Manchester United secured a first Premier League win of the Erik ten Hag era with a deserved 2-1 triumph over Liverpool that already raises a few question marks over the Merseysiders’ title credentials this season.
Ten Hag reacted to the 4-0 horror-show at Brentford last week by dropping Cristiano Ronaldo and Harry Maguire, and his starting XI responded with a vibrant performance that was in stark contrast to what they had produced in their opening two defeats of the campaign.
Jadon Sancho capped an exhilarating opening from the hosts with an ice-cool finish on 16 minutes after Anthony Elanga had earlier struck a post.
Liverpool lacked a cutting edge and despite dominating late in the first half and at the start of the second, they were exposed once more on 53 minutes when Marcus Rashford raced clear on the break to slot past Alisson.
The visitors eventually reduced the arrears nine minutes from time courtesy of Mo Salah’s header, but could not rescue a draw.
The result sees United move up to 14th with their first points of the season while Jurgen Klopp’s men drop to 16th, leaving them seven points adrift of leaders Arsenal after just three matches played.
Next up, Liverpool will aim to pick up their first win of the campaign when they host Bournemouth on Saturday while United visit Southampton.
The dark clouds lift from Old Trafford … and head towards Anfield.
It’s been a difficult week for the Manchester United camp. The manner of the defeat at Brentford deservedly led to significant criticism and there were concerns Liverpool could once again hand out a hiding. Instead, Ten Hag made some big calls on his team sheet and despite fan protests against the Glazers, there was a feel-good factor in the air at kick off. The unveiling of new signing Casemiro was followed by a supercharged start that saw Liverpool completely overwhelmed by the type of intense pressing that has been a hallmark of Klopp’s time at the club. The crowd responded and United deservedly hung on to claim a win that does already feel like a significant one for their new manager.
As for Liverpool, it was a first defeat in 22 league matches in 2022 but it does place an alarming exclamation mark on what has been a tough old start to the season. They remain winless after three games played, which is hard to believe given that this is pretty much the same team (minus Sadio Mane) that pushed for an unprecedented quadruple last term.
The defence looks shaky while they are struggling to carve out clear-cut chances in the final third. Salah took his goal in typical predatory style but he was feeding on scraps for much of the contest. It’s early days but they are already seven points off top spot and five adrift of champions Man City. Klopp will demand a response in the coming days and weeks, and you can expect it to come, although the aura they held in the last campaign appears to be fading slightly.
PLAYER OF THE MATCH
Marcus Rashford (Man Utd). The forward showed glimpses of the talent that saw him emerge as one of the best young attackers in the league. He terrorised the visiting defence with his pace on the break and deservedly got on the scoresheet to end a lengthy barren spell. Could he enjoy a resurgence under Ten Hag? It remains to be seen.
MAN UTD: De Gea 7, Dalot 8, Varane 8, Martinez 8, Malacia 8, McTominay 8, Eriksen 8, Fernandes 7, Sancho 8, Elanga 8, Rashford 8. Subs: Martial 8, Fred 6, Ronaldo n/a, Wan-Bissaka n/a, Van De Beek n/a.
LIVERPOOL: Alisson 7, Alexander-Arnold 5, Van Dijk 5, Gomez 5, Robertson 6, Elliott 6, Milner 6, Henderson 5, Salah 6, Diaz 6, Firmino 5. Subs: Fabinho 6, Carvalho 6, Tsimikas n/a.
10’ – MAN UNITED CHANCE! McTominay and Fernandes combine to free Elanga on Alisson but the United man’s low 18-yard strike cannons back off the far post. Huge let off for Klopp’s men.
16’ – GOAL! – Man United 1-0 Liverpool. Sancho shows brilliant composure to sit-down Milner with a lovely dummy before rolling the ball into the corner after a slick move down the left opened up the visitors.
41’ – LIVERPOOL CHANCE! Martinez stops Fernandes’ scoring a bizarre own goal with a block on the line after Milner had nodded a right-wing corner into the six-yard box.
53’ – GOAL! – Man United 2-0 Liverpool. The hosts break at pace and Rashford charges clear on to Martial’s pass before coolly beating Alisson at the near post.
56’ – MAN UNITED CHANCE! Alisson springs to his left to push away Rashford’s low shot after Varane had caused chaos in that shaky Liverpool rearguard.
77’ – MAN UNITED CHANCE! Rashford darts in from the left and flashes a venomous strike just over the bar.
81’ – GOAL! – Man United 2-1 Liverpool. Salah nods in the rebound after de Gea had kept out Carvalho’s low strike. Suddenly the visitors have a lifeline!