Euro 2020 Special
 

Tactical Analysis: Liverpool Win At Old Trafford To Keep Champions League Hopes Alive

Liverpool inflicted a 4-2 defeat on their old rivals Manchester United at Old Trafford on Thursday to keep alive their hopes of securing a Champions League berth. 

The Red Devils succumbed to a second successive defeat at their home ground in the span of 48 hours after losing to Brendan Rodgers’ Leicester City on Tuesday. 

Roberto Firmino was the star of the show for Liverpool, scoring twice in two minutes around the half-time break. 

The fixture was originally supposed to be held on May 2, but anti-Glazer protests inside Old Trafford led to postponement to Thursday. We take a look at how the Liverpool vs Manchester United fixture panned out on the field.

RECENT RESULTS

Liverpool have made a remarkable comeback in the last few weeks. The reigning champions fell to eighth place by the end of February before steadily climbing up the points table. 

They entered Thursday’s fixture with a six-match unbeaten run, having defeated Southampton 2-0 last week. Liverpool were sixth in the table before the fixture, just a point shy of fifth-placed West Ham. 

Manchester United have always considered Old Trafford their bastion, but a 2-1 loss to Leicester City earlier this week gave Jurgen Klopp’s side confidence to beat the hosts. 

With the title race decided in favour of their inter-city rivals, Solskjaer will now be content with sealing his club’s berth in the Champions League. 

LINE-UPS

Ole-Gunnar Solskjaer fielded a fresh XI that is completely different from the one that played against Leicester City, as Manchester United were burdened with two back-to-back high profile fixtures due to the postponement of this fixture.

Starting XI:  Henderson, Wan-Bissaka, Lindelof, Bailly, Shaw; McTominay, Fred: Pogba, Fernandes, Rashford; Cavani.

Liverpool continued with their usual 4-3-3 formation, with Jurgen Klopp giving Diogo Jota a place instead of Sadio Mane, who came in as a substitute. 

Starting XI: Alisson, Alexander-Arnold, Phillips, Williams, Robertson, Fabinho, Wijnaldum, Thiago, Salah, Firmino, Jota. 

HOW THE MATCH PANNED OUT

Manchester United were dominant early in the game, with Bruno Fernandes striking first for the Red Devils through a deflected opener. 

But a wobbly defensive unit allowed Nathaniel Phillips to flash the ball across to Diogo Jota who scored the equaliser with a back-heel flick in the 34th minute. 

Both teams matched the intensity in the field in the first half, with the score level at 1-1 heading into extra-time in the first half.

Liverpool turned the game on its head when a brilliant Trent-Alexander Arnold free-kick saw him find Roberto Firmino, who skillfully deflected the ball into the net with a header. Paul Pogba, United’s main man in defence and the one supposed to mark Firmino, was nowhere to be seen. 

The Reds entered the second-half determined to pile more misery on the Red Devils and they got an opportunity within a couple of minutes as back-to-back mistakes from Fred and Luke Shaw saw Diogo Jota gain possession of the ball, passing it to Alexander Arnold. The shot bounced off a sloppy Dean Henderson, which Firmino was quick to capitalise on. 

The Red Devils’ hopes were kept alive by a one-two finish by Marcus Rashford and Edinson Cavani, forcing Liverpool to regroup and focus on preventing the home side from equalising the lead. 

Mohamed Salah finished the proceedings for Liverpool with a dazzlingly quick goal at the end, levelling Harry Kane in the most number of goals scored this season. 

HOW THEY PERFORMED

Ole-Gunnar Solskjaer fielded an entirely fresh XI from the match against Leicester City, hoping for better fortunes in a tightly packed schedule. But those hopes would have quickly crumbled early in the first half when United’s fragile defences were exposed. 

Defensive woes are not new to the Red Devils this season – they have now conceded 27 home goals this Premier League season, their highest in half a century. 

The absence of Harry Maguire hurt them deeply at the back as they lacked both skill and tactics to prevent the world-class attacking lineup of Liverpool.

The Reds in contrast were well-organised and did not lose their minds even after falling back early in the game. Jurgen Klopp gave preference to Diogo Jota over Sadio Mane and the Portuguese striker repaid that trust early in the game by scoring the equaliser. 

Roberto Firmino was the star of the show, however, with his two goals on either side of the half-time break sealing the game for the Red Devils. 

LOOKING FORWARD

This was Liverpool’s first win at Old Trafford since 2014, and the first win for Jurgen Klopp at Old Trafford. The Reds now breathe down the necks of Chelsea and Leicester, who face each other on Tuesday. 

That game could be crucial for both sides, especially as Liverpool face minnows for their next three games and could go on to win all three of them. For Manchester United, the focus now shifts to the Europa League final as they face Villarreal on May 27. Their Champions League spot is secure and Solskjaer will look to keep his overstretched squad ready for action.

 

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