In a weekend full of rivalry matches across Europe, it was Liverpool and Manchester United that would be the best. Great goals and total domination characterized Liverpool’s incredible win over their historic rivals. Very much a tale of two totally different teams with Mohamed Salah announcing himself as the world’s best player and the pressure continuing to mount on Ole Gunnar Solskjær.
Always one of the Premier League’s most anticipated matchups, Liverpool and United played an interesting game on Sunday where Liverpool furthered their case for being Premier League title favorites while United looked like a rudderless ship. Liverpool looked like a totally different team from the one that struggled for portions of last season, as Salah has taken his play to another level. United looks like a club in turmoil with Ole’s tactics and gameplan undermining the team for most of the game.
With all these factors added in, the soccer world’s eyes descended onto this game as it was sure to be full of excitement. Old Trafford would play home to another edition of one of the most historic and intensive rivalries in all of sports.
This highly regarded rivalry between the two most successful English teams is also one of the longest running sporting rivalries, with the first match between the two being played in 1894. As the game has grown in the over hundred years since, the rivalry has remained, only growing in intensity since then.
Unlike a lot of other historic rivalries across the world that rely on a battle for city dominance, Liverpool and Manchester are roughly an hour drive apart. The rivalry hails from the fact that the two cities are historic ports that have been pitted against each other due to the creation of the Manchester canal system in 1894. Directly undermining Liverpool’s dominance as the port city of the English northwest.
Since their first matchup, both clubs have become the two most successful clubs in English soccer with a combined 39 league and 9 Champions League titles. They have also produced some of the greatest sides in soccer history with Sir Alex Ferguson and his United side and the historic Liverpool sides of the late 1970s and early 80s.
The two sides came into this match with totally different forms and expectations as the teams reached the middle part of the season.
Liverpool came in the stronger of the two teams, as they look like the strongest team in Europe, remaining undefeated in all competitions. They also came in as the top scoring team in the league, outperforming their expected goals by 2 goals. In addition, they also had only allowed 6 goals in the Prem so far with a stout defense to match an incredible offense.
Meanwhile, Manchester United has struggled in the Premier League with their last win coming all the way back in mid-September. Despite the addition of Raphaël Varane, their defense has been woeful with Harry Maguire and Luke Shaw regressing amongst others. However, it is in their midfield that lies the biggest problem, as none of the combinations that Ole has tried have paid off.
For the starting lineup, Jürgen Klopp opted to make two changes from the Liverpool side that defeated Atlético Madrid midweek. Diogo Jota replaced Sadio Mané in the attack and Ibrahima Konaté replaced Joël Matip in the defense. While the Jota move was expected, the Konaté move is an excellent sign of Klopp trusting his young player in a big game.
United kept their lineup the same after their unconvincing win over Atalanta in the Champions League midweek. Fred and Scott McTominay kept their places in the midfield despite some lackluster play as of late by that partnership. What’s more concerning is the inability of Ole to integrate Jadon Sancho into the starting eleven given his incredible performances at Borussia Dortmund and the money spent on bringing him to Manchester.
Within the first five minutes, Liverpool would find themselves up 1-0 with Salah setting up Naby Keïta for an easy goal after being left wide open. Less than 10 minutes later, Liverpool would be ahead 2-0 with Jota scoring off a great cross from Trent Alexander-Arnold after a calamitous mistake from the United defense. Salah would score two great goals to end the half, as Liverpool strutted their dominance over their rivals.
Salah would continue his hot streak and finish off his hat trick after a great through ball by Jordan Henderson to extend the lead to 5. The only moments of note for United in the second half was a Ronaldo goal called back for being offsides and Paul Pogba being sent off for a clumsy challenge. Liverpool’s win tied the largest margin of victory in this rivalry in the Premier League era.
Liverpool looked incredible all throughout the game, with the midfield being incredibly balanced and offering something in all aspects of the game. The defensive partnership of Virgil van Dijk and Konaté should be the defense from now on for Liverpool as they fit each other incredibly well. Salah clearly stole the show with three goals and an assist as this performance cements what his season so far has shown, that Salah is the best player on Earth currently.
United left the game not only embarrassed but with so many questions that it is difficult to imagine how they will get out of this hole they are in. Ole continues to struggle as a manager for a top club, as he is unable to navigate these difficult moments. This had led to multiple players regressing or finding themselves buried on the bench.
Liverpool continue to challenge for the title as United tries to recover from the tailspin that their club currently is in. United’s schedule doesn’t get much easier as they will take on Tottenham on Saturday as they will be desperate for a win. While Liverpool will play Brighton, a surprising team so far, on Saturday as they look to overtake Chelsea in first place.
Featured Image: Oli Scarff/AFP