Liverpool secured their place in the quarter-finals of the Europa League after claiming a draw at Old Trafford to win the tie 3-1 on aggregate.
The Reds rose to the occasion in Manchester to complete the job started so brilliantly at Anfield last week to move into the last-eight.
Anthony Martial’s penalty after half-an-hour provided United with hope, but a sublime run and finish from Philippe Coutinho levelled the score on the night and killed the tie to ensure Liverpool would be the team to advance from the mouth-watering rivals clash.
The travelling Kop enjoyed every second of the night in a spectacular looking away section at Old Trafford, and here are the talking points from a productive evening in Manchester.
Mamadou Sakho Shines with Superb Display
A masterclass from the Frenchman ensured the Reds enjoyed a fruitful night at Old Trafford, where Sakho was in outstanding form.
The France international was an absolute colossus at the heart of the back-line, winning everything that came his way , clearing his lines time after time alongside making some vital tackles and blocks to keep United at arm’s length.
One perfectly timed tackle thwarted Marcus Rashford as he was about to unleash at the Stretford end goal, and another vital foot-in prevented Michael Carrick’s through pass finding its way into the danger area inside Liverpool’s 18-yard box in two of many crucial interventions he made.
Leading the Reds defence with a whole-hearted performance, it was an absolutely magnificent display from Sakho, and this may have been the night that the football world finally realises just how good the No.17 is.
Coutinho Produces Brazilian Magic
The Reds arrived knowing only one goal would all but kill the tie, and they got it through the magic of Coutinho.
The Brazilian frustrated for the majority of the first half being sloppy in possession and overcomplicating his game, but on the stroke of half time the 23-year-old pulled out a moment of pure brilliance – leaving Guillermo Varela trailing before lifting delightfully dinking the ball over David De Gea at the near post.
Coutinho’s first European goal for the Reds – and his first against United – could hardly have been better timed, but perhaps he should have added a second and even a third, firing a weak effort at De Gea and blazing a well-positioned free-kick over the bar late-on.
The Brazil international also found time to display some of his devastating footwork and slaloming runs in an enjoyable second half, as his magic guided the Reds through.
Emre Can Commands Midfield
In fine form currently, Can once again stepped up to the occasion producing another fantastic display at Old Trafford.
The German bossed proceedings in the heart of the midfield battle, where he was at his destructive best making some 8 tackles – the most of any Red – and some key blocks, while also being the man to set the Reds on their way going forwards with his use of the ball intelligent and productive.
Can’s power and athleticism drove the Reds on – especially in a second half Liverpool dominated as they saw the tie out – and watching him completely dominate on such a big occasion in the back-yard of arch rivals really was a joy to witness.
Watching him in full flow it’s hard to believe Can is still only 22-years-old, and a player who will only improve under Klopp, Liverpool have a genuine potentially world class asset on their hands.
Nathaniel Clyne Endures Rare Struggle
For the first time in his Reds career, Nathaniel Clyne suffered a horrible 90 minutes as he endured a real testing night.
Usually sound defensively and reliable one-against-one, the right-back was given the run-around by an in-form Martial, who the 24-year-old fouled for United’s penalty as he failed to get to grips with the Frenchman’s quick feet and trickery.
Visibly rattled by Martial’s skill, Clyne dived in needlessly on a couple of occasion, giving away free-kicks in dangerous areas which put the Reds under unnecessary pressure as United sensed joy down a unusually unsettled right-side.
It was a poor night for Clyne, but he must take heart from a man-of-the-match first leg performance and bounce back positively at Southampton on Sunday.
Europa League Dreams Alive and Kicking
There is still a way to go, but Liverpool moved one step closer to lifting their first European trophy in 11 years – now in a European quarter-final for the first time in six years.
Eliminating United in such a deserved manner will have provided Klopp’s side with real belief as they arrive in the quarter-final stage, having displayed some of their brilliant best at Anfield before finishing the job -which should have been more convincing – at Old Trafford.
With the power of Anfield behind the team, anything is possible for Liverpool and if Friday’s draw is kind, Klopp’s side will certainly fancy their chances of reaching the final four.
One step at a time, but the dream is alive.
Man United 1-1 Liverpool (1-3 on aggregate)
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