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Report: Manchester United lacked desire, ambition and ability after 3-1 defeat at Anfield – things must change now…

Manchester United were beaten 3-1 by Liverpool at Anfield on Sunday. Sadio Mane opened the scoring in the 24th minute but nine minutes later, Jesse Lingard fired an equaliser after Alisson made a mistake on the ball. In the second half, two goals from substitute Xherdan Shaqiri won the game for the home side, who had not beaten United at Anfield since March 2016 in the Europa League, September 2013 in the Premier League.

United started well against their North West rivals, breaking up the Liverpool play in midfield, aiming to release both Marcus Rashford and Romelu Lukaku. Liverpool managed to withstand the early attack, breaking forward with an attack of their own. Mohamed Salah drove forward with the ball and released Roberto Firmino, whose shot was blocked, winning the home side a corner, which came to nothing after Lukaku headed the ball clear of the danger.

United found the back of the net in the fourth minute after an Ashley Young free-kick sailed into the back of the net. Lukaku was offside and although he did not touch the ball, he attempted to hit it into the back of the net, with the flag being raised. United conceded a corner in the fifth minute after poor communication led to Nemanja Matic giving away the set-piece. The ball was whipped into the area onto the head of Salah but his shot final was well off target.

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United made a save on the seventh minute after Firmino darted forward, unleashing a daisy-cutter shot which forced David De Gea into making the save at full stretch. Salah reacted quickest to gather the rebound but Victor Lindelof stood in his way, making a crucial challenge to avert the danger. Two minutes later, Lindelof was caught in possession by Salah in United’s half with Liverpool throwing numbers forward. Liverpool ended up winning a corner, rather than breaking the deadlock.

Sadio Mane picked up the ball in midfield in the 14th minute, drove at the United defence and played a one-two with Naby Keita in a bid to get behind the defence but United managed to cut the ball out and clear the danger. If was a quick opening 15 minutes in this derby which has seen many good chances for both teams, no opening goal though, which could be coming at any moment. Things then started to settle with United starting to see more of the ball.

United tried to play out from the back in the 18th minute under intense press by the Liverpool team. United were then forced to lump a long-ball forward with Lindelof putting his foot through the ball. Fabinho floated a lovely long-ball over the United defence in the 20th minute of the match with Salah showing his pace to keep it in play. Liverpool ended up winning another corner but they took it poorly with Rashford clearing at the near post.

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Diogo Dalot isolated Andrew Robertson on the right in the 22nd minute but the Liverpool left-back was strong and quick enough to prevent the Portuguese right-back from getting the ball past him. Two minutes later, Liverpool took the lead in the match through Sadio Mane. A lofted pass from Fabinho caught Young out and Mane ran in behind, brought the ball down on his chest and volleyed through the legs of De Gea to open the scoring. United need to do so much better.

After Liverpool’s goal, Gary Neville stated “For the quality of their play in the opening 25 minutes, Liverpool now have their goal. Liverpool have been better, far better in the opening 25 minutes. Ashley Young had just done that very good piece of defending but he gets caught. It’s a wonderful, wonderful pass from Fabinho and it’s a difficult run to mark. Mane produces a wonderful finish.” Showing United that they had a lot to do in the game to match the way Liverpool play the game.

Liverpool had a second chance on goal in the 27th minute after smelling blood in the United half of the pitch. Firmino controlled a corner in the United area which led to Dejan Lovren lashing his shot over the crossbar. It was a close one for United, who at various times this season have conceded two quick goals, leaving them to chase the game even more then they needed to. In the 31st minute, Ander Herrera slipped a ball into Lukaku but the Belgian cut the ball back for Rashford which was cut out by Virgil van Dijk.

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United found the equaliser in the 33rd minute through Jesse Lingard, scoring a day after his 26th birthday. Lukaku darted in behind the Liverpool defence, trying to square the ball into Dalot at the far post. Alisson dived forward to cut out the pass but he did not gather the ball, leading to Lingard running through, collecting the ball and firing United level in the game. Jurgen Klopp would have paid double for Alisson during the week but that seems well over the odds for that mistake.

Gary Neville gave his rendition of United’s equaliser, which must have seen his celebrate passionately, saying: “The rain has started to come down and has that had an impact on Alisson. It slips out of his hands and from nowhere Manchester United are level. It should be a simple one for the goalkeeper, who has had the plaudits all week with suggestions he’s the best in the league, better than De Gea. Maybe that’s put him under a bit of pressure because he’s made a right mess of that one.”

United had a second player booked after Lukaku was adjudged to have fouled Keita. The Liverpool fans were calling for a red card for a two-footed challenge. On the replay, it did not look as bad as Van Dijk’s in midweek, which was given a yellow card. It just shows the Liverpool ‘it’s never their fault’ mentality. Imagine calling for a red card when the foul was nothing like Van Dijk’s against Napoli. Logic and intelligence seem to have skipped an entire fanbase. Ashamed of nothing, offended by everything.

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Fabinho lined up a shot from 25-yards which took a big deflection on its way behind for a corner. Robertson then whipped the ball into the United area but it was a poor delivery with Lingard heading away the danger at the first man. Two minutes were added at the end of the half. In the first minute of added time, Mane was played behind the United defence, trying to round De Gea but the Spanish number one stuck out his leg to clear the danger but the offside flag was raised against Mane. The half ended and it was all level.

