Manchester United 2-1 Liverpool: Full match report as Lisandro Martinez & Jadon Sancho impress
Manchester United got the better of Liverpool in the Premier League for the first time since March 2018 to finally kick start Erik ten Hag’s reign at Old Trafford.
To the surprise of many, no less United supporters, Erik ten Hag’s side came out looking like a completely different team. United finally got the better of their arch-rivals - for the first time for four years in the league - to leave them winless in 16th. Fight. Energy. Passion. Words that you wouldn’t associate with United in recent years, they showed in troves tonight.
A lot has happened since that embarrassing defeat to Brentford. Casemiro has switched Madrid for Manchester in a move that could be worth up to £70m amidst links with countless other players. Protests from fans have been cranked up a notch but most importantly, a potential buyer has emerged in the shape of Sir Jim Ratcliffe.
Manchester United V’s Liverpool is the game that every fan looks for when the fixtures come out but tonight it almost felt like a sideshow. The real story is Manchester United V’s The Glazers. Fans continued to protest inside and outside the ground. Thousands marched to Old Trafford and congregated around the Trinity Statue ahead of the game - some stayed there instead of taking their seats.
Murmurings of a potential sale continue although the noise coming from the Glazers’ side suggest they’re prepared to sit tight and attempt to ride the storm. Supporters are doing everything they can to change their mind. United had a huge victory on the pitch and there was a small victory off it in the push for change too. If they weren't aware already, the Glazers now know that the supporters won’t be going anywhere any time soon. No amount of signings will change the unrest among the fanbase. Tonight’s protest could signal the start of what many will hope to be a new era for the club.
On the pitch, the big news in the lead up to kick-off was both Cristiano Ronaldo and Harry Maguire losing their places in the starting eleven. When asked why Maguire had been dropped, Erik ten Hag said “Varane is a very experienced player, won everything and will bring the communication in the back four. We want mobility and agility in the back four.”.
Erik ten Hag favoured a partnership of Raphael Varane and Lisandro Martinez and gave Anthony Elanga and Tyrrell Malacia first starts of the season. United’s new look attack didn’t include Ronaldo with Ten Hag hinting that the players he chose would bring more energy. When asked in his pre-match interview he said “We know Liverpool are a really good team and you need to press them. You have to do that out of a block and need energy, that is why we went with Rashford, Sancho and Elanga.”
Scott McTominay was another to regain his place back in the team in hope of adding some extra industry in the middle of the park alongside Christian Eriksen and Bruno Fernandes.
Liverpool and Manchester United had both struggled in their opening two fixtures adding extra importance to tonight’s game but also extra uncertainty in both camps.
Many wondered if Erik ten Hag would change his approach after the 4-0 loss against Brentford but it was clear early on that he was sticking to the same system - the only real difference being De Gea looking long to bypass Liverpool’s press. United showed more urgency than they had at any point in the previous two games right from the start. Bruno Fernandes played a neat ball into Rashford just three minutes in and it looked for all the world that Rashford would have a one-on-one situation with Allison but Van Dijk recovered well. Moments later Rashford looked to have breached the Liverpool backline again but an Alexander-Arnold foul would put a stop to that, the former fortunate to escape a booking. United’s electric start showed no signs of stopping. McTominay found Bruno with a brilliant pass, Bruno won his 50/50 and slid the ball to Elanga who had all the time in the world to pick his spot but his effort rattled the post. The type of chance that would have a certain Portuguese on the bench licking his lips.
Manchester United’s fantastic start would finally pay dividends. An attack that Sancho started with his persistence in winning the ball, he finished it with a goal. A one-two between Elanga and Eriksen got the United attacker in the box who picked Sancho out with a cut-back. United’s no. 25 showed his composure, sat down James Milner and slotted the ball past Allison to give The Reds a deserved lead.
Yet another half-chance came minutes later with Sancho threading Rashford in who ended up losing the ball by the corner flag. After twenty minutes, Liverpool were rocked and their attacking threats had barely had a touch. United started with an intensity that hasn’t been seen at Old Trafford for a long time.
After being lucky not to be booked earlier, Alexander-Arnold was forced to bring down Elanga after a weaving run which saw Michael Oliver brandish the first yellow card of the game. Christian Eriksen went close with the resulting free-kick, forcing a smart save from Allison. United seemed to target Alexander-Arnold as the weak link in Liverpool’s defence whilst Liverpool looked to Diaz to take on Dalot - which proved to be unsuccessful. Diogo Dalot produced one of his best halves in a Manchester United jersey and won every battle, locking down the explosive threat of Luis Diaz. Another battle that manifested was that of Martinez and Milner, with the United centre-back coming out on top, leaving Milner agitated on more than one occasion.
