Goals from Darwin Nunez (2), Cody Gakpo (2), Mohamed Salah (2) and Roberto Firmino took Liverpool to win three points of the top four, but they also put an end to suggestions that third-place United could yet win the Premier League. The defeat means United have now scored just once on their last seven visits to Liverpool and haven’t won at Anfield since a Wayne Rooney winner in January 2016.
1. Liverpool hit Man United with a reality check and close in on the top four
Sunday’s game at Anfield turned out to be must-see TV, with the Reds’ remarkable 7-0 victory putting Jurgen Klopp’s team firmly on course for Champions League qualification.
A week after ending their six-year trophy drought by winning the Carabao Cup — a success which prompted talk of a quadruple this season — United were humiliated by their biggest rivals at Anfield. Two goals apiece from Cody Gakpo, Darwin Nunez and Mohamed Salah, plus a late goal from Roberto Firmino, lifted Klopp’s team to fifth position, three points behind Tottenham but with a game in hand, and cemented Liverpool’s status as favourites to finish fourth.
The irony for United was that they had controlled much of the first half and wasted good chances before Gakpo put Liverpool ahead in the 43rd minute. From that point on, United collapsed — it was 3-0 by the 50th minute — and they ended up suffering an even bigger defeat than their woeful results against Liverpool last season, when they lost 5-0 and 4-0.
United have now scored just once in their last seven games at Anfield and haven’t won away to Liverpool since 2016. This was supposed to be the day when they faced their old rivals on a level footing for the first time in years, but it ended as the same old story. By the end of the game, Liverpool’s fans were chanting “we want eight” to hammer home the magnitude of their dominance.
While the defeat will not impact United’s league position of third place, the result is huge for Liverpool. Having looked like missing out on the top four, they are now chasing Tottenham down and seemingly set to climb above Antonio Conte’s team.
2. Ten Hag suffers for rare tactical error
Erik ten Hag has rightly won plaudits this season for transforming Manchester United with his tactical awareness and decision-making from the touchline, but he made a costly tactical mistake at Anfield. By starting with Marcus Rashford as a lone striker, Bruno Fernandes wide on the left and Wout Weghorst as a No. 10, the United manager let Liverpool off the hook, particularly by allowing Trent Alexander-Arnold‘s defensive weaknesses to go untested.
Fernandes is a natural No. 10 and the Portugal international is best when given that role to create chances for those further ahead of him. But he lacks the pace to play out wide, and his presence in that position meant Alexander-Arnold had one of his easiest games of the season. Had Rashford played out wide, it would have forced Alexander-Arnold to deal with somebody running at him and the spaces that he often leaves behind him.
Furthermore, there was no logic to Ten Hag’s tactics. They made United less effective and gave Liverpool an unexpected bonus in the sense that they made life easier for the home side to defend. By the time Ten Hag changed the approach in the second half, it was way too late, as United were 3-0 down by that stage and heading for an even bigger defeat.
Perhaps the defeat will ultimately work in Ten Hag’s favour. Some of his team’s weaknesses were exposed at Anfield — namely their lack of a proper centre-forward and a reliable right-back — so perhaps it will bring some realism back to United to counter the optimism of a new era at the club.
3. Gakpo and Nunez show that Liverpool’s future is bright
Nunez and Gakpo have both struggled to make an instant impact at Liverpool following their arrivals this season, but their performances against United showed that their future is bright at Anfield.
Gakpo, 23, has now scored four goals in his past six games for Liverpool after failing to find the net in his first six weeks at the club since his Jan. 1 move from PSV Eindhoven. Nunez, also 23, now has four goals in his last four games for the club after enduring a difficult period following his club record £85 million transfer from Benfica.
The two forwards are both raw and yet to fulfill their potential, but they are clearly talented players who will be a big part of Liverpool’s future. Both are strong and quick with a determination to go for goal that, at times, can see them rush decisions and miss good chances. But those rough edges are being smoothed off with every performance, and it seems that playing alongside Mohamed Salah, one of the best forwards in the world, is accelerating that process.
Gakpo and Nunez are different players to those they have been signed to replace in Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino, but don’t bet against them enjoying the same success for Liverpool in the years to come.
Best and worst performers
– Cody Gakpo, FW, Liverpool: The Liverpool forward has taken time to settle at Anfield since his January arrival, but he was the match winner against the team that tried to sign him last summer.
– Andy Robertson, DF, Liverpool: Sublime pass to Gakpo for Liverpool’s opening goal. One of the few Liverpool players to maintain a level of consistency this season.
