It’s been a disappointing start to the new Premier League campaign for both Manchester United and Liverpool. But, after Erik ten Hag’s charges were embarrassed 4-0 at Brentford last time out, many expected Liverpool to head to Old Trafford and pile on the misery. However, United had other ideas and pulled off what many will describe as a shock 2-1 victory.
United had lost both their opening games, with reverses to Brighton and Brentford. Liverpool were also without a win heading into the fixture, with draws recorded against newly promoted Fulham and then Crystal Palace, although against the latter, Darwin Nunez received his marching orders for violent conduct just before the hour mark. So, you could say the match between the two rivals was the perfect opportunity to kick-start the season for both teams.
From the first whistle, United adopted a high press, high energy approach and immediately put Liverpool on the back foot. Ten Hag had selected Marcus Rashford to play at striker, with Jadon Sancho and Anthony Elanga on either side. And, with all three possessing bags of pace, it wasn’t long until the front three started wreaking havoc on the break, causing all manner of problems for the likes of Trent Alexander-Arnold.
United were 1-0 up on 16mins, and it was no less than they deserved. The ball fell to Sancho in the Liverpool box, and he sold James Milner a dummy after pulling off a composed chop before poking home. It led to a heated discussion between Milner and Virgil van Dijk, with the latter backing off and being far too casual in his attempt to prevent Sancho’s shot from being of any real danger.
And it was counter-attack specialist Rashford who had United two goals to the good on 53 mins after being released by second-half substitute Anthony Martial. Rashford, like Sancho before him, showed great composure to finish past Alisson and United were cruising and looking real value for their lead. One that they could have gone on to extend on several occasions.
While Liverpool were disappointing, especially in defence, they still posed a threat throughout, and on 81mins, Mohamed Salah headed across the line to pull a goal back and ramped up the nerves inside Old Trafford. But, while Jurgen Klopp’s men began to take control and turn the screw, United remained composed and committed and did everything they needed to do to see the game out.
It's only early days in the Premier League campaign, but Liverpool are now five points off Manchester City and seven adrift of Arsenal in first. United’s victory sees them climb above the Anfield outfit as they look to develop consistency in both performances and results. Klopp will arguably be the more concerned of the two managers, but when he has a full selection of players to choose from, you can see Liverpool hitting their stride.