Daniel Sturridge’s first-half penalty wasfollowed by Roberto Firmino’s close-range effort 17 minutes from time.
had it not been for the continued brilliance of goalkeeper David de Gea, it would have been over as a contest before next week’s return at Old Trafford.
It was an electric atmosphere inside Anfield and Liverpool dominated the midfield battle as van Gaul got his tactics wrong, playing this as if it was a Premier League match and not an away tie in Europe.
The United boss is supposed to be an expert in European football, yet his side have only won 5 of 11 European matches this season. Van Gaal was out-coached by Klopp all night as United had no answer to Liverpool’s attacking four of Sturridge, Firmino, Adam Lallana and Philippe Coutinho.
Because they were overrub in midfield, United’s attackers were forced to defend and it was a mistake by one of those attackers that led to the first Liverpool goal when the back-tracking Memphis Depay tripped Nathaniel Clyne in the area
Up stepped Sturridge up to beat De Gea for his fourth goal in six appearances against United.
The rest of the half was the David de Gea show and the Spain international kept his side in it with three brilliant saves.
First he somehow clawed out Coutinho shot at the back post, while his save from a one-on-one with Sturridge was Peter Schmeichel-esque and the point-blank stop from Lallana’s volley was just pure instinct.
At half-time van Gaal sacrificed Marcus Rashford and brought on Michael Carrick but that did little to stem the tide of Reds attack after attack and De Gea continued to save his side, denying fierce drives from Coutinho and Clyne while Henderson saved him the trouble by wastefully firing wide.
But even the United goalkeeper could not keep out Firmino’s close-range effort, which came after a horrible mistake by Carrick in trying to clear his lines.
Its a big ask for United to overturn a two goal deficit at home next week, as you would expect Liverpool to get chances on the break to score that all important away goal.