United players admit to half-time shouting match at Anfield
The importance of Manchester United's victory at Anfield has been underlined by the revelation, from both clubs, that a heated verbal exchange took place in Louis van Gaal's dressing room at half-time of the 1-0 win.
Wayne Rooney's second-half goal secured three points which lifted United back among the Premier League's front-runners although only after the air was cleared by the club's players angry at their own first-half inadequacies.
The Liverpool defender Mamadou Sakho said: "United were lucky and they know it. We could hear them shouting in the dressing room at half-time."
United players themselves confirmed the Frenchman's version of events. "In the first half, we didn't win enough second balls. Sometimes we won the first ball but not the second ball," the United midfielder Morgan Schneiderlin said. "When we came into the dressing room after the first half, there was some screaming and shouting but of course that is normal because in a derby you cannot lose the battle."
Rooney himself made no attempt to disguise the heated nature of the dressing-room discussion, revealing that he took the lead, alongside Van Gaal, in addressing his team's f-ailures. "I think we knew as a group of players and there were a few reminders from myself and the manager that this is Liverpool we're playing and we need to be tackling more, getting to the ball quicker and we did that a bit in the second half," the United captain said.
"But in the first half Liverpool did that quite a lot and made it tough for us. We knew they would tire a bit but we knew we had to be quicker to the ball and if there were tackles there we had to win them. We did it better in the second half and got a chance and took it. I'm happy with the win."
Rooney's winning goal continued his excellent form since the end of last year, taking his tally to five goals in his last four appearances, and is a result of Van Gaal's decision to drop him over Christmas, according to team-mate Chris Smalling.
The turning point appears to have come with Van Gaal's decision to leave Rooney out of his starting line-up for the 2-0 St Stephen's Day defeat at Stoke.
"Yeah, I think so," Smalling said when asked if Rooney's short spell out of the starting line-up had an impact. "And it was a busy Christmas period, but since he has missed that game and come back in he has shown he is a top class performer.
"I think it can refresh you and spur you on a bit more to prove to everyone just how good you are and people don't forget that. I think given his career as a striker you go through periods where you don't score but the best ones are the ones that come back and get on another run and Wazza has shown that throughout his career." (© Daily Telegraph, London)