Footy Times

Salah back in form as Liverpool trounce Man Utd to go top

The Egyptian's brace helped his side ease to a 4-0 home win over Rangnick's men.

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Liverpool surpassed Manchester City at the top of the Premier League table with a 4-0 dismantling of 6th-place Manchester United. Inside a packed Anfield, Mohamed Salah rediscovered his scoring touch with a brace while his strike partners Luis Diaz and Sadio Mane chipped in with a goal each. A quietly fuming Ralf Rangnick labelled his side’s poor performance as “embarrassing and humiliating” and insisted that Jurgen Klopp’s side are “six years ahead” of the Red Devils.

Rangnick had started the match with an unfamiliar three-centreback formation consisting of Harry Maguire, Victor Lindelof and, surprisingly, Phil Jones. Diogo Dalot and Aaron Wan-Bissaka were the makeshift wingbacks. Liverpool, on the other hand, were able to field their strongest team in their tried-and-tested 4-3-3 formation.

The contrast between a well-grooved side and one still looking for some sort of plan was clear from the start. Within 5 minutes, Liverpool had the lead. Mane played a ball into the space vacated by Maguire, who had wandered upfield, and Salah was released down the right wing. The Egyptian then fired in a low cross that was smashed home by Diaz past a despairing David de Gea.

There was a moment of poignancy in the 7th minute, as Liverpool fans joined their United counterparts in a minute’s applause for Cristiano Ronaldo, who was on compassionate leave following the death of his and partner Georgina’s baby son in childbirth.

EPL: Ronaldo's family appreciate Liverpool fans' gesture - Rediff Sports
Liverpool supporters participate in a minute’s applause for Cristiano Ronaldo

On the pitch, the Merseysiders kept up the pressure and dictated the tempo of the match. The defence stayed untroubled and Thiago Alcantara swanned about as if he owned the middle of the park. 10 minutes in, United lost Paul Pogba to a hamstring issue. The Frenchman was booed off by his own supporters as Jesse Lingard replaced him.

The second goal came midway through the first half after a long passing sequence, with the visitors penned back into their defensive third. The ball was played into Mane who, facing away from goal, produced an instant, instinctively brilliant chipped reverse pass into the box. Salah got past Dalot before taking a touch and steering home. It was his first goal from open play in 12 matches.

While Liverpool produced several other chances throughout the half, Man Utd could only manage a couple of long balls to Marcus Rashford. On both occasions, the striker’s touch failed him, a clear sign of his plummeting confidence.

Rangnick changed things up at half-time, replacing Jones with Jadon Sancho and switching to a 4-3-3. Energised by Sancho’s direct running, United had the better of the first 20 minutes of the second half. A tricky dribble from the young winger led to Rashford wasting a one-on-one with Alisson, the keeper also saving Anthony Elanga’s follow-up.

But the home side retook control with the third goal in the 68th minute. Andy Robertson robbed Elanga and hared down the left before passing infield to Diaz. The Colombian found Mane, who steered a shot from the edge of the box into the bottom-right corner.

Liverpool 4, Man United 0 - Match Recap: Reds Romp to 9-0 on Aggregate - The Liverpool Offside
Sadio Mane celebrates with Virgil van Dijk after scoring Liverpool’s third goal

Salah rounded off the scoring in the 86th minute with a trademark chip over de Gea. Again it was Robertson who won the ball, this time off young substitute Hannibal Mejbri, and another replacement Diogo Jota threaded the defence-splitting pass that found his Egyptian teammate.

The result meant that Liverpool have done the league double over their fierce rivals this season, with an aggregate score of 9-0, the highest ever in the history of this rivalry. The dark days continue for Man Utd, their top four hopes clinging on by a thread. They sorely need Erik ten Hag to perform a comprehensive rebuilding in the summer.

For Liverpool, this was an 11th consecutive win at Anfield. They are piling the pressure on City, who could still take back the top spot with a victory over Brighton tomorrow. But one slip from the champions and it will be Klopp’s side that take the upper hand. And even better for the Reds, the quadruple is still on.

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