On a night that was hyped up for the protests against the Glazer’s ownership of the club, Manchester United overcame Liverpool by a 2-1 score line on Monday night in what was Erik Ten Hag’s first Premier League win as United boss.
How did United set up?
Fans and pundits alike knew that big changes had to be made to the team after the humiliation against Brentford last week, and Ten Hag reflected this view by dropping Luke Shaw, Harry Maguire, Fred and Cristiano Ronaldo from the starting side.
This opened up the opportunity for Tyrell Malacia to make his first Premier League start, with Anthony Elanga also given the opportunity to impress from the get-go.
Here were the starting lineup and substitutes…
First half lineup:Embed from Getty Images
Starting XI: David De Gea (GK), Diogo Dalot (RB), Raphael Varane (CB), Lisandro Martinez (CB), Tyrell Malacia (LB), Scott McTominay (CM), Christian Eriksen (CM), Bruno Fernandes (CAM), Jadon Sancho (RW), Anthony Elanga (LW), Marcus Rashford (ST).
Subs: Tom Heaton, Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Harry Maguire, Luke Shaw, Fred, Donny van de Beek, Alejandro Garnacho, Anthony Martial, Cristiano Ronaldo.
How it went down.
The energy from the crowd rubbed off on the players throughout the game, with the Reds looking lively and sharp from the off. Rashford got in behind in the 8th minute and was taken down by Trent Alexander-Arnold, but the following free-kick from Eriksen deflected off the wall and out.
This was followed two minutes later by a golden opportunity for young Elanga. McTominay played a good threaded through ball into Fernandes’ path, and the Portuguese managed to win his duel and poke it square to Elanga, but the 20-year-old struck the outside of the post when one-on-one with Allison Becker.
Although, the Swedish winger made up for his error in the 16th minute with an involvement in the opener. A tidy one-two with Eriksen allowed Elanga some space in the area, and he managed to pick out Sancho in the centre of the box. The Englishman took a touch, composed himself and completely wrong-footed James Milner and Allison before tucking it home.Embed from Getty Images
Alexander-Arnold was booked before the half-hour mark after Elanga made a darting run beyond himself and Joe Gomez on the left flank, yet the following free-kick was unsuccessful. Varane was then booked for a cynical foul on Luis Diaz after McTominay’s heavy touch poised a danger.
With the visitors dominating the ball towards the end of the half, United miraculously avoided conceding when Fernandes ballooned the ball at Martinez on his own goal line, with a huge sigh of belief from every home fan afterwards.
Elanga looked vibrant in the opening half, but Martial came on in his place at the interval. It was not confirmed whether this was down to injury or tactics.
The change did not disrupt the Reds’ flow, however, with Rashford doubling the lead in the 54th minute. Substitute Martial did well to beat his man around the halfway line and thread a ball in behind to Rashford, who had more than enough time to get his angles right and place the ball beyond the Liverpool stopper to score his first Premier League goal since January 1st. It was a vintage Rashford strike.Embed from Getty Images
The 24-year-old nearly had another, minutes later after Varane held the ball up well in the area, but the Englishman’s effort was saved well by the diving goalkeeper.
A sweet moment endured for United fans when Jordan Henderson was replaced and jeered off on the hour mark by Fabinho having been completely anonymous all game. Fred was on for Sancho to add some defensive cover, with Milner off for young Fabio Carvalho.
It was nearly magnificent from Rashford in the 77th minute when he scrapped his way through beyond three defenders on the left wing, but a powerful effort went just over.
United fans’ worst fears came true in the 82nd minute when Mohammed Salah pounced onto a rebound to give Jurgen Klopp’s side hope.
Fresh legs came on in the form of Wan-Bissaka, van de Beek and Ronaldo, and it was enough to see United over the line whilst they had their backs to the wall.
Final score: Manchester United 2-1 Liverpool (Sancho 16’, Rashford 53’) (Salah 81’)
Man of the matchEmbed from Getty Images
The entirety of the defence was tremendous against the Merseyside outfit, so you could take your pick from those players for the man of the match award.
On his first start of the season, Raphael Varane was colossal from the first minute to the last. He was the more senior defender in the side, and his experience showed as he barked orders at his team across the game.
The World Cup and Champions League winner was sharp, alert and wary to any danger thrown at him, and he showed his strength and composure when winning the ball back and playing out.
The only moment of weakness for the Frenchman came when he was booked for blocking off Diaz, but in fairness to the 29-year-old, it was McTominay’s bad touch that put him in that position.
Dalot, Martinez and Malacia were all brilliant, undoubtedly helped by Varane’s leadership. All four should retain their spots in the side for the trip down South at weekend.
The bigger pictureEmbed from Getty Images
It was an absolute stark contrast to what has been shown so far this season from United. It is typical of this set of players in many ways to lose to two mid-table teams and then triumph over Liverpool the week after.
Many fans said before the game that, even if United draw or lose, improvement was needed from the players. Fans wanted to see something that they could invest in, even if the game wasn’t won. Obviously, a win is something many did not expect, so there is a big positive to be taken there.
It appears the ownership are panic-spending, so people should expect to see a couple more new faces arriving at Old Trafford after Casemiro, who was presented to the fans before kick-off today. All of a sudden, you can begin to envisage the spine of a good team, but the proof will be in the pudding.
One thing that is for definite is that the likes of Maguire and Shaw who sat on the bench today should not be coming back into the side. Of course, a team will need tweaking here and there, but the majority of the starting players against Liverpool should retain their places.
It is important to remember, though, that in the midst of cash splurge on players and an emphatic win over our archrivals, fans should not lose sight of the main issue at the club- the Glazer family’s ownership. For the first time during their tenure, there is a credible buyer who poises a threat in Sir Jim Ratcliffe. The current opportunity is the best one to remove the Glazers yet, so fans should persist with voicing their frustrations as they did today.
Next up for Ten Hag’s United is Southampton, with the game taking place this coming Saturday, 27th August at St Mary’s.