Liverpool will be encouraged by an improved display but were left ruing some costly slips as they exited the FA Cup at the fourth round following a 3-2 loss to Man United.
Man United 3-2 Liverpool
FA Cup Fourth Round, Old Trafford
January 24, 2021
Goals: Greenwood 26′, Rashford 48′, Fernandes 78′; Salah 18′, 58′
Alisson – 5 (out of 10)
Guilty of overdoing it with a sloppy pass which led to Fabinho fouling Mason Greenwood for a booking in the first half.
The finishes from Greenwood and Marcus Rashford were well-placed, though Alisson may be disappointed with his inability to stop the latter, and again for failing to reach his far post for Bruno Fernandes’ free-kick.
Trent Alexander-Arnold – 7
Has he found his mojo?
Alexander-Arnold looked much-improved, with his tenacity and creative spark back, with there fewer hopeless crosses and more measured drives into the box and feet of team-mates.
Perhaps he could have done more to help the ailing Rhys Williams, but it was a game that called for a rampaging effort from the right-back – and he delivered an encouraging display.
Rhys Williams – 5
There were echoes of Alexander-Arnold’s nightmare at Old Trafford in 2018 about Williams’ night, where he was clearly targeted, struggling for pace and shivering throughout a nervous display in which he was sloppy for Rashford’s goal.
It would be wrong to be too critical of the 19-year-old’s efforts – he’s only a teenager, and has been thrown in at the deep end with only non-league experience – but the question must be asked of whether Nat Phillips should be preferred.
Fabinho – 6
Professional as ever, there is rarely a negative in his performance at the back and it was no different at Old Trafford.
It is just enduringly frustrating that his quality cannot be used in midfield, particularly in a game such as this when Liverpool would have benefited from his metronomic, press-heavy approach to keep momentum in their favour.
Andy Robertson – 6
Not as influential as Alexander-Arnold on the opposite flank, while Robertson was strong going forward his touch often eluded him and saw slick moves stutter a little.
He was caught out by a fabulous ball from Rashford for Greenwood’s opener, but the quality of the move absolves him of much of the blame – with it inches over James Milner‘s head and on a plate for the winger.
Thiago – 6
Criticised in the buildup by pundits seemingly unable to grasp the type of midfielder he actually is, Thiago produced an all-action display at Old Trafford but tired dramatically late on, which calls the decision to start him into question.
Thiago pressed high and dictated play with his trademark verve, but was unable to deliver the killer blow at any point – although a smart shimmy to craft a chance for Alexander-Arnold showed his overriding quality.
James Milner – 6
Seemingly forging a one-man campaign to revive the term ‘reducer’ early on, it was a surprise that Milner escaped a yellow card.
The veteran grew into the game, playing a lovely dummy for Mohamed Salah‘s second of the night, before dropping deep for the final 10 minutes following Thiago‘s exit.
Gini Wijnaldum – 6
The least-involved of the three midfielders, Wijnaldum touched the ball 33 times in his 62 minutes on the pitch, completing just 21 passes, but his inclusion was arguably justified as United struggled in build in central areas.
His withdrawal just after the hour mark was wise, as Klopp will be needing his No. 5 to start for the 25th time this season at Tottenham on Thursday night.
Mohamed Salah – 7
Had his shooting boots on and, like Alexander-Arnold on the same flank, was significantly less wasteful than in recent weeks, as if the pair had a shared moment of clarity in those precious hours at Kirkby.
The finish for his first was excellent, while his second was as clinical as should be expected – let’s hope these are signs the Egyptian is returning top form.
Curtis Jones – 6
Showed the value of his versatility in starting in the left-sided role he made his own at academy level before dropping back as a No. 8 later in the game.
Could maybe have stamped his marker on the occasion more, but he was still tidy and inventive, while putting himself about with the thrust of a Scouser playing against United.
Roberto Firmino – 7
Much, much better from the Brazilian, who is clearly more comfortable away from the natural No. 9 role that the back of his shirt evokes – this recent sequence of displays reinforces the case to bring in a more traditional striker in the summer.
His touch was slack at times, but Firmino was largely brilliant in his endeavours between the lines, and played two fine passes for Salah’s goals.
Sadio Mane (on for Wijnaldum, 62′) – 6
Could arguably have been sent off for an overly enthusiastic challenge soon after his introduction, and was not able to make the desired impact in his half-hour on the pitch.
Xherdan Shaqiri (on for Thiago, 81′) – 6
Looked to make things happen as he took charge in midfield, but United had already settled into a low block before he was sent on.
Divock Origi (on for Firmino, 81′) – 6
Still seems at odds with the style of play required of him, six-and-a-half years after joining.
Subs not used: Kelleher, Phillips, N.Williams, Tsimikas, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Minamino
Jurgen Klopp – 7
The decision to start the likes of Alisson, Robertson, Alexander-Arnold and Thiago was questioned before kickoff, and it can still be argued that they should have been rested.
But Klopp was damned if he did, damned if he didn’t given it was an FA Cup tie against United, and by and large, his team selection was befitting the occasion.
The call to send on Mane was proactive, rather than reactive – which is a real positive – and the majority of the issues within the game were out of his hands.
Klopp is unlikely to be too concerned with exiting the FA Cup.