With 94 minutes on the clock, Dan James used his last remaining pace to catch up with Mo Salah. The Egyptian kept the ball from him and poked it past David de Gea in front of the Kop.
The final result was a deserving one in relation to Manchester United and Liverpool’s performances. Despite a loss, there are lessons to be learnt.
Zonal marking at set pieces is a death wish
Not for the first time this season, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s United were exposed by a good set piece delivery. Virgil van Dijk powered a header home. Brandon Williams had been responsible for blocking van Dijk’s run.
One look at the ball instead of the Dutchman and he allowed him to get too close to the ball. Williams, of course, being a short left-back at 19 years of age.
Meanwhile, Harry Maguire and Nemanja Matic, United’s two best aerial presences, were nowhere to be seen until the last second when it was too late. Against a team with players like van Dijk, marking zonally does not cut it.
Fred can drag Manchester United through games
The Brazilian midfielder rightly came under consistent criticism for his early performances at United.
This was his best, and it comes in a good spell for the former-Shakhtar Donetsk player. Fred dominated the second half against a very good Liverpool side, helping United to cope with an early onslaught and then bringing the ball into the final third with a number of powerful dribbles, throwing off his marker.
Though his performances have been very good recently, this was something different in that he was responsible for United to get back into the game.
It was the kind of display you expect from a key player. That he will get so much praise for this showing is evidence of where United are, celebrating good performances in 2-0 defeats against their rivals.
The blatant one: Marcus Rashford’s absence is season-defining
Rashford is set to be out for at least a couple of months after a double stress fracture in his back. Solskjaer was quick to point out it was a one-off impact injury against Wolves, rather than a recurring issue.
Either way, United are in trouble. Anthony Martial missed a key chance in this game. Dan James scuffed two passes that could have played him through. It’s not good enough for Solskjaer’s team. Rashford has been the main man and could have changed this game.
Every club wants a striker in January. That’s the position that gets you into the top four, keeps you from relegation, keeps you in the title race; whatever your goal is. United will find it incredibly hard to find a long-term or short-term option to fill in for Rashford.
Solskjaer’s double full-back formation works at Liverpool
There was some worry, or perhaps it was confusion, about both Luke Shaw and Brandon Williams starting for United.
But they both put in good performances. They kept Mo Salah quiet and the presence of both of them meant one could storm forward and take the pressure off while having confidence that the other would cover in defence.
It was a good tactical decision from Solskjaer who has shown such creativity on a couple of occasions.
At Crystal Palace last year, both Diogo Dalot and Ashley Young started to nullify the impact of Wilfried Zaha. Unfortunately, Liverpool have more than just Salah, unlike Palace with Zaha. That was a key difference.
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