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Staff Takeaways: Liverpool 4-0 Manchester United

Chris: Hannibal Mejbri showed some heart

It’s not often that a late substitution during a 4-0 loss makes much of an impact in a match, but Hannibal Mejbri set an example for his Manchester United teammates when he replaced fellow academy product Anthony Elanga in the 84th minute.

Although it was just his second senior appearance for the club, the 19-year-old midfielder made his presence known from the moment he stepped onto the pitch at Anfield while his team was suffering from humiliation. Mejbri constantly sprinted to chase down the ball when Liverpool had possession, didn’t shy away from putting in a tackle despite his age and size, and positioned himself well in the channels to demand the ball from teammates.

It was a clear and, frankly, disappointing contrast to every other outfield player in the side, with perhaps the exception of Jadon Sancho, who provided a much-needed spark to the squad when he came on at half time. In a squad full of international superstars who earn millions of pounds, the teenager was the only player in a United kit to show the guts and passion that come with the responsibility of wearing it.

Mejbri received a yellow card for a tackle on Jordan Henderson in the 88th minute and unfortunately had the last touch by a United player for Mohammed Salah’s 85th minute goal, but he left United fans with something to cheer about.

United legend and Sky Sports pundit Gary Neville agreed that Mejbri brought an important spark to the team.

The Athletic’s Carl Anka thought the same about the youngster’s desire to get on the ball and show some grit.

It’s unlikely that Mejbri will receive much significant playing time with the first team for the remainder of the season following Ralf Rangnick’s comments about the giving youngsters playing time this week, but he has definitely left United fans looking forward to his next appearance and future in the first team.

Pauly: What the fuck was that?

I’m not talking about the result or the performance. You knew a drubbing was coming from a mile away and had ample time to prepare for it.

I’m talking about the plan that Ralf Rangnick had for how he was going to try to win this match. How he wanted his team to play. What the fuck was it?

What the hell is this?

Why are you so narrow, and constantly forgetting to mark the wide men, against a team that LIVES out wide? Anthony Elanga was constantly tucking only to watch Liverpool then move it out wide for him to chase shadows.

What the hell was the plan here? Why were the forwards pushing up high if the midfielders and defenders not following? All that did was create massive pockets of space for Liverpool to so easily pass through. Was the plan to stay to sit back and stay compact? Because United weren’t doing that either.

This didn’t look like a team that was confused about what their roles were. This didn’t look like a team that just wasn’t executing their managers plan. This looked like a team that simply didn’t have a plan.

Here’s a very telling stat.

All five of these matches have come in the last five seasons. The bottom two have both come in the last eight weeks.

Playing on the counter attack isn’t as easy as just telling your team to sit deep and go for quick attacks whenever you get the ball. There’s tactics involved. You have to have a shape, you have to keep your shape. You need to know where and how to move as a team when the ball goes into various places on the pitch. Then when you get the ball, you have to know where the other team is weak and where you should be targeting your attacks.

It may not be as complicated as Pep Guardiola’s positional based system or Jurgen Klopp’s pressing based system but it’s not simple either.

Take a look at those five games. The first was during the Jose Mourinho era. We know Jose Mourinho is a good defend and counter manager. The next two came under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, another manager who knew how to set up his team to play on the counter.

The non-penalty xG in each of those three matches were 2.4, 0.8, 0.9. You don’t have to create a lot of chances, you just create a few good chances that you can be reasonably expected to finish one. Combine that with solid defending and your goalkeeper making a key save or two (or playing out of his mind like in that first one) and that gives you a chance to win.

Those last two matches came in the Ralf Rangnick era. Over the two matches United managed a total of seven shots for an xG of 0.47. They conceded 38 shots for an xG of 5.1 and more importantly eight real actual goals.

Ralf Rangnick is not a manager who has ever played counter attacking football. He has no idea how to coach counter attacking football. Therefore, why the hell is he trying to play counter attacking football? When you don’t know what you’re doing, this is what happens to you.