Liverpool almost levelled five minutes before half-time in the most bizarre circumstance. A Liverpool corner dropped to Bruno Fernandes who blasted the ball at his own goal from point blank range and incredibly lucky that Martinez unknowingly stopped it going in.
United took a one goal lead into the break and nobody could have argued if it was two or three.
Anthony Martial came on for Anthony Elanga at the break which saw Rashford move to the left and Martial occupy the central berth where he impressed during United’s pre-season tour.
Liverpool started the second half the better side but United settled into the game and started asking questions of their own. In the 53rd minute, Anthony Martial picked up on a loose ball in the middle of the pitch and set Marcus Rashford on his way behind the Liverpool defence. This time there would be no mistake, Rashford finished emphatically for his first Premier League goal since January and to give United a two goal lead.
Liverpool looked to hit back and almost did instantly if not for great goalkeeping by David De Gea to deny Luis Diaz and keep United’s two goal lead intact.
In a game that was quite literally non-stop, Rashford went close again and would have doubled his own tally if not for a great save low-down from Allison. Fabinho was introduced in place of Henderson around the hour mark as the game was slipping away from Liverpool.
The team who were talking about a quadruple just a few months ago were rattled and on course for three games without a win this season.
With 20 minutes to go and United cruising, fans continued to chant ‘We Want Glazers Out’. A stark reminder that no matter what happens on the pitch, change will always be pursued until there is a change in ownership.
With Fred on for Sancho, United were looking to see the game out. After a good opportunity had been worked into the box, Brunos heavy first touch led to a yellow card for simulation after he went down unchallenged.
United continued to press. First to every ball. This isn’t what supporters are used to seeing but it’s certainly a welcome change. The new boys Lisandro Malacia and Tyrell Malalica set the tone, the former going down with a cramp late on which would be absolutely no surprise to anyone who watched him play tonight. Raphael Varane would suffer a similar fate a little later with both of the centre backs leaving everything on the line.
Liverpool were probing in the final stages and finally made a breakthrough. After two great saves from David De Gea, one which led to the original corner, the ball fell for Mo Salah who headed the ball home on the rebound to give the red half of Merseyside hope.
Liverpool continued to push for the equaliser but United stood firm. Three changes were made in an attempt to see the game out as Ronaldo, van de Beek and Wan-Bissaka entered the frame for Rashford, Eriksen and Dalot. Five added minutes were met by groans around the Theatre of Dreams but a real team effort ensured the three points were secured.
The pitch wasn’t dry, the grass wasn’t long. It wasn’t windy and there were no signs of witches. United fully deserved this win. A first league win over Liverpool since 2018. Erik ten Hag’s first victory as United boss sees The Reds leapfrog Liverpool in the early stages of the Premier League season. In what will be seen by many as United’s best all-round performance for years, Ten Hag will no doubt be encouraged by what he saw tonight.
Raphael Varane, Tyrell Malacia and Lisandro Martinez all but guaranteed their place in the manager’s next starting XI - all three were exceptional in a new-look United defence.
With points finally on the board, Ten Hag’s reds travel to Southampton in the early kick-off on Saturday. United will hope to use this performance as a springboard to push on against Ralph Hasenhüttl’s men and put the memories of Brighton and Brentford firmly in the past.
Manchester United: David De Gea, Diogo Dalot (85 - Dalot), Raphael Varane, Lisandro Martinez, Tyrrell Malacia, Scott McTominay, Bruno Fernandes, Christian Eriksen (85 - van de Beek), Jadon Sancho (70 - Fred), Marcus Rashford (85 - Ronaldo), Anthony Elanga (45 - Martial).
Subs: Tom Heaton, Harry Maguire, Luke Shaw, Aaron Wan-Bissaka (85), Fred (70), Donny van de Beek (85), Alejandro Garnacho, Anthony Martial (45), Cristiano Ronaldo (85)
Liverpool: Allison, Trent Alexander-Arnold, Joe Gomez, Virgil Van Dijk, Andrew Robertson (85 - Tsimikas), Jordan Henderson (59 - Fabinho), James Milner (73 - Carvalho), Harvey Elliott, Mo Salah, Roberto Firmino, Luis Diaz
Subs: Adrian, Harvey Davies, Fabinho (59), Kostas Tsimikas (85), Fabio Carvalho (73), Bobby Clark, Stefan Bajcetic, Nat Phillips, Van den Berg
Featured Image Credit: Manchester United
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