• This game has always been billed as the biggest game in England in most past to their history as two of England’s biggest clubs, despite the fact that both clubs have not put in a strong challenge for the title in years. However, this fixture has produced very little sparks in their recent meetings. In fact the last four games between both clubs have been of non-event – they were all draws. But with both clubs vying for the position of ‘best of the rest’ behind the pace setters – Manchester City. This one meant a little more. Liverpool have improved under Kloop and look like the real deal. Manchester United have faced criticisms for not being Barcelona despite being two points ahead of their rivals. A draw wouldn’t be an acceptable outcome for both clubs

 

  • Mourinho – as always – wasn’t drawn into the occasion as he called dismissed this game as any other ‘big game’. He’s not one to be dragged into a football circus. Kloop on the other hand – a passionate, emotion on the sleeve man – was glad to see the game as one of England’s grandest as the media desperately want it to be. The narrative of Man United vs Liverpool being the biggest in England is just tiring and strictly not true. There may be history between both clubs but recent success have been far from both.

 

  • Manchester United started furiously and with purpose, quite unlike the reverse fixture at Anfield. At Anfield, Manchester United were uncharacteristically negative. The surprise then was, though Mourinho have always been cautious in the big games, United were in a great run of form, scoring goals for fun. So the unambitious approach was unwelcome to both sets of fans and the neutral. It attracted, perhaps, over-the-board scathing criticisms from the media. Now this was a chance to prove, Man United can stifling without looking like conquered foes.

 

  • The first half ended with Liverpool having more shots than Man United but if stats can be misleading, it was certainly the case here. Manchester United went with the long ball tactics. First, David de Gea firing a ball unto Lukaku’s head who had the presence of mind to spot the lurking Rashford with a deft header. The youngster – who have had scant start since the arrival of Sanchez – sprung into action and turned Alexandre-Arnold inside out before firing past Karius in goal. Four minutes later, same route, same outcome. Lukaku won a header from a de Gea punt and then threaded through for Sanchez whose effort to strike at goal came off Virgil Van Dryk for a simple finish for Rashford. Suddenly Old trafford became an arena of boisterous noise. Manchester United had landed a sucker punch. Liverpool never recovered.

 

  • The best part of Manchester United’s work in the first half was stifling the notorious front three who have contributed 68 goals between them this season. Firmino cut a frustrated figure. He dropped deep searching for the ball and failing repeatedly to link up well with his comrades. Salah – the ever busy winger – was anonymous. Mane forced the issue, constantly preferring to go infield in search of the other members of the three Musketeers. It played well into Man United game plan as they congested the middle, denying Liverpool space to operate. It was a simple tactic which was going according to plan. Liverpool didn’t look anything like the team that murdered Man City at Anfield. They were reduced to a caricature of the fearsome team they are.

 

  • Kloop chose to start Alex- Arnold in the right back spot. How he must have rued that decision. The rightback is a willing option in attack. Quick and forward thinking, he, perhaps, was a no brainer as the option in the rightback position as they expected to meet a Man United content to sit back and invite pressure. What Kloop didn’t legislate for was the sort of start Man United made. He was turned far too easily for the first goal and didn’t track Rashford for the second. He’ll have better days but today was a bad day in the office.’

 

  • Rashford’s two goals will, be an indictment of Alexis Sanchez indifferent form since joining Man United. The young Englishman has’t scored since December but trusted with a start in a crunch game was all he needed for him to produce a man of the match display at Old Trafford. Alexis Sanchez look tired and out of tune with his teammates. It many be time to rest the Chilean foe his and United’s good.

 

  • If the second half was Man United’s, Liverpool worked hard to change their fortunes in the second half. They seize possession and tried to force the issue. This meant United dropped deeper and deeper, unable to get out of their half. It wasn’t a surprise the goal came. The route was unexpected but no was was unprepared.

 

  • Mane found no joy in his surges in the middle of play but when he did a winger’s job and got on the byline and crossed hard, the result was positive. Eric Baily is probably Man United’s best Center-half but he couldn’t work his feet well enough to steer the ball away from danger. It is a pity Mane didn’t continue to do that throughout the game. The two wide forwards continue to try to cut inside unto their stronger foot and were predictably halted time and time again. Why didn’t Mane and Salah switch flanks and use their pace and trickery to wipe in balls rather than try to fashion goal scoring opportunity for themselves? The unanswered question bit Liverpool in the arse.

 

  • Manchester United – and Mourinho – will have to give special praise to their full backs for their work in stopping the most prolific wide forwards in the premier league. Valencia and  Young were vital in quenching whatever fires Salah and Mane tried to start. That they are both on the wrong side of 30 is not to be scoffed at. The likes of Robertson and Arnold couldn’t get into dangerous areas to help with searching balls into United’s area. Both fullbacks played a good game and deserve a warm pat on their backs.

 

  • Two games against a top six opposition in a row and 6 points to show for their work. Against Chelsea, United weren’t spectacular but they go the job done after a strong Chelsea spell in the first half. They recovered to win the game. The game management by Mourinho has to be appaluded. The ‘negativ, dour football’ criticisms are at their loudest when you lose games. They, however, perter out when big games like these are won. Some may have issue with the way United used the long ball tactic but Mourinho wouldn’t care. They are now five points ahead of Liverpool and in a strong position to finish second. Not bad.

 

  • What next for Liverpool? They will certainly finish in the top four but second seems like a distant reality now. They had a chance to do one over their arch rivals and show the progress they have made under Kloop under the watchful gaze of their eternal enemies. It has slipped now and they will turn their attention to the Champions League. They are into the next stage of the Champions League and it will be interesting to see how Kloop manages his players and the games at this latter part of the season.

 

Michael Okoye
Blogger/Football Analyst at Sportskick
Michael Okoye is an ardent football fan as well as a writer. He lives somewhere in West Africa with Lions and Leopards for company. He takes interest in football and detests mediocrity in sports writing. He has a massive man crush on Juan Mata. A Chelsea fan and a great lover of wits and sarcasm.
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