Erik ten Hag’s team produced a vastly improved performance in a 2-1 win at Old Trafford
Manchester United lifted the gloom at Old Trafford with a rousing win over bitter rivals Liverpool on Monday night, with manager Erik ten Hag saying the performance proved his team can “f**king play good football.”
A composed finish from Jadon Sancho gave the hosts the lead after 16 minutes, before Marcus Rashford slotted past Liverpool goalkeeper Alisson when racing clear eight minutes into the second half to double their advantage.
Mo Salah turned in a header to halve the deficit inside the last ten minutes to make for a nervy finish at Old Trafford, but United saw out the game to earn a first Premier League win of the season after humiliating losses to Brighton and Brentford.
The United faithful went home in contrasting spirits to how the night had begun, with large numbers of fans continuing their protests against widely reviled US owners the Glazer family before kick-off.
There was, however, the positive sight of new signing Casemiro being presented to supporters before the match after the midfield enforcer completed a £60 million ($70 million) move from Real Madrid.
That deal wasn’t done in time for the Brazilian to make the line-up against Liverpool, while United’s Dutch boss Ten Hag left out club captain Harry Maguire and wantaway forward Cristiano Ronaldo from his starting XI – with Ronaldo only emerging for a brief late cameo.
But the team which Ten Hag did select was full of energy and verve, and a far cry from the tame performances in the 2-1 home defeat to Brighton and a 4-0 humiliation at Brentford.
The Dutchman was evidently impressed – so much so that he turned the air blue in a post-match interview with Sky Sports.
“We can talk about tactics, but it’s all about attitude,” Ten Hag said.
“We can see that attitude on the pitch. There was communication, fighting spirit, and especially there was team(work), you can see what they can achieve because and they can f**king play good football.”
The “f-bomb” prompted an immediate apology from Sky Sports presenter David Jones, although Ten Hag continued his praise of his team.
“It is just the start, we have to keep humble, we can play a lot better if we keep more composure. We have good players – now be a good team and then we will act.
“It is not always about what we said, I said we had to act and not talk a lot, make sure you are a team, battle and also be brave.”
Regarding the absences from the starting line-up of Ronaldo – who continues to agitate for a late transfer from Old Trafford – and club captain Maguire, Ten Hag said the pair were still important players.
“I don’t have to mention Harry Maguire and Ronaldo, they are amazing players and they will play a role in the future, the short future as well.
“It is always difficult (to select the team), but I have decisions to make.”
While the result was a much-needed boost for Ten Hag and United, opposite number Jurgen Klopp and his Liverpool team are winless after three games of the new campaign.
They again looked uncharacteristically sloppy and sluggish for much of the contest, even if they ended with 71% of possession and had 17 shots to United’s 12, managing five on target while the hosts had four.
With many people tipping the Reds to be involved in another two-horse title race with Manchester City, Liverpool already find themselves five points behind their rivals and seven away from table-topping Arsenal.
Klopp somewhat implausibly claimed that his team had deserved to win Monday’s meeting, but admitted his “concern.”
“Then they scored the goal, and we took over, and played the game we wanted to play, more or less,” the German told Sky Sports.
“We were unlucky with situations, especially around set-pieces. I don’t know how one ball didn’t go in, in a game like this against an opponent like United it would be very helpful if we could score in that moment and go in 1-1 at half-time.
“Conceding the second one doesn’t help, and then we score ours and then it’s a hectic game with a lot of interruptions – and not the result we wanted…
“Even with our situation, but playing a little bit better, if we were a little more convinced about what we do we should’ve won this game. I know it sounds ridiculous, but that’s how I see it.”
🗣 «I’m concerned about our situation.»Jurgen Klopp says he is focused on turning around Liverpool’s form as the club search for the first win pic.twitter.com/qDUGJshkhP
— Football Daily (@footballdaily) August 22, 2022
Klopp was again without injured influential midfield man Thiago Alcantara and suspended new signing Darwin Nunez after the forward picked up a red card for a moment of madness against Crystal Palace.
“I’m concerned about our situation, it’s not easy at the moment but that’s how it is. We prepare now for Bournemouth, Newcastle and Everton – that’s how it is. We can play better, we know that, but we had a lot of good moments and performances today,” said Klopp.
Liverpool go in search of a first win of the season when they host Bournemouth at Anfield on Saturday, while United will aim to build on their promising performance when they travel to Southampton the same day.