A late brace from super-sub Xherdan Shaqiri earned Liverpool a 3-1 win over their old rivals Manchester United on Sunday, though Jürgen Klopp’s side certainly deserved the points. They dominated the game from the off, as United turned in another lacklustre performance.
Liverpool got off to a characteristically quick start, with both Roberto Firmino and Fabinho drawing diving saves from David de Gea. United struggled to retain possession in the face of Liverpool’s notorious high pressing, and Romelu Lukaku cut a frustratingly isolated figure up top. When the hosts netted the opening goal midway through the first half, the only surprise was that it had taken so long.
In the event, it was a frustratingly simple goal to concede. Fabinho was given too long to measure a lofted ball over the top of the United defence, and Ashley Young made the fatal error of letting Sadio Mané slip in to receive it. A brilliant first-touch set up a crisp volley, and de Gea had no chance.
Liverpool could have all but killed the game off within three minutes, though Dejan Lovren skied the ball over the crossbar after Firmino had teased a deep Andy Robertson cross back into the six-yard box.
It could have proven a costly miss, as just six minutes later United pulled level from nowhere. A low Lukaku cross should’ve been routinely gathered by Liverpool keeper Alisson, though some clumsy handling saw him spill the ball straight into the path of the onrushing Lingard. He made no mistake, undoing all of the hosts’ hard work with one of the easiest goals he’s likely to score.
The equaliser seemed to break Liverpool’s momentum, and the scoreline remained unchanged to the interval. José Mourinho introduced Marouane Fellaini in place of Diogo Dalot at halftime, the Portuguese wing-back having been walking a tightrope after a first-half booking. But the change also spelled a tactical change, with United reverting to a more traditional defensive four.
However, they remained reliant on further heroics from de Gea to avoid immediately falling behind, the Spanish keeper sprawling to his left to deny Firmino after some mesmerising footwork in the penalty area. It marked the start of a veritable siege of the United box, but not even corner after corner yielded a goal.
In the end, it took a scrappy strike from substitute Shaqiri in the final 20 minutes to restore the hosts’ advantage. Mané’s drilled cross from the left bounced out to the Swiss winger, whose effort looped up off Young and against the underside of the crossbar before hitting the back of the net.
The same man hammered the final nail into the coffin less than 10 minutes later, sealing his brace with another deflected effort from the edge of the penalty area. Lucky, perhaps, but Liverpool had deserved their luck. The gulf in quality between these sides has scarcely been more apparent that it was today.