After a disastrous 4-0 loss to Brentford last weekend, Erik ten Hag said he could’ve substituted all eleven starters at half time in London and expected a response against Monday night Liverpool. The new manager mixed things up for the big match, hoping to see that reaction by dropping captain Harry Maguire for Raphael Varane, and Cristiano Ronaldo for Anthony Elanga, Fred for Scott McTominay, and Luke Shaw for Tyrell Malacia. Marcus Rashford took Ronaldo’s position as center forward, and Elanga played on the right wing.
And what a response ten Hag’s side showed the manager and fans. For the first time this season, United played the way we expected them to play under the Dutchman—high pressing to force the opponent to make mistakes, sitting back when needed, keeping their shape, and bringing a ton of energy on the pitch. They looked like a completely different United side than the one we’ve seen the last two weeks.
United took it to Liverpool from the opening kickoff to the tune of a deafening Old Trafford and showed the hunger, desire, structure, and energy needed to change things around thus far in the season. In the opening ten minutes, Marcus Rashford, who has been under much scrutiny for months due to his poor performances, looked like the Rashford of old as he broke through lines and took on Alisson on one-on-one opportunities. Raphael Varane also made his presence known early on with some important tackles to prevent any scoring chances in United’s box.
Anthony Elanga curled a shot from the top of the box into to far post in the 10th minute following a beautiful counter attack started by Scott McTominay and Bruno Fernandes, and the momentum in the attacking third continued to build for ten Hag’s side. Six minutes later, the opener came.
Elanga combined with Eriksen on the left wing, and the Swedish winger sent a perfect ball to Jadon Sancho in the center of the box. The English forward calmly cut the ball back to his left, dropping James Milner and Alisson to the ground, and passed the ball perfectly into the bottom left corner to opening the scoring.
United didn’t back down on either side of the ball after scoring, and the entire eleven did well to continue creating chances in the attacking end and keeping Liverpool away from David de Gea. New signing Lisandro Martínez, who put in a man-of-the-match-worthy performance, was the key in United’s back four, made huge tackles at the back and in the midfield to help his side see the game into halftime with confidence. Some of his highlight-reel worthy moments included a crucial slide tackle to block a shot from Mohamed Salah in the 40th minute and a goal-line save on the following corner.
Liverpool started the second half with momentum after Jürgen Klopp’s halftime talk and brought the pressure to United in the opening five minutes of the half. However, United remained composed and. Anthony Martial, who came on for Anthony Elanga at the start of the half, played a delightful throughball into Rashford at the halfway line, who beat Alisson at his near post in front of a roaring Stretford End to double the lead and ultimately seal the win.
Players began to wear out as the match went on, and Liverpool gradually grew into the game. United back line and midfield did well to keep the ball out of the box for the majority of the half, and Liverpool wasn’t able to generate many true scoring chances against de Gea. Liverpool finally saw a breakthrough from Salah as he headed a rebound past de Gea to cut the score in half.
Following the goal, Ten Hag brought on Ronaldo for Rashford, Donny van de Beek for Eriksen, and Aaron Wan-Bissaka for Diogo Dalot to freshen up the squad and see out the Dutch manager’s first Premier League victory.
If United continue to play like this for the remainder of the season, especially with the addition of Casemiro and possibly some more incoming transfers, United fans will start to see the exciting vision and tactical mind that Erik ten Hag wants to bring to this side. Despite it only being one win, here’s to hoping this is the start of a new, successful era at Manchester United. However, anything can happen at Manchester United, and the team must bring this energy and playing style into each match from here on out.
Besides the excitement that the match brought, it’s also important to note everything that happened prior to the match from a United standpoint.
On the footballing side, United unveiled new signing Casemiro, who signed for the Red Devils for €60 million from Real Madrid, where he played a key role as the defensive midfielder in one of the best midfield trios in recent history.
As eagerly anticipated all week since the loss to Brentford, United’s supporters organized a massive “Glazers Out” protest against the club’s ownership.
Thousands of United supporters planned a walk-out protest during the match, but it seems that the squad’s exciting performance on the pitch kept the Red Army in their seats.