Manchester United manager Erik ten Hag had some big decisions to make in last night’s clash with Liverpool and he got all of them right.

United went into the game on the back of humiliation against Brentford and the Dutchman had transformed the energy and confidence of his side in the intervening days.

So how did he do it? Here is a look at five key decisions which led to United’s victory…

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Varane over Maguire at the back

Ten Hag has previously endorsed Harry Maguire’s captaincy, and put him in the side for the first two matches of the season.

That meant Raphael Varane was on the bench, but he was brought into the team here, alongside Lisandro Martinez.

Varane took the perfect opportunity to remind United fans of his class, and his return to the side added pace and assurance to the backline.

If Varane can stay fit, it is hard to see Maguire getting back into the side anytime soon, as Ten Hag unearthed the makings of a central defensive partnership which can finally get to the level United desire.

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Malacia at left-back

Maguire’s form has attracted more headlines, but Luke Shaw’s removal from the side was arguably more overdue.

Tyrell Malacia’s introduction to the side added pace and intensity down the left and the Dutchman played a part in the opening goal of the night.

Malacia has earned praise from Gary Neville for his tenacity and fighting spirit, and last night could represent a changing of the guard on the left of Ten Hag’s response.

Martinez and Malacia in for Maguire and Shaw certainly had the desired effect.

Ronaldo on the bench

United looked sharper and more dynamic in pre-season without Cristiano Ronaldo.

But then Anthony Martial got injured and the Portuguese superstar could not find a club to take him on huge wages and Ten Hag faced the prospect of reintegrating him into his side.

Last night, the Dutchman took the huge call to leave Ronaldo on the bench, prioritising speed to get in behind the Liverpool backline.

It worked a treat in the first half, and when Martial was the first man off the bench – in place of Anthony Elanga – he put in one of his best performances in a red shirt.

Ronaldo made a late cameo, but this felt like a glimpse into the United future Ten Hag wants to build.

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Martial on at half-time

United played so well in the first half that it felt like Ten Hag would wait until around the hour mark to make changes.

But the Red Devils looked to be tiring slightly in the last 15 minutes of the first half, and the manager decided that fresh legs were needed at the interval.

Martial made his first appearance of the season and was full of commitment and strength, laying on Marcus Rashford’s goal and giving Virgil van Dijk a physical tussle.

The Frenchman needed to take his pre-season form into the serious action and on the basis of this 45 minutes, he is capable of doing exactly that.

McTominay the man for a derby

Ten Hag went with Fred alongside Christian Eriksen and Bruno Fernandes at Brentford and it didn’t work, with Scott McTominay also struggling when he came off the bench.

The Dutchman went for the Scotland international here, and he showed himself to be the ideal man for the blood and thunder of a derby.

Of course, Casemiro was unveiled before kick-off and will expect to go straight into the United midfield as the anchorman.

Perhaps McTominay raised his game in response to the renewed competition for his place, with United having signed a defensive midfielder for the first time since Nemanja Matic came in under Jose Mourinho.

Ten Hag got the big decisions right and that set United on course for victory against Liverpool.

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Sam Preston is an NCTJ gold standard news and sports journalist who studied with the Press Association. He also has a 2:1 law with French law degree from the University of Birmingham, which included a year studying at Bordeaux Montaigne University. He is an FA Level 1 football coach who appeared on the BBC’s Victoria Derbyshire show in 2018 and has also written digital football content and match-day programme pieces for Colchester United, Mansfield Town and Stockport County.