Chaos ensued at Anfield Sunday afternoon after Mo Salah scored a decisive second goal in stoppage time to lift Liverpool ahead of longtime rivals Manchester United. It was the Egyptian’s first goal against the Red Devils and likely won’t be the last. United were outclassed by a dominant offense and relentless defense, and now a staggering 30 points separate them from the eventual Premier League champions.
With 10 days left in the transfer window, it is imperative United do whatever it takes to recruit top talent as they fight for a spot in the Champions League. Here are three things we learned from Manchester United’s 2-0 defeat against Liverpool.
Set pieces continue to haunt United
It’s only fitting Virgil Van Dijk opened the scoring on Sunday with an unbelievable free header early in the first half. The Dutchman powered over both captain Harry Maguire and teenager Brandon Williams to find the back of the net with ease. This marked Liverpool’s 14th goal from set pieces this campaign, a remarkable figure that will undoubtedly increase as the season continues.
On the contrary, this was the eighth goal United have conceded from corners this year—more than any other side in the Premier League. For Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, that should be a serious concern. If the defensive strategy near the goal is to field the ball out of play and settle for a corner, then why haven’t they learned how to properly defend? Teams studying United can outright expose them by capitalizing on set pieces, and the ability to defend them is something Solskjaer should have remedied by now.
Squad health could decide the season
After starting nearly every match since November, it was only a matter of time forward Marcus Rashford would find himself sidelined with a knock. Solskjaer originally downplayed the back sprain, but the Norwegian later confirmed the Englishman’s absence from the pitch could be at least six weeks.
“Normally six weeks to heal, but I’m not a doctor,” said the former United striker.
“It’s a [back] stress fracture. It happened against Wolves. It’s not happened before, it happened there and then. He’ll be out for a while.
“We will give him enough time to heal, normally six weeks before getting going, then he needs time to get match fit again.”
Solskjaer then entertained the possibility of bringing a striker in on loan to offset United losing their leading scorer. With less than two weeks left in January and two, maybe three chances at silverware on the line, there should be no reason why Ed Woodward isn’t spending the next several days orchestrating a couple of moves. United were already without their best striker and midfielder, so the game was in Liverpool’s favor based on those setbacks alone. If he values his job, then Solskjaer will demand Woodward and the Glazers to open their pocketbooks and pay whatever it takes to get United a top-four finish.
Fred a surprising positive from a dismal afternoon
The Brazilian isn’t world-class by any means, but he displayed consistent effort for the entire 90 minutes when most of his colleagues looked gassed with nearly half an hour left to play. He was easily United’s best player on the pitch, and his numbers highlight his improvements.
Against Liverpool, Fred ranked 1st or joint 1st among Man Utd players in:— Statman Dave (@StatmanDave) January 19, 2020
attempted passes (71)
successful passes (59)
final third passes (15)
ball recoveries (13)
successful take-ons (3)
tackles won (3)
key passes (2)
Man Utd’s best player today. pic.twitter.com/JRl7ym3qsM
He even came close to a goal himself, just putting a bit too much power on the finishing. Seeing as Fred is the only healthy midfielder as of late, the midfield should be temporarily built around him, allowing him to play an offensive role in big contests and drop back in his natural defensive capabilities when United gain the lead. Fred’s form didn’t mirror the memorable showing he had at the Etihad in December, but it’s evident the 26-year-old can square up with some of league’s best. The former Shakhtar player becomes more fun to watch as the weeks progress, and it’s possible he might be a few games shy of justifying his £52m transfer fee.