It was another slow start for Liverpool and, worryingly, an abysmal performance, as they went two goals behind and eventually lost 2-1 to a struggling Man United.
Man United 2-1 Liverpool
Premier League (3), Old Trafford
August 22, 2022
Goals: Sancho 15′, Rashford 53′; Salah 81′
United protest undermined…by themselves
No question that last time United fans earmarked a pre-Liverpool match protest, they had an impact: they broke into their own stadium and the match got called off.
This time it was equally muddled and confusing, though for different reasons.
Take your pick of the most bizarre: a host of ‘protestors’ breaking off from their chanting to rush after the new £60 million signing Casemiro; bottles being thrown and hitting their own bus; the biggest part of the protest coming in an enclosed tunnel which nobody could really see.
Whatever their intentions were, it doesn’t appear likely that they’ll have had a massive impact in the way it was done.
Klopp’s call at the six…and gets it wrong
Jurgen Klopp is running very short of options at the moment, but still managed to come up with one big decision which – depending on your point of view – raised eyebrows, caused fume or was a gamble.
It cannot be said to have worked in the slightest, given the midfield as a whole was mostly anonymous for 30 minutes, but Henderson was certainly bypassed a lot in those opening stages with through balls and more aggression from the hosts.
As for the second goal, the captain had an absolute horror.
Terrible first touch, a missed tackle, another bite at intercepting which failed and then a stroll back as Marcus Rashford ran through to bury it.
He was hooked within minutes afterwards.
Sorry Jurgen, the slow start is relevant
That’s now seven in a row going behind first in the Premier League.
Jurgen didn’t appreciate hearing it last week, but it’s another game later and another game added to the list – all three this season.
We had no shots before United scored their first, no shots on target before either of their goals and very little in the way of scoring chances created afterwards.
It’s actually fair to say that the closest we came before Mo Salah‘s late header was United, twice, almost scoring own goals: Bruno Fernandes against Lisandro Martinez on the line, then Martinez saved by David de Gea.
We’re not aggressive, fast-paced, energetic from the front or linking play well enough on the deck.
Playing for the last 15 minutes of each half is nowhere, nowhere, nowhere near enough.
Individual form guide sorely lacking
Rustiness? Lack of competition? Past the sell-by date? At the very least it’s not overuse at this stage of the season.
But there are an alarming number of Reds out there at present who are so far off the levels they are capable of, it’s a massive concern.
Leaving aside those who are injured, as it’ll still take them games to hit form once fit again, at least four players have question marks over what they’re offering so far.
Trent Alexander-Arnold hasn’t been on it defensively and his delivery has been far better before, even if he has had one or two good balls and runs in each game so far.
Salah hasn’t been beating players with ease or getting chances on goal, but at least still looks capable of scruffing one in even if nobody is feeding him clear sighters.
And Roberto Firmino looks perfectly fine, if what we’re looking for Liverpool-era Joe Cole: a huffing and snapping deep man in midfield, but lacking touch, sharpness and ideas of what to do with the ball once in possession.
Add in the aforementioned skipper’s awful run and Darwin Nunez pointlessly getting himself banned for this run of matches and it’s a very thin-looking bunch of options for the boss until Curtis Jones, Naby Keita, Diogo Jota and a few others get back on the pitch.
Refocus ambitions, at least in the short term
Understandably, supporters have been complaining about points dropped in the title race up until this week – that’s what we were aiming for, after all.
But for now that has to be forgotten, and not just because we’ve already dropped 37 percent of the allowable points if we’re aiming for a 95-point season.
Liverpool need to ignore everything regarding trophies and title challenges and just get back to that ‘one game at a time’ focus which used to be the hallmark of everything – and that’s probably aimed at the fans even more than the players, to be fair.
All that can matter now is discovering sharpness and attacking intent before the Bournemouth match at the weekend.
It’s at Anfield, it’s a newly promoted team and it’s simply a match we must win.