• Saturday, May 25, 2024
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How Manchester United beat Liverpool: Decisive Ten Hag, De Gea goes long, Klopp’s midfield struggles

How Manchester United beat Liverpool: Decisive Ten Hag, De Gea goes long, Klopp’s midfield struggles

Manchester United secured a deserved 2-1 win against Liverpool in the Premier League at Old Trafford last night after Erik ten Hag took the brave decision to drop Cristiano Ronaldo and club captain Harry Maguire from his starting line-up.

Jadon Sancho and Marcus Rashford were on the score sheet for United, who had started the season with consecutive defeats to Brighton and Brentford.

Liverpool, meanwhile, are without a win in their opening three games following draws against Fulham and Crystal Palace, and have now conceded the first goal in their past seven Premier League matches.

Mohamed Salah made it 2-1 with 10 minutes to play, but it was too little too late for Jurgen Klopp’s side.

Here are the key talking points

Ten Hag gets his United line-up spot on

“We know Liverpool are a really good team and you need to press them,” said United’s manager Ten Hag before kick-off. “You have to do that out of a block and need energy, that is why we went with Rashford, Sancho, (Anthony) Elanga.”

United came flying out of the traps in the opening 15 minutes, playing in a manner not too dissimilar to United’s Project Restart performances from 2019-20.

Ten Hag’s front three were quick to run in behind when on the attacking transition, looking to exploit weaknesses in a Fabinho-less Liverpool midfield.

In defence, Raphael Varane and Lisandro Martinez kept things simple, defending close to the penalty area and being aggressive in their one-v-one duels. Martinez especially looked encouraged by the solidity offered by his centre-back partner and the left-back Tyrell Malacia.

That Ten Hag opted for Anthony Martial rather than the 37-year-old Ronaldo at half-time reinforced the issue. There might still be a time and a place for Ronaldo to lead the line for United, but this was not it.

This was a brave, direct TEAM performance from Ten Hag’s side.

What’s happened to Klopp’s midfield?

It was a big call for Klopp to leave out Fabinho from his starting XI. It quickly became apparent it was a bad decision, but Liverpool’s midfield problems go deeper than that.

Jordan Henderson, James Milner and Harvey Eillott were lethargic and completely overrun.

No aggression, no physicality: they lacked creativity with the ball and offered very little protection to those behind them.

It used to be the opposite, a Klopp midfield squeezing the life out of their opponents, offering little encouragement to the opposition and making sure territory was controlled and dominated.

Injuries are not helping, but would it have made a difference? Naby Keita was the latest to add to Thiago, Curtis Jones and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, but these issues have been bubbling.

Klopp can talk about not needing to add a midfielder or it being about the right one, but on the evidence so far this season, they appear to be crying out for one and it needs to be addressed sooner rather than later.

Analysing United’s brilliant opening goal

Plenty of Ten Hag’s pre-season focus had been on possession, passing details and third-man runs.

Despite United primarily exploiting Liverpool through fast breaks, the opening goal looked like one scored by a Ten Hag team – in their opening training session during pre-season, Ten Hag made clear points about wanting full-backs wide and wingers rolled inside.