|Image from Daily Express|
Another defeat on the road for Manchester United and another win for Liverpool in this relentless, magnificent season for the Reds as a tight and dramatic 2-0 win for Jurgen Klopp’s side saw them stretch their gap to 16 points ahead of Manchester City with a game in hand to West Ham. While on paper it looks like a bad result for Manchester United, there are a few positives to come from this game as United looked dangerous and looked like equalising all second half but the lack of quality in the final third has let them down again. Here’s how it went down:
Liverpool kept an unchanged lineup from the side that edged Tottenham with Fabinho and Matip back on the bench and would hope their front three could end the hoodoo against United scoring only twice against the Red Devils between the three of them since 2016.
Manchester United were without Marcus Rashford for this game and adopted a back five with Luke Shaw returning to the side as a left centre-back with Williams and Wan-Bissaka operating as the wing backs. Pereira replaced Juan Mata who had played 180 minutes of football in a matter of days and Daniel James and Anthony Martial operated as a wide front two.
Alisson, Alexander-Arnold, Gomez, Van Dijk, Robertson, Henderson (c), Wijnaldum, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Salah, Mane, Firmino
De Gea, Wan-Bissaka, Lindelof, Maguire (c), Shaw, Williams, Matic, Fred, Pereira, James, Martial
Manchester United started the game brightly, controlling possession quite well and almost opened the scoring with James played through and had a clear chance to tee Martial up for the opener but the cross was poor. United failed to make it count and were punished yet again from a set-piece and the zonal marking is just not working. Williams gets mismatched against Virgil van Dijk and Harry Maguire could not react in time as the Dutch skipper blasted his header past a helpless De Gea. Liverpool then were rampant and cut through the United midfield with ease and could have scored even more goals; De Gea spilled the ball after competing with Van Dijk and after Lindelof cleared the ball poorly, Firmino whipped a shot past the Spaniard, believing to have doubled the lead. United were fuming and surrounded Craig Pawson and VAR reportedly could not believe that Pawson did not judge it as a foul and overruled him. Wijnaldum had a goal turned offside from the narrowest of margins and both Mane and Firmino missing good chances. United smelled blood and tried to create chances with Martial and Pereira coming close and making opportunities to equalise before the break.
The second half started with a flurry of Liverpool chances with seven attempts in the first ten minutes and David de Gea needing to make some sharp stops as well as Luke Shaw making some excellent blocks and tackles. United then continued to boss the second half, having the lion’s share of the possession and creating some good chances with Fred having a few pops at goal and Martial coming the closest after getting into the six yard box but his shot was poor. United searched for the equaliser all half and despite making changes with Williams and Pereira coming off for Mata and Greenwood as well as a cramping Luke Shaw for Diogo Dalot, United failed to make their chances count and despite giving an admirable performance in the second half, Salah caught them on the break and despite James’ efforts, Salah finished past De Gea and sealed the game.
A disappointing result for Manchester United as their corners let them down again and they were sliced apart at times but had some great patches in the game that is a confidence inspiring to a degree. The fact that Manchester United remain 5th after this game is a relief but at the same time means that there is a lot of work to do to get into the top four.
Here are the ratings:
David de Gea 6.5/10
I am not sure whether I am being harsh but I think he should reposition quicker to stop the Salah goal and he was let off against Van Dijk by VAR as it could have gone either way. Made some magnificent saves but his performance was tarnished by these moments.
Aaron Wan-Bissaka 3/10
He looked so tired. The energetic way he plays and the way he puts his body on the line, 360 minutes in 12 days is harsh on a body and the fact he has been constantly overrun by Robertson and Mane did not help. Did try and create chances wide and should have got an assist had Pereira not missed it.
Victor Lindelof 5/10
Lucky not to have let Liverpool score from the De Gea drop and would have been equally liable for that goal. Shaky at times but did alright on the ball.
Harry Maguire 4/10
I feel he should have been more commanding in the box and for the goal, he should take responsibility for that ball and clear it. He may have been caught off guard by Brandon Williams’ inability to stop Van Dijk but realistically, he shouldn’t have.
Luke Shaw 6.5/10
Actually played well as a centre back and made some strong runs to push United forward. Handled Salah pretty well for most the game and may have a role there when needed. Not enough to displace Williams at left back yet.
Brandon Williams 6/10
Handled Alexander-Arnold fairly well and made some meaty challenges. The problem for Williams is in two parts. He should try and compete with Van Dijk and take responsibility regardless of who else is there be it Maguire or Daniel James, he had a job to do. I don’t like the zonal marking United are doing and it isn’t working.
Nemanja Matic 6/10
Got booked very early on for a little foul and kept the tempo going and was very solid in midfield. Played very well but cannot say he gets above a six as he was overrun for big parts of the game.
The best player for Manchester United and has been outstanding for some time. Played forward balls, made driving runs and won the ball a few times. Shame there was no solid number ten to compliment him but an impressive performance.
Andreas Pereira 4/10
Energy in midfield was not needed for a lot of the game and quality instead was necessary and he failed to deliver. He had a few chances to make goals or score but has not got the quality to finish them off. A good squad player but should not be starting and Fernandes cannot come sooner.
Daniel James 4/10
Mixed bag but overall a poor game for James. Could have set up an opener but the cross was poor. He was never supposed to be the one to change a game like Salah or Mane does for Liverpool. He was supposed to develop and be an impact player off the bench in his debut season but he has been forced into this role due to a lack of depth and quality in that role. He needs to bounce back with a goal or assist soon.
Anthony Martial 6/10
Only a six as he was excellent at times and played well with some link up and as a target man at times but missed such a good chance. That was the moment for him to score and be a hero but he failed to make it count.
Mason Greenwood 5/10
Decent link up but missed a good opportunity to score as he’s missed a good header.
Juan Mata 5/10
Some good passes but not made the impact he did over the last few games. He probably should have started or even come on at half time.
Diogo Dalot 5/10
Did not achieve much other than winning a few corners but probably because he was on the left so not too fussed by his performance.
Cannot fault the tactics of the game as a whole but he needs to scrap this zonal marking as it is causing more problems than it solves. Had to compress the team as they were being cut up and it solidified them and allowed United to press. Subs achieved very little but was better than what was happening so a bonus there. Rashford out is a massive loss and so Ole needs to get someone in for a short period while this back injury persists.
REFEREE: Craig Pawson 3/10
I think this referee is spineless and cannot control games. I remember him refereeing the United vs Villa game and thinking how scared he looked when awarding fouls and players disagreeing. David de Gea and the rest of the United players surrounded him and were fuming at the call for the Firmino ‘goal’ and made numerous errors in the game after this moment. Not the right quality of referee for the Premier League and the fact he is yet to referee a Champions League match (non-qualifying) says it all.