Simplest film from Anthony Martial, and Marcus Rashford was out.
997 minutes have passed since his last goal for Manchester United. January 22 against West Ham. Rashford only had Alisson to beat, but a long run to consider. However, this was a different United and, as a result, a different Rashford too. And so he buried it, as he would have done as a teenager, first breaking into the team under Louis Van Gaal.
When I had the courage of youth and everything seemed possible. Maybe it still is. This could be a game-changing game for the club and their manager Erik ten Hag. The fans were still in rebellion against the owners but, at least on the pitch, there was harmony.
Manchester United stunned Liverpool with a brilliant 2-1 win at Old Trafford, registering their first points of the season.
This was a Manchester United team that worked, and in more ways than one. It certainly worked, fully deserving of their first win of the season, one that leaves Liverpool still searching for theirs. But he tried too. He ran. Excuse the simplification, but it’s true.
Simply running, United were much better than against Brentford. They were also better tactically and technically, of course. But running helps. That’s why it’s a fund requirement.
And of course there were hearts in mouths when Liverpool pulled one back with nine minutes remaining, Luis Diaz’s shot blocked and Mo Salah’s header converted. However, United held on, and on merit, too. Ten Hag finally had a team playing the way he wanted, all with fury and press.
They rocked Liverpool and set the blueprint for the rest of the season. United can’t go back to old ways, that’s what they have to do. They cannot be the only elite team in this league, perhaps in the top leagues in Europe, that does not press and does not take on opponents.
Jadon Sancho kept his cool and found the bottom corner to fire Manchester United ahead in the 16th minute.
Everyone looked better – from Lisandro Martinez at the back, to Rashford up front, taking his tally against Liverpool to five goals in 11 games. No one can accuse him of being a flat track stalker.
There was a smell of cordite in the air and a mood of revolution both inside and outside Old Trafford. Beyond the stadium walls, thousands marched against the Glazer family regime, while inside Erik ten Hag named an XI that signaled a way forward for Manchester United without great pace.
He’s gone, Cristiano Ronaldo. He’s gone, the captain, Harry Maguire. Missing, Luke Shaw and Fred. All relegated to the bench, a reaction to a rather terrifying start to the season, which culminated in a four-goal defeat at Brentford in which the bare minimum of effort was lacking.
This could not have been more different. For the first 45 minutes, Manchester United outplayed, outplayed and largely outplayed Liverpool. They took a one-goal lead at half-time and it was thoroughly deserved. It wasn’t until the final five minutes before half-time that Liverpool came back into the game.
Until then everything was united: United chasing, United tackling. United sink and close and harass Liverpool off the ball. It’s been the best they’ve played, not just this season, but for many months towards the end of last, when they simply seemed to be drifting, unmoored and with no one behind the wheel.
The Red Devils winger’s well-worked debut capped an excellent first-half display from Erik ten Hag’s side
From the moment this game started the change was seen, and felt. The fans were still chanting that they wanted the Glazers out, or worse, but it was hard for them to stay focused on their hatred when, out of nowhere, they had a team again. Last year, United came into this match in equally poor form and were swept away.
They couldn’t even lift their game against their arch rivals. So it was a significant bar raiser. The least you can expect from United is that it rises for the visit of Liverpool, and it did. They broke tackles, pressed from the first man, allowed Jurgen Klopp’s weakened time to have no time on the ball. And it worked. Liverpool shuddered. James Milner looked his age, Jordan Henderson lacked the necessary invention in the heart of midfield, the forwards could barely get a touch.
United? They were better without Ronaldo, better without Maguire. Ten Hag may have been forced into these changes, but having made them, he should be confident in his convictions and not go back. In the seventh minute, Trent Alexander-Arnold made a mistake that let Marcus Rashford in and then pulled him down. It was a sign of things to come, Alexander-Arnold’s defensive limitations always evident against the speed of United’s forwards, particularly Anthony Elanga.
On ten minutes, United should have scored. A fabulous break down the right flank saw Bruno Fernandes slot the ball past Joe Gomez and find Elanga in space on the left. His shot beat Alisson, but not the post, the ball flying out with almost as much speed as it came in. Even so, Liverpool were resonating and minutes later the hosts took the lead.
Marcus Rashford stayed in the game when he broke free from Liverpool’s backline to fire United 2-0 up in the second half.
It was again a beautiful, quick and incisive move, with Christian Eriksen finding Elanga on the left and the youngster cutting the ball to Jadon Sancho in the middle. He had time to switch the ball from one foot to the other as Virgil Van Dijk stood up and Milner came on. Sancho’s touch left Milner chasing the air and Sancho had time to pick his spot. The stadium erupted, as did Milner, who could be seen giving Van Dijk a rare dressing down.
Liverpool had their first attempt on goal in the 18th minute when Luis Diaz played a good one-two with Harvey Elliott before curling a shot wide. However, United held strong. Sancho played in Rashford, whose effort was blocked by Gomez and when Alexander-Arnold was finally booked for a foul on Elanga, Eriksen’s free-kick from a tight angle was denied by Alisson.
At the back, United have also improved a lot, with new signing Lisandro Martínez standing out. He may be small, but he played big here, reading the play well and making huge blocks. One was from Mo Salah in the 40th minute, one of the few times he entered the game. A minute later, from a Liverpool corner, Milner headed goalwards only for Fernandes to perfect his accuracy with an oddly directed clearance attempt. On the line, Martinez was also the same.
Mohamed Salah pulled one back for Liverpool to produce a thrilling finish as Jurgen Klopp’s side looked to salvage defeat.
Relive the full line-up and live coverage of Manchester United’s 2-1 win against Liverpool, provided by Ben Willcocks and Oliver Salt below.
Follow Sportsmail’s live blog for the Premier League clash between Manchester United and Liverpool at Old Trafford, including all the pre-match build-up.
#Manchester #United #Liverpool #Red #Devils #put #fine #display