Manchester United emerge victorious from an underwhelming clash between two struggling giants which leaves massive question marks hanging over the future of Liverpool’s manager…
Kop boss Brendan Rodgers made just the one enforced change for the trip to Old Trafford despite his side suffering a chastening 3-0 home defeat to West Ham United last time out.
Former Burnley striker Danny Ings was the beneficiary of Philippe Coutinho‘s suspension as he and Roberto Firmino looked to support Christian Benteke in attack.
An errant Simon Mignolet throw-out almost gifted the hosts an opener inside the opening 10 minutes but makeshift forward Marouane Fellaini couldn’t find the target.
There were several other self-inflicted moments of concern at the back early on as the Merseysiders struggled to find their rhythm amid a host of misplaced passes.
Devoid of possession, Benteke cut an increasingly lonely and frustrated figure up front for Rodgers’ men as their 4-3-3 formation became compressed into a 4-5-1.
For all their dominance, United rarely tested Mignolet in the opening half though and the contest was devoid of noteworthy goalmouth action at both ends as Liverpool’s rare forays forward also amounted to nothing.
In truth, such was the lack of entertainment and quality on show, half-time came as a welcome arrival for both sets of supporters.
The opening goal suddenly arrived just three minutes after the restart when Daley Blind swept home a well-worked free-kick.
Question marks could be placed against Liverpool’s defending however and the men in white were now under the cosh as United threatened a quick-fire double salvo.
The visitors finally found a forward gear around the hour mark as Ings forced a good save out of David de Gea and Blind cleared a Martin Skrtel header off the line.
The latter passage of play also almost ended with Firmino bundling the ball home at the far post but to no avail.
The chances of a Reds comeback took a crucial setback with 20 minutes to go when Joe Gomez fouled Ander Herrera in the box; the Spaniard dusting himself down and firing the resulting penalty into the roof of the net.
Benteke missed a decent headed opportunity soon after and, with Liverpool only having scored twice in their opening four games, the likelihood of them getting anything from the fixture seemed remote.
Substitutes Divock Origi and Jordan Ibe showed flashes of promise before, out of nothing, a thumping overhead kick from Benteke briefly gave the away side a glimmer of hope five minutes from time.
It was a sublime strike out of keeping with much of the game but it mattered little as debutant Anthony Martial made his mark on English football with an eye-catching solo goal to wrap up the three points two minutes later.
Not for a first time this season, Skrtel should have done more to prevent the goal as the teenager’s pace and quick feet left him at sixes and sevens.
Liverpool got exactly what they deserved from a largely passionless, nervy and sometimes calamitous performance which, actually, given the occasion and the fact it followed on from the shocking display against West Ham, bordered on the unacceptable.
Tactically it was a frankly unfathomable decision by Rodgers to play Ings out wide rather than alongside Benteke through the middle. Stranger still was not altering the shape despite it clearly not working and United going two in front. If he was going to insist on permanently playing with wide attackers this season then why was Lazar Markovic allowed to leave on loan? Further still, why was Ibe, who is arguably our only natural attacking wideman, again confined to the bench in favour of someone ill-suited to the role being played out of position?
Despite the audible chants of ‘you’re getting sacked in the morning’ from the United fans, Rodgers’ job is unlikely to be under any imminent threat but the tide has certainly turned against him from a core of Liverpool fans who previously backed the Northern Irishman or at the very least were ambiguous towards him. On form he should certainly be fearful of the sack after a run of just four wins in 16 games in all competitions.
Christian Benteke – The big frontman gets the nod largely for his wonder goal. Nobody shone in truth but at least the Belgium international can again point to being left isolated as an excuse.
Mignolet, Clyne, Skrtel, Lovren, Gomez, Lucas (Moreno 88′), Can, Milner, Lallana, Firmino (Ibe 65′), Ings (Origi 74′), Benteke.
Unused subs: Bogdan, Toure, Sakho, Rossiter.
So that’s what we thought about the game, how about you? Let us know your verdict below or vote in our MOTM poll to the right…
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