– Lisandro Martinez, DF, Man United: Despite the emphatic defeat, Martinez was outstanding at the back for United and his awareness helped keep the scoreline down.
– Bruno Fernandes, MF, Man United: Deployed on the left by Erik ten Hag, but the role didn’t suit the United midfielder. The Portugal international has been poor since Christian Eriksen dropped out through injury in January.
– Diogo Dalot, DF, Man United: Caught out for the first Liverpool goal, which sparked United’s collapse. Has improved this season, but his level is of a back-up full-back rather than first-choice.
– Marcus Rashford, FW, Man United: Missed a great chance to put United ahead in the first half. Wasn’t helped by playing through the middle rather than on the left.
Highlights and notable moments
It’s hard to know which goals were the best to showcase the Reds’ superb afternoon at Anfield, but the two quick goals at the start of the second half put the game beyond doubt and gave them the platform to go on and score seven times. Nunez and Gakpo are becoming quite the double act …
A Sunday well spent ❤️ pic.twitter.com/YDoNwS9B9h
— Liverpool FC (@LFC) March 5, 2023
In the end, sometimes a picture is worth a thousand words and, well, this one might be worth 7,000.
— NBC Sports Soccer (@NBCSportsSoccer) March 5, 2023
After the match: What the players/managers said
“Today you could see the energy levels. Today was a proper performance.” — Liverpool midfielder Jordan Henderson
“We need to stay humble. We are not in the position we want to be but hopefully it will give us a big push.” On his goalscoring record: “It’s very special. I can’t lie. It was always in my head since I came here. I am going home with my family to have to chamomile tea and celebrate.” — Liverpool forward Mohamed Salah
“It was not our standards. We didn’t play as a team. It was unprofessional. Yes [I am angry]. Definitely. I am surprised because I have seen the last weeks and months this team is resilient and has a winning attitude. Second half, we didn’t have a winning attitude at all. We didn’t stick to the plan and we didn’t do our jobs. We didn’t track back and it was really unprofessional. We have seen in the past we can bounce back. After Brentford, after Manchester City. This is definitely a strong setback and is unacceptable. I’m really disappointed and angry about it. It is a reality check. We have to take this strong.” — Man United manager Erik ten Hag
“First half it got a bit wild. But we scored an incredible goal, what a finish. … Second half, start pretty good and the finish was pretty good. … It’s important that we really perform and all the guys come on and score, Bobby comes on and scores. Diogo [Jota] could have scored. All top performances. It was perfect. Everybody has to feel us, everybody has to know we are still around. That’s what we have to be from now on.” — Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp
Key stats (provided by ESPN Stats & Information research)
– Mohamed Salah: 129 PL goals for Liverpool is the most in club history.
– Liverpool has outscored United 17-1 in their last eight meetings at Anfield (all competitions).
– Manchester United allowed seven goals in a game for the first time in Premier League history.
– David De Gea: Conceded 7-plus goals in a single game for the first time in his career (578 games played).
– The seven-goal loss is tied for Manchester United’s largest in club history, with the previous one coming over 90 years ago (7-0 vs. Wolves in December 1931). They also lost 7-0 vs. Aston Villa in December 1930 and 7-0 vs. Blackburn in April 1926.
– Liverpool extends their home league unbeaten streak vs. Manchester United to seven games, the longest in First Division play since nine in 1970-79.
Liverpool: The Reds have a full week to prepare for a Premier League trip Saturday to Bournemouth, whom they’ve already beaten 9-0 this season at Anfield. After that, Klopp & Co. will be hoping they can work a similar magic in their Champions League last-16 second leg against Real Madrid (March 15), with Los Blancos holding a 5-2 lead from the first meeting at Anfield.
Man United: Ten Hag will be hoping his side can shrug off Sunday’s historic loss given some tough games ahead. They host Real Betis on Thursday in the first leg of their Europa League last-16 clash, followed by a home league game with Southampton (March 12).
- Rapid reaction
- 1. Liverpool hit Man United with a reality check and close in on the top four
- Editor’s Picks
- 2. Ten Hag suffers for rare tactical error
- MARK OGDEN
- 3. Gakpo and Nunez show that Liverpool’s future is bright
- Best and worst performers
- LIVE ON ESPN+ (SELECTED GAMES)
- Highlights and notable moments
- After the match: What the players/managers said
- Key stats (provided by ESPN Stats & Information research)
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