In classic Mourinho fashion, Manchester United earned the three points at Old Trafford thanks to two goals by Marcus Rashford.
The last four games between these two teams had ended in draws. Jurgen Klopp decided to go with his usual lineup of late. The only change he made from Liverpool’s last Premier League match, was leaving Henderson on the bench. James Milner, Emre Can and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain were patrolling the middle of the pitch for the visitors. Lovren and Van Dijk were the central defenders, while Alexander-Arnold and Andrew Robertson covered the defensive wings. With Pogba out, McTominay received another opportunity to start for Mourinho. Eric Bailly was back in the starting eleven alongside Chris Smalling, as was Juan Mata. Jesse Lingard was dropped for Marcus Rashford.
Mourinho was rewarded for that decision in the 14th minute, when Lukaku headed a ball to Rashford after de Gea’s kick-off. The 20-year-old wonderfully got rid of Alexander-Arnold and fired a precise shot. There were no threats from either side up to that point, but the The Red Devils were up. The ideal scenario for Jose, who was seen making notes in his notepad quite frequently during the first 15 minutes. Van Dijk had an enormous miss in the 24th minute after a Liverpool corner kick. A minute later, The Reds were punished. Very similar circumstances to the first goal. De Gea’s kick was met by Lukaku, who tried to send a through ball to a running Mata. The ball was cut out by Liverpool’s defenders, but came right onto Rashford’s foot, whose shot took a slight deflection and ended up in the net.
Despite having most of the possession and spending a lot of energy, Klopp’s men were trailing by two goals. The defense had let him down again. Overall, it was as if we were seeing a match from the school books. Liverpool was trying to break an unbreakable wall, while Manchester United played defense and waited for any opportunity to go on the counter attack. You could see why the guests were having trouble getting anything going. Their two most dangerous players were guarded by Antonio Valencia and Ashley Young, two of the very few full backs who had the ability to deal with Salah and Mane.
The first booking of the game came in the 27th minute. The recipient was the goal scorer – Marcus Rashford. In the 39th minute Mata was left all alone in the box after a cross, but failed to convert his attractive attempt at an overhead kick. It easily could’ve, and probably should’ve been 3-0. Considering, United had never lost at Old Trafford with a 2-0 advantage at the half, Liverpool needed a miracle to get back into the game.
There was a controversial moment in the 55th minute, when Robertson’s cross hit Valencia’s hand inside the penalty box. It was not attached to his body, so it probably should’ve been a penalty. I mean, it was in 2000 in the Euro Championship semi-final between France and Portugal, when the ball inadvertently hit Abel Xavier’s hand, effectively eliminating Portugal in extra time. The hosts had no interest in going forward and were comfortable letting Liverpool control the game. The visitors were pushing forward and trying to create chances, but weren’t making the right decisions. The attacks looked too random, like they weren’t thought through.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain was replaced by Adam Lallana in the 62nd minute. In the 66th minute, a stroke of good fortune brought hope for Liverpool. Bailly missed the ball when trying to clear Mane’s cross. It went off his back heel into the net, cutting Manchester’s lead into half. In the 70th minute, Mourinho took out Rashford, who left the field with a well-deserved ovation from the fans, and sent Fellaini onto the pitch. Until the end, we saw constant pressure by Liverpool, plenty of corners (12 total in the match), substitutions, 6 minutes of injury time, sacrifice and tension. The result didn’t change. With the victory, Manchester United is now 5 points clear of Liverpool in the battle for 2nd place.