Lacklustre Manchester United Leave European Door Open For Liverpool
A lacklustre Manchester United performance, their second in two days, has seen the Red Devils lose 4-2 at home to Liverpool, leaving the door open for their bitter rivals to seal Champions League qualification for next season.
After going ahead early through a deflected Bruno Fernandes strike, United were second best for the remainder of the match, with their ‘McFred’ partnership in central midfield looking a million miles away from being able to challenge Manchester City for the Premier League title.
The absence of the much-maligned Harry Maguire from the centre of defence was also telling, the Brit looking the much more assured option when compared to Eric Bailly who always has an error in him or victor Lindeloef who lacks any kind of presence.
While many fans and pundits have been clamouring for Dean Henderson to be the number one keeper going forward, his performance at Old Trafford served as a stark reminder of why it is so important to hold onto the world-class talent of David de Gea if there is to be a title challenge next season.
Manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was disappointed with the result, and expects a reaction as United go into their final two league matches before their Europa League final.
“Liverpool deserved the win. But it was a game that we should have capitalised on. That start we had, we should have capitalised more on that one and that’s something we have to learn from and will learn from. I don’t think the boys understood that they [Liverpool] were here for the taking. We played well and we played some great football, but when we lost the ball we were a little bit on the back foot. We let them play out and we should have pressed more and made it more difficult, but we’ll learn from it,” said Solskjaer.
Second Goal The Turning Point
Gifting a goal to Liverpool on the stroke of half time was a body blow, changing the complexion of the second half.
“Just before half-time, just after the second half starts and of course injury time are bad times to concede goals. We gave them three goals really – at least two of them we gave them. And after we scored again at 3-2, when we had our own momentum, we had a massive double chance then. I’ve got to say, how that ball doesn’t go in after that pinball game in there… that was the moment we should have capitalised on. Key moments went against us.”
Work Needed On Set Pieces
Without the commanding presence of Harry Maguire, United were undone at set-pieces, and will need to work on their defending should the captain not be available to face Villareal.
“You never like to concede on set plays. We’ve done that too often, so we need to work on that. As for the way we started the second half, we want to play out from the back and we trust the players to do that. Once in a while it can go wrong and unfortunately today it did go wrong. We’ve seen so many times that it’s worked and we’ve played through teams. Unfortunately it’s against Liverpool when it didn’t work. It was really, really poor, the start of the second half. We gave them that third goal.”
“Harry’s been really important for us. He’s been absolutely top since he came to the club. So of course we’re going to miss him, but he’s out so we’ve got to deal with that. We’ve got good enough players to be able to deal with it, we should be [able to], so now it’s about regrouping. Start building our own confidence and momentum again because we’ve got two games in the league and then a final.”
Final Focus Starts Now
After four games in eight days, United have an opportunity to press the reset button before facing already-relegated Fulham next Tuesday, as they look to prepare for the Europa Cup final and potentially the first trophy of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s time in charge.
“We need to find ourselves straightaway. We’ve got Fulham on Tuesday and we need to start, as I said, building that momentum and confidence because we have two league games left. It’s not a lot of preparation but we should go into that Europa League final ready. So I expect Tuesday to be a good one. Hopefully when we can let the fans in on Tuesday, it’ll be a good atmosphere here,” concluded the manager.