Sunday, 11 March 2018

Match report: United 2-1 Liverpool

Like Manchester, Rashford is Red! United's local lad was at his unplayable and brilliant best as two exquisitely-taken goals silenced the Scousers and fired the Reds to a deserved and more-comfortable-than-it-sounds victory. In an Old Trafford thriller, Rashford ripped Trent Alexander - Arnold apart to open the scoring with a world class finish on 14 minutes, before he capitalised on a loose ball ten minutes later. Eric Bailly's unfortunate and inadvertent own goal reduced the deficit after the break but - despite the visitors superior possession and territory - Liverpool barely threatened. This was a dominant and fully deserved win and, in truth, United should have won by more.

United were bereft of the services of Paul Pogba, absent through injury having pulled up in training on Friday. Rashford - on his first start since Boxing Day - ensured the Frenchman was not missed as the Reds earned reward for their early vim and vigour with the lead on 14 minutes. Romelu Lukaku easily beat Dejan Lovren in the air and flicked the ball on for Rashford, who pulled the ball down, turned Alexander - Arnold and rifled an emphatic finish beyond the helpless Loris Karius. Liverpool's prolific strike trio of Mo Salah, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane were on the periphery, but centre-back Virgil Van Dijk went close with a header shortly before United cut through their visitors again.
Lukaku's powerful doggedness was key again as he beat Lovren once more and scrapped to keep the ball alive, the ball was cleared under the attentions of Juan Mata but sat up perfectly for Rashford, who fired in a right-footed, carbon copy finish beyond Karius as Old Trafford erupted.
Mata's acrobatic effort flew narrowly wide and the mercurial Spaniard then went close again from distance as the Reds could easily have added to their lead by half-time.

Liverpool must have needed smelling salts at the interval, but they did recover and started to take the game to United. However, David de Gea remained a virtual spectator and the Reds terrific and tenacious resistence kept them at arm's length as their high octane pressing game failed to make any inroads.
After 66 minutes however, they got a lifeline out of nothing as Bailly, who was otherwise immense on his return to the side, inadvertently turned the ball into his own net. The Ivorian attempted to clear Mane's whipped in cross, but he went with his wrong foot and the ball crept beyond de Gea.

That prompted more pressing from Jurgen Klopp's side but the Reds stood strong and introduced Marouane Fellaini back to the first team fold in place of the excellent Rashford.
United continued to look a threat on the counter attack as Chris Smalling headed wide from an Ashley Young free-kick, but despite six added minutes we held out in relative comfort to claim another hugely impressive big name scalp.

United Faithful Man of the Match: Marcus Rashford. A superb performance brimming with pace and penetration. Back to his best.
Overall team performance: 8.5/10


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