Yesterday was possibly the worst day as a United supporter that I have endured for a long time. Dirk Kuyt scored what is likely the easiest hat-trick he will ever get as United's defence fell over themselves to gift 3 points to their bitterest rivals. After the manner of their midweek defeat against Chelsea they needed to shake off the cobwebs and get back to winning ways and unfortunately failed to do either. Missing both 1st choice centre-backs Ferguson selected an attacking line-up hoping to extend their lead at the top of the table after Arsenal had been held by Sunderland but it was not to be. Liverpool were full of industry, pressing and harrying their opponents all over the pitch forcing 2 defensive errors out of their opponents back four. Luis Suarez showed the skills that convinced Liverpool to pay over £20M for his services and that Andy Carroll is grossly over-priced at £35M. In fact after an hour we were left wondering whether he was actually needed as the shadow of Fernando Torres was swept away in the run that set up the opening goal. It left people asking why Kuyt has been shunted out to the wing for so long. He was full of hustle and bustle and his fortune was in stark contrast to those of Dimitar Berbatov who hit the post and had a chance cleared off the line by Suarez. Apart from letting Jamie Carragher and Rafael stay on the pitch after a couple of shocking challenges there was not much controversy for Phil Dowd to deal with.
There will be an inquest into what went wrong for United and people will point to probably 3 areas.
Formation, Midfield and Personnel.
It is unusual to criticise a manager for setting out his stall and going for the jugular and if United had won I wouldn't be but given that Wes Brown and Chris Smalling are not 1st choice for United a 4-5-1 may have been better utilised to stifle Liverpool and then switch to 4-4-2 later in the game to take advantage of that.
This game was one that really needed Darren Fletcher rather than Carrick in Midfield and the Scots' presence on the bench as Carrick and Scholes were overrun underlined how much they are missing Owen Hargreaves and Anderson. The midfield did not perform and when Nani went off they had to move Rooney to the left as Valencia is still unavailable through injury. The United engine room needs an overhaul in the summer before it conks out.
This brings us to personnel and there will need to a be a lot of changes in the summer. Van Der Sar will likely be followed into retirement by Paul Scholes, Owen Hargreaves and Michael Owen as the persistent injury problems to the two Owens may mean they have to call it a day and Scholes will probably recognise as did Gary Neville that he is starting to decline.
Also needing to be cleared out are Kusczak, Wes Brown, Jonny Evans, Michael Carrick, Darron Gibson, Federico Macheda and Gabriel Obertan and replaced by higher quality players. Danny Welbeck may provide some striking options when he returns from Sunderland but the following signings would help United dominate the Premier League further: -
Manuel Neuer, Brede Hangeland, Lassana Diarra, Romelo Lukaku and Bastian Schweinsteiger would be good replacements for them and wouldn't cost a fortune although a winger to replace Ryan Giggs has to be high on the agenda with Gareth Bale a natural target along with Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.
High-profile signings like Kaka, Ribery or Benzema would certainly be interesting and welcome but are not very likely.
United will probably still win the title despite this result, especially if they overcome Arsenal and Chelsea in their upcoming matches, but if they want to stay at the top the Glazers are going to have to spend big in the summer.