During half-time, Roy Keane, who was in the Sky Sports studio spoke about Alisson’s error, saying: “It’s a decent ball in but Alisson should be catching it with his eyes shut. Lingard followed his pass in and he got his reward. All great goalkeepers having made a big mistake in a big game, it’s all about what they do next. United needed a little bit of luck and now they’ve got a foothold in the game.”

At the start of the second half, Jose Mourinho made a substitution with Marouane Fellaini replacing Dalot. In the 47th minute, Rashford ran to the byline and cut a great ball back into the area but Liverpool then broke on the counter as Salah darted in behind the United defence to receive a through ball from Mane. The ball was then worked out to Nathaniel Clyne on the right by a tackle from Young deflected the ball for a goal kick.

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Mane got away from Young down the left in the 49th minute and floated a teasing ball into the back post where Matteo Darmian headed clear before the ball reached a Liverpool player. A minute later, Herrera lunged in on Salah on the left flank, getting none of the ball with Liverpool winning a free-kick in a dangerous position. Liverpool had another chance on goal in the 52nd minute with Firmino poking a low shot which De Gea tips away. Eric Bailly seemed to get a knock, which was worrying.

Clyne tried his luck from range in the 57th minute of the match which was deflected for a corner with De Gea trying to get the ball to deny the set-piece. Fellaini was in the mix to clear the danger from the corner but a wayward Liverpool shot on goal put the ball out of play for a goal kick. The match started with a fast-paced style of play from both teams, with United under the cosh at times. Now it has slowed with both teams poor in effort. Substitutions could change this game, and they need to.

Just before the hour mark, Lovren lined up a shot from 30-yards which sailed high into the Kop. Jamie Carragher, on the Sky Sports gantry, said: “What is that. We’ve just seen two stupid ones from Clyne. He was fortunate on the first one when he got a corner. There’s so long to go just keep playing your game. It’s a sign of desperation shooting from stupid areas, especially from players you know can’t do it.”

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Liverpool had United camped deep in their area and it made me think the home side had started to panic. There were shot of desperation from distance which was letting United off the hook time and time again. Surely if this Liverpool side had the ambition to win the Premier League for the first time, they would know how to finish teams like United off? United have not been a good team all season, so it should be much easier for them.

United had the chance to put themselves ahead for the first time in the match. Young whipped in a great ball to the back post where Fellaini looked set to head into the back of the net. A crucial last-gasp intervention from Robertson thwarted United’s effort to take the lead, deflecting the ball out for a throw-in. United then took charge of a good spell in the game. Rashford had an opportunity to get something from the game just before Firmino sliced the ball out of play.

Gary Neville, speaking about the chance United could have had, seemingly frustrated that United did not take the chance, said: “As Firmino came in with his foot flailing in the air Rashford should have just moved forward and tried to head it. He could have won a penalty. If he goes with his head there he wins a penalty.” Klopp made his first substitution in the 70th minute with Xherdan Shaqiri replaced Keita.

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United had an opportunity with Lingard on the right, crossing the ball into Lukaku at the far post but his cross to too high for the Belgian to get something from the play. It was a poor effort from Lingard. Liverpool then regained possession and played the counter on United which resulted in Liverpool taking the lead again through Shaqiri, who had been on the pitch a matter of minutes. United were left needing to do a lot more once again.

Neville, for Sky Sports, speaking after Liverpool regained the lead, stated: “Can Shaqiri squeeze it in? It’s a deflection off Ashley Young that gives him the goal. It’s an instant impact from Shaqiri and the goalkeeper had no chance.” It really makes me wonder if United have any players capable of winning a game from the bench. Fellaini has done it this season, but this match does not feel like it could be one with any other eventuality than Liverpool taking all three points.

Mourinho made his second substitution in the 79th minute with Anthony Martial replacing Herrera. Liverpool scored their third goal, a second for Shaqiri just after the substitution. The Swiss international had the ball played by Salah, firing a deflected shot on goal, beating De Gea for the second time in the game. United have reverted back to a lack of desire, urgency and ability to win anything. The equaliser in the first half seems nothing but a fluke right now.

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Liverpool made a second change with Jordan Henderson replacing Mane in the 84th minute of the match. Mourinho then made his third substitution with Juan Mata replacing Lingard in the 85th minute with United needing a miracle to get a result in this game. In the last minute of the match, Henderson, Salah and Firmino looked to rub salt in United’s wounds by combining in United’s area but Henderson, who had the shot, went for someone in the Kop, not the goal.

Three minutes of time were added on at the end of the half, which could not come quick enough for United. The game ended with United needing something short of a miracle to get back into the top four this season. Arsenal lost earlier in the day, meaning United could have clawed the difference between them to five points, however, it is still eight, with United being 19 points behind Liverpool in the top spot, the same distance they were behind Manchester City at the end of last season.

United will be back in action next Saturday when they visit Cardiff City, a team they have not faced for nearly five years. United last lost at Cardiff in 1960 but surely that is not something anyone is going to rule out knowing how far behind this team is right now. Something has to give sooner, rather than later or this season is going to end in capitulation and failure, which is something that has been coming for a long time.

Goals: Sadio Mane 24′, Xherdan Shaqiri 73′, 80′; Jesse Lingard 33′

Assists: Fabinho 24′, Mohamed Salah 80′

Manchester United: De Gea; Darmian, Bailly, Lindelof; Dalot (Fellaini 46′), Matic, Herrera (Martial 79′), Young; Lingard (Mata85′), Lukaku, Rashford

Substitutes Not Used: Romero; Jones, Valencia; Pogba

Bookings: Diogo Dalot 26′, Romelu Lukaku 40′

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