LIVERPOOL 3, MAN UNITED 1
Super-sub Xherdan Shaqiri inflicted further pain on Manchester United following their defeat at arch-rivals Liverpool.
The Swiss international, a steal after being signed for £13.5million after Stoke City’s relegation, came off the bench to score twice, the decisive goals that lifted Liverpool back to the top of the table.Embed from Getty Images
It was another sorry afternoon for United who are now 11 points adrift of the Champions League places which look an impossible dream and 19 behind Liverpool having already lost five league games.
United, who had not conceded a goal on their last three visits to Liverpool, have now let in 29 Premier League goals, already one more than last season’s total.
Yet manager Jose Mourinho, who pre-match had labelled Liverpool the lucky ones, was full or praise for his team, declaring: “I am happy with the players’ commitment and attitude.
“I am sorry for them as their efforts didn’t deserve to lose in the way we did.
“The players gave everything and, when players give everything, I can never be upset or frustrated.”
Mourinho, who admitted Liverpool deserved their victory, conceded his side found it difficult to cope with Liverpool in the opening 20/25 minutes.
“When the game in high intensity, it is difficult for us. When the intensity went down in the second half, it brought the game into our side,” he explained.
Mourinho added United’s injury troubles haven’t helped as Eric Bailly came into the side at late notice after Chris Smalling was injured in the warm up.
He also pointed out Victor Lindelof, Diego Dalot, Ashley Young and Matteo Darmian had all been injury doubts.
Jurgen Klopp described it as one of the best performances since he became Liverpool manager.
He said his team was outstanding in the opening half hour and the way they played was “near perfect”.
Klopp admitted they had luck on their side as both Shaqiri’s goal came from deflection, but they needed that luck on a “near perfect night” in which they had 36 goal attempts to United’s six with on-target efforts 11-2.
United initially made two changes from the side that beat Fulham 4-1 as the injured Phil Jones and Juan Mata made way for Lindelof and Darmian.
But that became a third when Smalling was injured in the warm up and was replaced by Bailly.
The defence was deprived of Jones, Smalling, Marcos Rojo and Luke Shaw, all through injury.
They had plenty of back up on the bench that included Paul Pogba, Mata, Anthony Martial and Marouane Fellaini.
Liverpool had a rejigged defence with Joel Matip and Trent Alexander-Arnold ruled out as was James Milner.
United began with a conservative line up that had right-back Dalot operating on the right side of midfield in a 4-5-1 formation.
In the early stages it looked as though United would be swept aside as Liverpool began at an electrifying pace, though Romelu Lukaku had the ball into the net, though he had strayed clearly offside.
Roberto Firmino and Fabinho both had long-range efforts turned away by David De Gea in the opening 10 minutes.
And it was no surprise when Liverpool made the breakthrough in the 25th minute after a delightful move.
Firminho began the build up on the left with a pass to Fabinho who lofted a ball over United’s defence for Mane to race through, chest it down and volley low past David De Gea.
Anfield was stunned when United equalised in the 33rd minute on a rare occasion they ventured forward.
Lukaku fired over a low cross from the left of the box that keeper Allison Becker could only push out as far as Lingard who bundled home a shot from six yards.
The goal lifted United who became more adventurous as Ander Herrera’s deflected drive forced a diving save from Alisson.
United made a change at the break as Dalot was replaced by Fellaini.
Liverpool, who had 15 first-half goal attempts to United’s three, began the second half on the front foot and Firmino forced another excellent save from De Gea diving full length low to his left.
For all their possession, Liverpool weren’t creating many clear-cut chances as their shot slection was poor while United defended resolutely to keep them at bay.
Liverpool regained the lead in the 72nd minute through Shaqiri who had only been on the field two minutes after replacing Naby Keita.
Mane cut in the from the left along the by line and drove in a low cross which De Gea deflected with his legs but only as far as Shaqiri whose shot went in off the crossbar.
United, needing more attacking options, brought on Martial with 11 minutes left as he replaced Herrera.
Liverpool sealed victory one minute after United made their change when Shaqiri struck again.
Shaqiri started and finished the move playing a return pass to Mohamed Salah and seeing his shot deflect off Bailly and beyond De Gea’s despairing grasp.
It was do or die for United who threw on Mata for Lingard with five minutes left.