Manchester United came out triumphant against Liverpool to go five points clear of their archrivals. Two goals from Marcus Rashford in the first half gave Manchester United the lead before an Eric Bailly own goal in the second half made things interesting towards the end. Here are the major takeaways from the game:
#5 Pogba’s absence might have been a boon
Hours before the game, it emerged that Frenchman Paul Pogba was ruled out of the clash due to a hamstring issue he suffered in the final training session. Though the general consensus is that Pogba would have added more quality to the midfield, a deeper analysis proves something else. Against a counter-attacking setup like Liverpool, Mourinho would have wanted to avoid the marauding runs of Pogba with the stability of Scott McTominay.
With an attacking front-four, Mourinho preferred the defensive midfield duo of Matic and McTominay. Pogba’s inclusion could have forced the team to play with a 4-3-3, something that would have made them vulnerable to Liverpool’s attacks
#4 The blip in Liverpool’s midfield
Liverpool started with a midfield three of Emre Can, James Milner, and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and failed to make the desired impact in the game. Can has been a regular starter for quite a long time in his box-to-box role as the German has impressed quite often playing over there.
Klopp went with the defensive awareness of James Milner but that robbed the Reds of any kind of creativity in the midfield. The Ox ran tirelessly throughout the game to make things happen but United hardly gave any opportunity or space to weave his magic on the ball.
The Englishman was phenomenal against Newcastle last weekend, but against United, he looked out of sorts and was unable to test the United defence with his crosses. He was substituted for Adam Lallana in a bid to add more creativity to the middle of the park but Lallana too looked a bit rusty and was not at his best. Liverpool overall lacked the cutting edge at the centre of the field. Perhaps the decision not to replace Coutinho came back to haunt them…
#3 Rashford raises the bar when required
Phil Neville said before the game that there comes a point in a youngster’s career when the player needs to start performing against the big clubs. Marcus Rashford’s career had taken a halt after a bright start to the season, but against Liverpool, at Old Trafford is when he chose to bury his poor form.
Firstly, he turned Trent Alexander-Arnold inside out to take a clean shot from the left wing for the opening goal. The second one was a reminiscent of the first goal too but here Rashford combined well with the United attack and scored past a helpless Karius.
His burst of energy, the intent to track back and follow the manager’s instructions made his a potent threat in the game. The passion was there to see as the lad forced himself into some rash challenges but overall, delivered a performance worthy of appreciation.
As United enter the business end of the season, a fit and firing Rashford will add more quality to the United attack which has looked laboured at times.