Without factoring emotion into it, this game did not have that much riding on it for Manchester United. Champions League football was already secured and in fact, so was top 3. However, you can’t have a match against Liverpool and not account for the wide array of emotions involved.
This was the opportunity to teach a lesson to United’s staunchest rivals and further dent their hopes of qualification for the Champions League next season. So, all in all, there was a fair bit to play for.
Manchester United started the game off very well, pressing with high intensity and squeezing Liverpool well. A team that usually is the one pressing maniacally and playing out of the back with ease looked flustered initially. Such was the effectiveness of the United press.
Edinson Cavani had a terrific chance in the 5th minute itself after a poor pass from Alisson to one of Liverpool’s young centre-backs. Unfortunately, the Uruguayan wasn’t able to convert the opportunity to give United an extremely early lead. It was the perfect opportunity to punish Liverpool but alas, it was not capitalized.
However, United did not have to wait too much longer to get on the scoreboard after Bruno Fernandes was able to put an outside of the boot strike on target with LFC’s Nat Phillips deflecting the shot into the back of the net in a scenario when Alisson couldn’t have done much to change the outcome of the sequence. The chance was created as a result of a beautiful pass from Paul Pogba (using his weak foot no less) to Marcus Rashford who slipped it though to an underlapping Aaron Wan-Bissaka who put it through to Bruno Fernandes who did the rest (arguably with some help from LFC’s young centre-half).
Soon after, there were shouts from the Liverpool players for a penalty as Nat Phillips seemed to have been fouled in the box by Eric Bailly. Initially, referee Anthony Taylor awarded Liverpool the penalty however after being advised by the VAR at Stockley Park to take another look using the pitchside monitor, overturned his initial decision after seeing that Bailly had in fact gotten the ball first.
Manchester United’s lead did not last very long however as soon after they conceded a scruffy goal after Nat Phillips took a potshot in the general direction of United’s goal and was fortunate enough for the strike to end up being an excellent assist for Diogo Jota to bring LFC level.
It went from bad to worse after that for United who proceeded to concede a pathetically sloppy goal right before half time after Paul Pogba completely lost Roberto Firmino‘s run who scored a tidy header to put Liverpool ahead prior to the break.
United didn’t have the best of first halves however they had reason to be optimistic for they were renowned to be excellent at coming back from behind in the Premier League this season.
That optimism did not last very long as within 2 minutes of the second half starting, Fred so sloppily handed LFC possession and despite recovering it well, Luke Shaw tried to dribble out with it and ended up giving it right back thus culminating in LFC’s 3rd goal of the evening.
United managed to fight back to some extent, even though in all honesty Liverpool should’ve scored a fourth via Diogo Jota whose shot instead cannoned off the bar. Manchester United scraped a second goal via a tidy left footed finish from Marcus Rashford.
However, that resurgence did not lead to even greater things as Liverpool countered devastatingly in the 90th minute for Mohamed Salah to score LFC’s 4th of the match and effectively concluding the game and handing Liverpool the 3 points.
Rashford did have an opportunity to make the score 3-4 and save United some face however he shot wide with his weaker foot.
All in all, the result is not some massive disaster for Manchester United. We’re still guaranteed top 3 and we still have the Europa League final to prepare for. However, the matter in which the result came about was embarrassing. It looked so casual. The obvious defence would be the fixture congestion, however the entire starting XI bar Eric Bailly did not start against Leicester City a few days back in the previous fixture. Furthermore, LFC were fielding virtually two youngsters at centre-back yet they looked fairly comfortable for the most part and were barely troubled by Edinson Cavani.
Improvements must be made in order to ensure Manchester United close the Premier League season out respectably and finish the season with the Europa League trophy being brought back to Manchester. After that, there’s a mightily busy summer in store for John Murtough and the rest of the recruitment department in order to secure reinforcements that Solskjær and this squad desperately need. The team still lacks a natural right winger and it cannot be stated enough how much the midfield pivot needs improving from Fred and Scott McTominay.
With all the protests, Joel Glazer has finally decided to communicate with the supporters and has paid a fair amount of lip service to changes that will be made and has made the promise of further reinforcements to the playing squad in the summer – words are not sufficient and the transfer business will be heavily scrutinised this summer – Solskjær must be supported if he is to turn this team from “also rans” to serious title competitors.