Liverpool claim their most lopsided win ever at Manchester United
Sunday 24th October, Old Trafford
MANCHESTER UNITED 0-5 LIVERPOOL
(Keita 4, Jota 13, Salah 38, 45+5, 49)
United only ever lost by five-or-more at Old Trafford six times before this. That this happened at all was galling. That it was by their greatest enemies was excruciating. But most agonising? Liverpool liquidated United without playing their best in their easiest win yet this season.
Liverpool played consistently better at Norwich, Leeds and Watford than here. United were so abject that Liverpool could not play at their best – anything more than basics-done-well from Jurgen Klopp’s men would be over-elaboration. United’s defence; brittle as glass, organised as a tossed salad. Their passing in attack was okay, at least initially, but their passing out of defence was as blunder-riddled as in the last meeting in May, suggesting lessons of that 4-2 defeat went unlearned.
Bruno Fernandes spurned a nicely-built opening on three minutes, scuffing high-and-wide, and punishment for United’s imprecision was swift. A simply-built attack down the left was made easy by Aaron Wan-Bissaka unaccountably abandoning right-back and chasing the ball in the Liverpool half. The ball reached Mohamed Salah in acres beyond the centre circle, who found only Luke Shaw anywhere near him in red, and Naby Keita overlapping in white into an unguarded centre channel. Salah’s pass put Keita clean through to slide the ball past David De Gea, so exposed all match he might have been arrested for streaking.
United had several decent long-range attempts, but anxiety around the stadium grew as Liverpool kept stealing possession in United’s defensive third. Diogo Jota soon punished United’s disorganisation. Again, Wan-Bissaka went ball-chasing upfield, Liverpool again manoeuvred down the vacated flank, a good ball into the D from Andrew Robertson caused confusion between Harry Maguire, who should have wellied it out instead of letting it bounce, and Shaw, who had moved too far inside. The excellent Keita stole the ball, switching it to Trent Alexander-Arnold in huge space on the right of the area. His low cross reached a two-man overlap at the back post. Jota could hardly miss as he slid in, but if he had, James Milner would have scored.
Less than a quarter of an hour played, United two down. They had escaped similar peril against Atalanta in the week, but could not expect to get away with it twice.
United had an okay twenty minutes, pushing Liverpool back, creating some half-openings. But Liverpool’s counter-attacks still looked more dangerous. Seven minutes from half-time, the third goal arrived, Salah steering home from close range after a slick passing move. He had now scored in a record ten consecutive matches.
Before half-time, Cristiano Ronaldo saw yellow for almost kicking the grounded Curtis Jones. Then Fred joined him in the book for a high challenge on Keita. Liverpool kept their cool and, again too easily, made it an unthinkable 4-0 deep in injury time, with Salah’s second.
United brought on the maligned Paul Pogba at half-time to try and restore self-respect. Instead his 15-minute cameo brought more calamity. He lost the ball on halfway to the hungrier Jordan Henderson, who played one of the through-balls of the season for Salah centre-right, who poked past De Gea for his hat-trick.
A few minutes later, a desperate shin-snapper tackle on Keita saw Pogba dismissed, and Keita carried off on a stretcher. Maguire and Fernandes were both lucky not to see red as well, as United’s frustration boiled over, but now down to ten men, United’s remaining edge dissolved, and Liverpool mercifully played out the remaining half-an-hour, instead of really rubbing it in.
Jurgen Klopp was exultant at full time. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, in the United dugout, cut a hunched, humiliated figure as he headed for the dressing room. With United looking so shambolic, so disorganised, Solskjaer’s chances of remaining in the job by New Year look slim.
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