to do it, has to have shattered any confidence left in the Belgian's psyche. Sticking with Dejan Lovren with a fit Kolo Toure and Mamadou Sakho, even if the latter's lacking match fitness. Reverting to Steven Gerrard in a holding role after Lucas had been one of the key components in their recent defensive solidity. Not using Emre Can since his impressive showing against Chelsea. Taking off Adam Lallana. Running Raheem Sterling ragged after preaching about the need to protect him. Leaving Fabio Borini out of the side when Rickie Lambert was the only healthy striker.
Some of it makes sense, a hell of a lot it looks like it never will. And at this point, Rodgers might not be around long enough to sort it all out, as his confused decision-making and the form of his struggling squad have painted him into a corner. His position is now very much in jeopardy, and he's got two fixtures on the immediate horizon that could see Liverpool end the week losing three on the spin.
Out of contention for the top four, eliminated from the Champions League, and out of the League Cup by Christmas would paint an awfully grim picture no matter the credit last season afforded Brendan Rodgers.