Liverpool verdict Beaten Yes Hurt You bet Demoralised No chance

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Liverpool verdict Beaten Yes Hurt You bet Demoralised No chance
Liverpool verdict Beaten Yes Hurt You bet Demoralised No chance

The new favourite echoed around Old Trafford.

Jurgen Klopp and his players had long since departed when the 3,000-strong travelling Kop broke into a stirring rendition of ‘Allez, Allez, Allez’. ‘We Shall Not Be Moved’ soon followed.

Beaten? Yes. Hurt? You bet. Demoralised? No chance.

Defeat at the hands of Manchester United is always a bitter pill to swallow but a sense of perspective was retained.

This wasn’t the kind of damaging setback which has the potential to wreck a season.

Liverpool remain well placed to secure a top-four Premier League finish and will await the quarter-final draw of the Champions League with relish.

The immense sense of frustration for Kopites will stem from the fact that the Reds were masters of their own downfall.

They weren’t outplayed, they certainly weren’t outfought, but they headed back down the M62 with nothing to show for their efforts. Their winless Premier League run against United now spans eight meetings.

Liverpool gave themselves a mountain to climb with a sloppy first-half performance which played straight into Jose Mourinho’s hands.

Marcus Rashford struck twice in the space of 10 minutes and both goals were painfully avoidable.

On each occasion the Reds were found wanting by a long punt downfield by David de Gea.

Dejan Lovren’s recent revival ground to a halt as he came off a distant second best in his battle with Romelu Lukaku, who was too strong and powerful for the Croatian defender.

It was also a difficult afternoon for young Trent Alexander-Arnold but this wasn’t a day for finger pointing or scapegoats.

During the opening 45 minutes Liverpool were well off the pace in all departments. There was no control in midfield and the front three were desperately quiet.

To their credit, Klopp’s men rallied in the second half. There was much more urgency, much more purpose to their work.

Eric Bailly’s own goal gave the visitors hope as Mourinho looked to shut up shop. If United’s backline had dropped any deeper they would have been sat in the East Stand.

Yet despite enjoying 68% possession, Liverpool mustered just two attempts on target. De Gea has been United’s saviour in this fixture so many times but on this occasion he was hardly required.

Going forward, the Reds were far from their fluent best. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain failed to build on his recent good form in front of England boss Gareth Southgate.

Mohamed Salah endured a rare off day as Ashley Young kept him under wraps, while Sadio Mane was erratic and repeatedly took the wrong option.

Klopp raged at referee Craig Pawson and he had a point after seeing a couple of strong penalty appeals turned down. A late onslaught almost rescued a point but ultimately Liverpool paid the price for that sluggish start as their hopes of finish second were dented.

The Reds boss had been bold with his team selection – picking Oxlade-Chamberlain ahead of captain Jordan Henderson or Gini Wijnaldum.

But it didn’t work during a first half when Liverpool failed to achieve any semblance of control in midfield against the United pairing of Nemanja Matic and Scott McTominay.

The Reds missed the presence of Henderson as they repeatedly tossed up possession cheaply.

Liverpool had kept five clean sheets in their previous seven matches with the double act of Virgil van Dijk and Dejan Lovren impressing. But there was no sign of that defensive organisation and resilience here as the Reds looked horribly vulnerable.

The hosts led inside 14 minutes. Lovren senselessly backed off and allowed Lukaku to flick on De Gea’s kick. Rashford got away from Alexander-Arnold, cut inside and hammered a right-footer beyond Loris Karius.

Rashford burst into the box again soon after but Andy Robertson was alert and hacked clear.

Van Dijk won’t recall his first taste of this rivalry with any pleasure. The big Dutchman should have equalised when he latched on to James Milner’s corner but the ball cannoned wide off his shoulder from four yards out.

Midway through the first half it was 2-0. Lukaku shrugged off Lovren far too easily and played in Juan Mata. Van Dijk made the tackle but the ball dropped kindly to Rashford, whose effort was deflected in off Alexander-Arnold.

Roberto Firmino , who twice fired straight at De Gea, was isolated for long periods as Salah and Mane remained on the periphery.

United should have killed Liverpool off when some shoddy marking handed Mata the freedom of the penalty box but he volleyed narrowly wide.

The travelling Kop did their best to inspire a response after the interval and belatedly Klopp’s men raised the bar.

Liverpool started to win battles they had lost before the break. They snapped into tackles and mounted a sustained spell of pressure.

Van Dijk nodded over before Young was fortunate to get away with holding back Salah in the area.

The appeals were stronger still when Robertson’s cross struck Antonio Valencia on the arm but Pawson waved away protests.

It was no surprise when the ineffective Oxlade-Chamberlain was taken off with Adam Lallana replacing him.

Liverpool were crying out for either a bit of luck or a bit of inspiration and they got the former. Bailly made a hash of dealing with Mane’s cross as he diverted the ball past the helpless De Gea.

It was a lifeline and it got increasingly frantic. United showed no ambition to attack as Mourinho brought on Marouane Fellaini and created a red wall.

Klopp brought on Wijnaldum and Dominic Solanke in place of the tiring Alexander-Arnold and Robertson.

Liverpool huffed and puffed but there was no way through as they were reduced to taking pot shots from distance. Fellaini blocked off Mane as he tried to latch on to Salah’s flick but again Pawson wasn’t interested.

The screams of ‘six minutes’ from the home fans when the board went up laid bare United’s unease as they hung on grimly. When Salah volleyed over the game was up.

A day to forget but Liverpool need to dust themselves off and go again. This season remains alive and kicking.

MATCH FACTS
Manchester United : De Gea, Valencia, Bailly, Smalling, Young, Matic, McTominay, Rashford (Fellaini 70), Sanchez (Darmian 90+6), Mata (Lingard 88), Lukaku.

Not used : Romero, Carrick, Shaw, Lindelof.

Liverpool: Liverpool: Karius, Alexander-Arnold (Wijnaldum 80), Lovren, Van Dijk, Robertson (Solanke 84), Can, Milner, Oxlade-Chamberlain (Lallana 62), Salah, Mane, Firmino