United had pretty much sown up their season by Sunday. Unfortunately, the last two results are symptomatic of that. A defeat to our closest rival will sour the mood already turning bad due to the fan protest against the Glazers. An initial flurry in the first 15 minutes resulted in Bruno scoring, via a deflection from Phillips. For the next 45 minutes however, Liverpool dominated the game in and out of possession. Two set pieces, a corner and indirect free kick, put in by Diogo Jota and Roberto Firmino confirmed their superiority in the game. Second half started much like the first as a succession of mistakes saw Firmino add to his earlier effort. The sub of Greenwood for the terrible Fred changed the flow of the game. Pogba came back into the middle and it was his pass out to Shaw, a pass Fred had repeatedly failed in the second half, that opened up the game. The ball rolled under Bruno’s foot but to our advantage as Rashford was put through as he put into the bottom corner, off the post. United continued to push but as we flooded forward, lost possession by Matic meant that once Salah was put through, it was inevitable that he would put it into the back of the net. A first home defeat against the red side of Merseyside in 7 years. No matter the situation, it is one that will hurt the Red Devils supporters
Right Track, Wrong Train
When asked post the Leicester defeat, Ole said that in order to catch Man City, they would have to be investment into the playing personnel. The season has been an unexpectedly good one, with United seemingly secured second and within one game of securing their first trophy under Solskjaer’s tenure and there has been a tendency to rest on their laurels when United have managed to secure the Champions League places, last summer being the most recent example. If words weren’t enough, maybe Tuesday and tonight will be welcome reminders as to why the egos shouldn’t be inflated to such an extent that they make that same mistake again.
United started the game well but what preceded afterwards was the greatest hits of all of United’s woes: crippling lack of technical security under pressure, namely from Fred and McTominay,; inability to defend from set pieces, Henderson and Pogba the criminals on this occasion; complacency in playing out the back, Fred again the culprit. All this against the backdrop of losing the captain, Maguire, United looked a far cry of the second best team in the country on tonight’s viewing. Once Liverpool had realised that United are incapable of dealing with any pressure with their first and second phase build up, the intensity kicked into gear and they didn’t let up. The third goal came as a result of that – one of Fred’s usual haphazard passes went astray only to be recovered by Shaw who would do the same. Henderson covered himself in absolute shame with a horrendous parry to which Firmino would stick home. Consistency is important in a back four is important and because Bailly, who actually done well in the sea of madness that surrounded him, cannot play as a left centre back, it means Lindelof shuffles across. Partnerships are all important and Lindelof & Shaw looked like two strangers and if Salah was on it more, he would have done a lot more damage. As it were, Trent Alexander Arnold, afford by the positioning of the false wing position that Pogba takes up, was all the happier to take advantage of the mismanagement in that left hand channel. It circles back to what Ole said in needing investment. United have a central midfield that cannot protect, create, without Pogba in it, or control and should surely be the most pressing area.
Keeping Men On Their Toes
Tuesday was the first time that Henderson had not started a Premier League since Chelsea away. He came back in and initially, showed why he had taken the starting spot off De Gea, coming out to meet Jota proactively in a way the Spaniard is unlikely to do. Unfortunately, you saw today something that has plagued his game in his development up until this point. In wanting to show his ability to come off his line, he went in to punch a ball away from a corner. Unfortunately, it was taking it off McTominay’s head, who had a pretty simple clearance, and it went straight to a Liverpool player. What happened afterwards led to Jota flicking it in. The third, as aforementioned, was a pathetic parry into space. The over eagerness and the complacency has always been a problem for ex-Sheffield United loanee but are things to work on. It may be harsh but the fourth was poor in the sense he showed Salah into the corner he wanted to go and neither controlled the situation by staying closer to his line or closing him down in order to make him rush the shot. As much as De Gea has declined, those situations are ones he is usually good at navigating. He may be young but time waits for no one and the pressure will only crank up once the fans are back in the stadiums.