Manchester United went down 2-0 to Premier League champions-elect Liverpool on Sunday, with goals from Mohamed Salah and Virgil van Dijk in either half securing a deserved three points for the hosts. In the end, the scoreline might have flattered Ole Gunnar Solskjær’s side, who often relied on sheer luck to withstand the Liverpool onslaught.
United made an optimistic start to the first half, yet probed Liverpool’s midfield without any real precision. Solskjær’s charges scarce looked anything more than flimsy breakwaters jutting out into the ominous Red tide, waiting to be flattened by a killer counter-attack. That only made it all the more frustrating when the hosts were gifted the lead on a set-piece within the quarter-hour, van Dijk leaping to power a Trent Alexander-Arnold corner past David de Gea for 1-0.
From then on, United looked completely unable to gain a foothold. The quiet storm had become a raging torrent, and Liverpool twice had goals chalked off before the interval. The first came midway through the opening period, when De Gea was fouled before Roberto Firmino superbly curled home. United’s second slice of good fortune arrived 10 minutes later, when Gini Wijnaldum was adjudged to have been fractionally offside when he slotted home on a superb Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain through-ball. Firmino and Sadio Mané fluffed further chances from inside the penalty area.
United only mustered one real chance in the entirety of the first half, but it was a good one. With five minutes left on the clock, some intricate build-up play culminated in the ball being sprayed out to an overlapping Aaron Wan-Bissaka, whose low ball across the face really should’ve been turned home by Andreas Pereira. As it was, the Brazilian contrived to miss the ball entirely, arriving a fraction too late to make contact.
Salah gratefully returned the favour within minutes of the restart, mustering a miss-of-the-season contender of his own by skewing wide from free on the six-yard line. Moments later de Gea diverted a Jordan Henderson piledriver against the post by his fingertips, as United barely clung to their one-goal deficit.
With 20 minutes left, Solskjær rolled the dice, introducing Juan Mata and Mason Greenwood in place of Pereira and Brandon Williams. But what United’s new faces added in bark, they lacked in bite. United improved in the game’s final quarter, perhaps as a tireless Liverpool finally began to run out of steam, but any hopes of equalising were dashed in the final minute of stoppage time, when the hosts countered on a United corner, and Salah rolled past de Gea for 2-0. Another win for Liverpool, and deservedly so.