Three things we learned: Liverpool v. Man United
LIVERPOOL -- Liverpool returned to the top of the Premier League table with a resounding, humiliating drubbing of Manchester United on Sunday.
The 3-1 scoreline didn’t do justice to the gulf which now exists between the two teams. Sadio Mane’s first half goal set Liverpool on their way, while Jesse Lingard equalized after a mistake from Alisson. But two deflected strikes from Xherdan Shaqiri won it for Liverpool in the second half, as Jurgen Klopp’s side were deserved winners and remain the only unbeaten team left in the Premier League.
As for Jose Mourinho and United, they sit in sixth place and are now 11 points off the top four as so many of their problems were ruthlessly exposed.
Here’s what we learned from a tense encounter between two bitter rivals, as Liverpool’s fans have the bragging rights and will enjoy a sensational festive period.
LIVERPOOL’S FRONT THREE FINALLY BREAK UNITED DOWN
Ahead of this clash Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane had all failed to score or grab an assist for the Reds against Manchester United in 855 minutes in the Premier League. Mane changed that early on and both Firmino and Salah looked sharp throughout. United’s five-man defense sat deep and try to stop their runs over the top but Mane timed his perfectly to put Liverpool ahead. Mane then set up Shaqiri to score Liverpool’s second with a surging run down the left, and a lovely flick from Firmino set up Shaqiri to score his second and Liverpool’s third. United’s defense was makeshift with Chris Smalling going down in the warm-up and the likes of Matteo Darmian and Diogo Dalot chucked in at the deep end, but Liverpool’s famous front three finally fired on all cylinders against their bitter rivals.
MOURINHO IS NO LONGER KLOPP’S KRYPTONITE
Jurgen Klopp had failed to beat Jose Mourinho since he took charge of Manchester United, but at the fifth time of asking he recorded his first win against Mourinho’s United. Three of those matches have been draws, most of which United have played for, and last March United beat Liverpool 2-1 at Old Trafford in a proper smash and grab. But Klopp wasn’t to be denied on Sunday as the progress his team has made over the past 12 months is clear for all to see. Aside from Alisson’s howler they didn’t look like conceding, as Liverpool have now let in just seven goals in 17 games so far this season. As for United, Mourinho’s strength has become their biggest weakness as the Red Devils have now conceded more goals in their opening 17 games of the season than they did in the whole of last season. This defeat was only his third in 17 away games at Liverpool in his career, and it was perhaps the most damaging of all.
SHAQIRI, FABINHO PROVE STRENGTH OF LIVERPOOL’S SQUAD
Last year Liverpool would have drawn this game on Sunday, just like they did at home against Manchester United in their previous two PL encounters, but Shaqiri scored twice after coming off the bench to underline the new strength of this Liverpool squad. Shaqiri made a huge difference, with his pace and power and two deflected efforts leading Liverpool to victory. But it was all over the pitch where Liverpool showed they have built a better, and deeper, team than Man United. Nathaniel Clyne came in for his first start since last May with Trent Alexander-Arnold and Joe Gomez out and excelled. Fabinho was superb in place of Jordan Henderson and Dejan Lovren held his own with Joel Matip and Gomez out. Now 19 points ahead of United, Liverpool’s strength in depth is clear for all to see and along with Man City they’re the genuine title contenders.
As for United, they were riddled with defensive injuries and it showed. United’s problems were compounded by having the likes of Paul Pogba as an unused substitute as Mourinho’s squad have reportedly turned against him and the players who do want to play just simply aren’t good enough.