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Liverpool 2-0 Manchester United: United's Champions League hopes on the brink

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Manchester United put in a dismal display away at Liverpool on Thursday.

Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

Manchester United's hopes of qualifying for next season's Champions League took a big blow on Thursday, as Louis van Gaal's men were outfought in a miserable 2-0 defeat to Liverpool in the Europa League. They failed to create a single real chance in the entire encounter, and could have no complaints about the final score. They've now got a mammoth task in the second leg.

United made a reasonably confident start to the match, but didn't turn their early probing into any real goalscoring opportunities. Liverpool comfortably weathered the early storm, and were rewarded when Memphis tugged down Nathaniel Clyne and the referee pointed to the penalty spot after 20 minutes. David de Gea guessed the right way, but couldn't keep Daniel Sturridge's spot kick from finding the top corner.

It should've been two just a few minutes later, though De Gea made a miraculously good stop to deny Philippe Coutinho from point-blank range after Sturridge rolled a low ball invitingly across the face of goal. The Spanish shot-stopper twice made other great saves before half time: first after a slip by Smalling let Sturridge through, and second after Adam Lallana fired a Roberto Firmino cross venomously towards goal.

With United really on the back foot, Louis van Gala hauled off the ineffectual Marcus Rashford for Michael Carrick at halftime. But suffice to say, the visitors' performance failed to improve sufficiently. Indeed, Simon Mignolet had barely been tested at all by the time Roberto Firmino doubled Liverpool's lead inside the final 20 minutes, lashing a low Lallana ball into the top corner.

It failed to rouse United, who rather finished the game with a whimper. The final whistle sounded with Louis van Gaal's men having failed to create a single chance of note. It was, in a word, rubbish.