United ‘six years’ behind after latest Liverpool thrashing

Published April 21, 2022
LIVERPOOL: Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah chips to score past Manchester United goalkeeper David de Gea during their Premier League match at Anfield.—Reuters
LIVERPOOL: Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah chips to score past Manchester United goalkeeper David de Gea during their Premier League match at Anfield.—Reuters

LIVERPOOL: Manchester United interim manager Ralf Rangnick said the Red Devils are “six years” behind Liverpool after being blown away in a 4-0 defeat at Anfield on Tuesday.

Jurgen Klopp’s men won 5-0 at Old Trafford in October and expectations of a similar rout were well-founded as Liverpool exposed the massive gulf between the sides with Mohamed Salah scoring twice and Luis Diaz and Sadio Mane also on target.

Liverpool moved to 76 points from 32 games, two points ahead of Manchester City at the top of the table, but still need the English champions to slip up in their remaining seven league games of the season to win the title.

Rangnick will step aside at the end of the season, with Ajax manager Erik ten Hag reportedly set to take over.

And the German said the impact Klopp has made on transforming Liverpool’s fortunes is the example for United to follow.

“It is embarrassing, it is disappointing, maybe even humiliating,” said Rangnick. “We have to accept they are six years ahead of us now. When Jurgen Klopp came they changed at the club and lifted not just the team but the club and city to a new level. That is what needs to happen with us in the next transfer windows.”

In contrast to the fine margins separating Liverpool and City, a 22-point gap now lies between the league leaders and United in sixth with only Tottenham Hotspur and Arsenal’s own failings keeping the Red Devils in the race to qualify for next season’s Champions League.

United dropped below Arsenal on goal difference, falling to sixth place on 54 points, having played two games more than the Gunners.

Tottenham Hotspur currently occupy fourth spot on 57 points but even though United remain in with a chance of qualifying for the Champions League there was nothing in their performance that indicated they merited such a reward.

Rangnick’s attempt to plug the holes in the United defence was a recall for Phil Jones, making just his second Premier League appearance since January 2020, as part of a back five.

But it took just five minutes for the visitors to be cut open.

Mane’s through ball picked out Salah in acres of space and he found Diaz to apply a simple finish from close range.

“They always try to give us the ball in a one-against-one situations, so it makes our life much easier,” said Salah.

Two minutes later the fierce rivalry between English football’s two most successful clubs was set aside in a show of support for Cristiano Ronaldo.

The Portuguese superstar was missing for United after revealing on Monday that his newborn baby son had died.

Supporters on all sides of Anfield stood for a minute’s applause, while the Liverpool fans sang their own anthem “You’ll never walk alone”.

“That was my moment of the game,” said Klopp. “So many things are much more important in life than football, we feel for Cristiano and his family.”

On the field, the one-way traffic continued with United barely able to get out of their own half.

United’s problems got worse in the 10th minute when Paul Pogba limped off injured and with Rangnick’s side struggling to get any foothold in the game, a second Liverpool goal seemed inevitable and when it arrived, it was of the highest quality.

Joel Matip fizzed the ball into Mane’s feet and the Senegalese lofted a first-time pass over the top for Salah. The Egyptian had not scored for Liverpool from open play since February, but showed no signs of a lack of confidence as he lost his bewildered marker Diogo Dalot, cut in from the right and provided his trademark left-foot finish low past David de Gea.

Half-time offered United some respite and they improved markedly after the break thanks to the introduction of Jadon Sancho.

But Liverpool were still the lethal side in attack as Mane ended any hope of a United revival in the 68th minute. Andy Robertson broke down the left and then Diaz picked out the Senegalese whose first time finish on the turn flew into the bottom corner.

Salah then took his tally for the season to 30, five of which have come in two games against United, in the 85th minute as substitute Diogo Jota threaded a pass through to the Egyptian, who beat David De Gea with a deflected finish that came off the leg of the sliding Aaron Wan-Bissaka.

The Anfield crowd revelled in the humiliation of their North West rivals while a section of the visiting fans chose to leave early.

Klopp gave the Kop four celebratory fist pumps after the whistle but when asked about the 9-0 ‘aggregate score’ against United this season, showed some sympathy for his compatriot Rangnick.

“It is not a normal situation. They are not in a good moment and on top have a lot of injuries. When Pogba left the pitch they played without their usual midfield. The pitch can become really big with a lot of offensive players on it.

“Centre midfield with [Nemanja] Matic and [Bruno] Fernandes is not how you want to play. Nothing against the players, it is just not their natural game. We had 70-75% of the ball and they have to defend and that is not easy. I feel a bit for them.”

Published in Dawn, April 21st, 2022

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