An early brace from Marcus Rashford was enough to secure the three points, and Eric Bailly’s own goal will be the sole negative in an otherwise brilliant display.
Tactical brilliance from Jose Mourinho was followed by an ace display by his lads, and by the time the Merseyside team was able to show any real danger in the game, the damage was long done, and their desperate corners in the dying minutes were an apt summary of the early fixture.
Let’s have a look at how the Red Devils managed this feat.
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1. De Gea and Rashford- An Unlikely Partnership
Simply put, the two goals were a simple over-the-field effort between De Gea and Rashford, and that is precisely why Liverpool will be kicking themselves in the head.
The opener caught an otherwise in-control side with surprise. De Gea, with a long pass from his goal, was able to set the course quite well, as all it took was a timed flick from Romelu Lukaku’s head to ensure the ball fell to Rashford’s feet. From there, the youngster showed a masterclass in scoring, as he was able to reverse direction with a phenomenal touch before driving the goal home.
To prove that the swift build-up wasn’t a chance encounter, De Gea was back at it again a mere 10 minutes later. This time around, the basic long kick found Juan Mata, whose deflected shot yet again fell at the feet of Rashford, who once more made no mistake in seeing the goal through, albeit with a tiny nudge from Alexander-Arnold.
All in all, it was Rashford’s night with 100% chance conversion into the goal off his two shots, but what is more incredible is the manner in which De Gea was able to surpass Liverpool’s pressing, and that dictated the goals of the game.
2. Young and Vital
Ashley Young was a sight to be relished during the game, and the veteran Englishman yet again proved his versatility. Looking almost perfectly at ease in the defensive position, the 32-year-old made quite a many attempts at ensuring Liverpool remained toothless, particularly in the first half, where he put in his entire body to ensure Sadio Mane was unable to translate an otherwise perfect ball from an incoming corner into a goal.
But his biggest contribution to the game arrived in his containment of Mohamed Salah. Expected to be United’s biggest headache during the fixture, Salah was unable to manage anything more than a single shot, that too being off-target. This, from a player that has found the back of the net 24 times this season in the Premier League alone, Young’s back pocket better have been comfortable.
While it was expected that the Egyptian would be heavily marked during the game, it was thought that Scott McTominay would be the one doing it, akin to how he handled Eden Hazard during the recent Chelsea game. But in Young, Salah encountered a persistent worry. With an incredible stat of 100% tackles won, Young was the life of a United side that might have otherwise been schooled by Liverpool.
3. Mourinho Is A Genius
Enough isn’t said about the tactical prowess of gaffers, and Mourinho is the man to trump it all. Going into the game as underdogs and with the unexpected absence of Paul Pogba, the Portuguese boss had to have known that the game would be won only through raw effort. The last-minute reshuffling of the midfield might have turned a few plans sour, particularly the effectiveness of Sanchez in the number 10 role without a proper conduit.
Regardless, Mourinho decided to hit Liverpool where it hurts the most, and capitalized on one of their few daunting flaws under Jurgen Klopp – their inability to unlock a deep defense. Ever a genius in that region, Mourinho did precisely that, and the result was that an offensive Liverpool, while managing 14 shots, saw only 2 fall on target and 7 remained blocked.
Their plight was painfully obvious in the fact that they won a whopping 13 corners to United’s 1, all in vain. Such was the success of this technique that Liverpool’s only goal arrived through an unfortunate touch by Bailly that wasn’t contained well by De Gea.
What will sting more is that having Philippe Coutinho in this situation could have been the perfect solution due to his abilities, and United could have been in a whole lot of trouble. Will future opponents seek to exploit this flaw as well?