How it felt to commentate on 'Juanfield' in 2015

Sunday 22 March 2020 07:00

Anfield is the hardest place for United to go in the Premier League.

The hostility, the intensity, the pure venom – there’s nothing like it. And yet, United’s record at Anfield is more than decent – 12 wins in 28 Premier League visits. 

There have been some incredibly memorable wins:  John O’Shea’s smash and grab, Diego Forlan’s double, Wayne Rooney scoring in front of the Kop, Gary Pallister’s headed brace and the day Jamie Carragher scored two own goals!  

But how many times can you honestly say that United went to L4 and totally outplayed their hosts? It happened on March 22nd 2015 – when Anfield, in our eyes, became ‘Juanfield’.

For me, it was United’s best Premier League performance at Anfield. 
United Hangout: Mata x Grant x Fletcher x Brown Video

United Hangout: Mata x Grant x Fletcher x Brown

Hang out with Mata and Grant, plus legends Fletcher and Brown, before our stream of 'Juanfield' at 16:00 GMT...

Liverpool always come flying out of the traps when United are in town. Not this time – they simply couldn’t live with United’s tempo and intensity. 

The brilliance of Juan Mata’s second goal means no-one tends to mention his first – but it was fantastic. A wonderfully weighted through-ball from Ander Herrera and a composed finish from his Spanish compatriot in front of The Kop. It was as though everything that manager Louis van Gaal had been meticulously coaching over the previous eight months had come together at the perfect time.

Before the main stand at Anfield was redeveloped, the commentary position was in rather a daunting position! It was in an overspill row behind the press box with Liverpool fans right behind you. I was commentating with Paddy Crerand, who used to dread being in such an exposed place – let’s just say that plenty of banter was sent our way over the years sitting there! 

But on that afternoon at half time, the fans behind us were full of praise for United but also really angry about the poverty of the Liverpool display. There would surely be a response from Liverpool in the second half – there was, but not what they were hoping for!
Enter Steven Gerrard. He came on as a half-time substitute and went off again 38 seconds later! The man who’d so often been United’s nemesis saw red for an awful challenge on Herrera. 

Another substitute had a rather more positive impact – Angel Di Maria. One of the Argentinian’s last acts in a United shirt was to lift a clever ball into the area for Mata to deposit a brilliant low finish past Simon Mignolet with an acrobatic scissor kick. 

I described it as “one of the great United goals at Anfield”. 

“It couldn’t happen to a nicer fella”, said Paddy.
Watch Juan Mata's famous goals against Liverpool at Anfield in 2015.

Mata has won three major trophies at Old Trafford and scored in the FA Cup final, and yet it’s this goal that will always define his United career.

There was still more than half an hour to go – could United go on and make it embarrassing for Liverpool?  Well, there’s a reason why United haven’t won by more than a single goal at Anfield since 1997. Liverpool’s pride kicked in and Daniel Sturridge got them back into the game after 69 minutes. 

Suddenly, we were shifting uneasily in our seats; 2-1 just didn’t reflect United’s superiority. 

Late on, there was the perfect chance to put a more realistic gloss on the score-line. United were awarded a penalty for a foul on Daley Blind – but Wayne Rooney was denied by Mignolet. 

The final whistle brought an end to any lingering anxiety and the United fans in the Anfield Road End could begin the celebrations and what raucous and extended celebrations they were!

I rushed down to the tunnel to carry out post-match interviews. We set up in a cramped enclave just off the main corridor. Louis was beaming with pride at the performance of his side and Mata elated. 

This was the day when it all came together for van Gaal’s United – a golden period with big wins over City and Spurs and, ultimately, a top-four finish.  

I’ve seen United play at Anfield 24 times – and I’ve never seen them play as well as on that Spring afternoon in 2015.

Watch United's 4-0 win over Liverpool at Anfield in 2015 via our stream, in full and for free, from 16:00 GMT as part of our 'Match Rewind' campaign.