Manchester, United Kingdom Jadon Sancho and Marcus Rashford scored goals to help Man United defeat Liverpool 2-1 at Old Trafford to resurrect their season after a rocky start. The victory is recognition for United manager Erik ten Hag as he works to turn around a team in disarray. Mohamed Salah’s consolation goal in the final 10 minutes gave the hosts some anxiety.
Here is our opinion following the heated Premier League match on Monday at Old Trafford.
Around 10,000 supporters gathered outside Old Trafford before kick-off, attempting to force lasting change at Manchester United by protesting against the Glazer family’s ownership, yet Erik ten Hag showed he could shake things up much sooner once the teams were announced.
Dropping both your club captain and your iconic centre-forward for a game of this magnitude takes some self-belief, but United lined up without Harry Maguire and Cristiano Ronaldo for the first time since Jan. 15. In fact, it was only the fourth Premier League game since Ronaldo rejoined United from Juventus last summer, and the difference in performance from their insipid defeat at Brentford could hardly have been starker as Ten Hag secured his first career Premier League win.
Perhaps it was the protests stirring the soul. Perhaps it was the identity of the opposition, whose supporters arrived with Avram Glazer pictures chanting “Up the Glazers” as Liverpool sought to extend their recent dominance over United. But either way, United kick-started the Ten Hag reign with a performance full of hunger, discipline and counter-attacking quality that had been almost entirely absent in their opening two games.
United supporters have wanted an exciting vision of the future for a long time – could it come without Ronaldo and Maguire more often?
2. Sancho and Rashford come alive
Both Jadon Sancho and Marcus Rashford have endured such miserable form of late that their hopes of making England’s World Cup squad hang by a thread these days. Sancho has often struggled for composure in front of goal, but he showed plenty of it after 16 minutes at Old Trafford, collecting Anthony Elanga’s low cross in a central position in the box. Realising he had time, Sancho dropped his shoulder to evade the lunging James Milner before side-footing past Alisson for his first United goal since March 6.
– The VAR Review: Why Rashford was onside, but Jesus and Toney offside
Rashford spent the summer working on his fitness in an effort to reignite his career, but given a start through the middle, he appeared short of confidence and wasteful in front of goal as United failed to translate their superiority to the scoreline beyond Sancho’s strike. That was until substitute Anthony Martial, on for Elanga at half-time, sent Rashford clear, and he slotted a cool finish inside the near post for his 60th Premier League goal. He is only the tenth United player to reach that landmark.
There is a long way for both to go — the same with United collectively — but the revival had to start somewhere and here were two performances both could build on.
3. Pressure’s on Liverpool to re-enter the transfer market as slow start continues
The list of Liverpool absentees was a clear concern before kick-off: Caoimhín Kelleher, Ibrahima Konate, Joel Matip, Naby Keita, Curtis Jones, Thiago Alcantara, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Diogo Jota, Calvin Ramsay and, of course, the suspended Darwin Nunez. Jurgen Klopp will no doubt continue to argue that Liverpool possess enough quality to consistently reach the same level of performance as last season, but even without players missing, this was still a line-up that should have produced far more than they did here.
Trent Alexander-Arnold’s defending was suspect once again, particularly in the first half. Elanga caused the right-back problems throughout, setting up Sancho’s opener. Liverpool also missed Sadio Mane, not just for his quality in the final third, but in the way he used to set the press without the ball. Nunez showed great promise prior to his red card against Crystal Palace and the injury picture will ease before long, but two points from their opening three games will heighten pressure on Liverpool to enter the market before deadline day — perhaps most obviously in midfield, where they were out-fought and out-thought by United.
They have a habit of waiting for preferred targets rather than bolstering numbers, a method that has been the foundation of their success. But 10 days of temptation awaits them.
Manchester United (4-2-3-1): David de Gea 8; Diogo Dalot 7, Raphael Varane 8, Lisandro Martinez 8, Tyrell Malacia 7; Christian Eriksen 7, Scott McTominay 7; Jadon Sancho 8, Bruno Fernandes 6, Anthony Elanga 7; Marcus Rashford 7.
Subs: Anthony Martial 7, Fred 6, Aaron Wan-Bissaka 6, Cristiano Ronaldo 6, Donny van de Beek 6.
Liverpool (4-3-3): Alisson, 6; Trent Alexander-Arnold 5, Joe Gomez 6, Virgil van Dijk 5, Andy Robertson 6; Harvey Elliott 6, Jordan Henderson 5, James Milner 5; Mohamed Salah 7, Roberto Firmino 6, Luis Diaz 5.
Subs: Fabinho 6, Fabio Carvalho 7, Kostas Tsimikas 6.
Best and worst performers
BEST: Lisandro Martinez
Endured a difficult start to his United career. but he epitomised the team’s aggression and determination here. It was a close call between him and Varane for the honours, but marked a fine effort from the pair given the extra scrutiny arising from Maguire’s omission/
WORST: Trent Alexander-Arnold
Given a torrid time early on by Elanga and unable to use the ball as effectively as he so often does going forward.