Manchester United are reeling after a 7-0 mauling away at rivals Liverpool. Six of those goals came in the second half.
How did this happen? What went wrong? Well, in short, everything went wrong, but let’s try to unpack just how this 7-0 defeat happened.
Fatigue finally hits
Manchester United have played two matches per week ever since returning from the World Cup in late December, with many players not having a break since the tournament in Qatar. At some point all this was going to catch up with them.
Physically they all may appear fine, but mentally, the team were not as switched on as they have been in recent weeks.
United began the game well, but after falling 3-0 down on 50 minutes, the game was effectively over. This is when the tiredness will have kicked in, and the team stopped working together and functioning properly.
When the team are winning, the fatigue can be ignored by the players. At Anfield it all came crashing down, against a hungry Liverpool side who have been hitting their stride lately
It’s easy to point to tiredness as an excuse and this was not the reason United lost the game. But it may well be the reason the score was as high as it was.
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There were poor performances from players who have been excellent all season. Luke Shaw was culpable for at least two goals.
David de Gea made just one save from eight shots he faced, while Lisandro Martinez was uncharacteristically turned inside out for Liverpool’s third goal.
The first goal saw Diogo Dalot go walkabout while Raphael Varane looked out of sorts too. Liverpool were clinical in the way they took advantage of United’s mistakes, and do deserve credit for the way they played.
But this was so uncharacteristic from United’s stars, who have been excellent all season long. Away at Anfield is the last place you want to make a mistake, as the players found out to their cost.
Lack of leadership
Many have highlighted the leadership in the Manchester United squad in recent weeks. There was none on show at Anfield.
Bruno Fernandes was singled out for criticism by Gary Neville after the game. You expect more from your captain in game like this.
United needed high-character players to step up and perform, get on the ball, and stop the constant flow of goals against the team.
The usually excellent Casemiro and Lisandro Martinez were absent by comparison to their usual standards, while Raphael Varane looked like he was back in 2021/22.
Erik ten Hag will not stand for this, and if the players do not show a response, he will axe them.
The manager is not blameless either. Erik ten Hag’s decision to play Bruno Fernandes on the wing did not work, with the midfielder failing to put in the work rate.
Marcus Rashford should have played more directly up against Trent Alexander-Arnold, a player he has exposed before.
Aaron Wan-Bissaka would have been a better option at right-back than Diogo Dalot. Just making these simple tweaks would have made the team more competitive, and prevented the game from panning out as disastrously as it did.
Failure to take chances
The course of this game could have been very different if Manchester United had attacked with more conviction in the first half.
Marcus Rashford snatched at a shot when it came to him over the top, with his placed effort comfortably saved by Alisson.
Even before that, Antony had got in behind the defence, but United lacked composure inside Liverpool’s box. When you get opportunities at Anfield you have to take them.
United wasted the few opportunities we did get, and then paid the price spectacularly.