For the last week or so, all we have read and heard was about the crisis at Manchester United. Well United responded to those critics with a convincing high entry, high pressure win over bitter rivals Liverpool. A win that will lift the mood of crisis around Manchester United and leave Liverpool still searching for a first win of the season.
Jadon Sancho showed superb control and composure to deservedly put United in front after 16 minutes before Marcus Rashford raced clear to beat Alisson from substitute Anthony Martial’s pass eight minutes after the interval.
Mo Salah set up a tense finish when he scrambled in a header with nine minutes left but United survived to give Ten Hag just the sort of triumph he needs to make his mark at Old Trafford.
Erik ten Hag took the bold decision to drop captain Harry Maguire and Cristiano Ronaldo and was rewarded with the best performance by a United side in a long time.
Ten Hag went with the pace of Sancho and Marcus Rashford along with Anthony Elanga, later replaced by Anthony Martial, to press and exploit Liverpool’s increasingly vulnerable high defensive line.
At the back, Raphael Varane was powerful aerially while Lisandro Martinez showed a fierce competitive spirit, making his intentions clear with robust early challenges on Mo Salah
On the other touchline, Jurgen Klopp Klopp’s decision to not start Fabinho was mystifying, especially since James Milner and Jordan Henderson were left off the pace as United rattled into challenges and contested every ball with a fierce competitive edge.
Liverpool were also vulnerable at the back, with Virgil van Dijk’s poor start to the season continuing, especially with a passive piece of defending for Sancho’s goal.
Klopp will not be panicking and Liverpool have too much quality to struggle for long but two points from their first three league games is a bitterly disappointing return and it is hard to make a case that they deserved anything more.
Afterwards Ten Hag could hardly contain his emotion as he let fly with an unintentional expletive live on Sky Sports.
‘We can talk about tactics but it’s all about attitude,’ Ten Hag said. ‘There was communication, fighting spirit and they can f***ing play good football!
‘I wanted a different attitude and that’s what makes me satisfied. We have good players but if you are a good team, you will succeed. I said to them: “You have to act, be a team, be brave in giving each other options”.
‘I was happy with it but they have to bring it every game. It starts once again with the spirit.’
Jurgen Klopp understandably was not as buoyant after the game saying:
‘We are very disappointed.
‘It was clear what United would do. They were more aggressive then us at the start, yes. It was the game they wanted to play. It was wild, up and down.
‘Apart from the final pass or decision, we then played like we should have played. We had a lot of moments in the box.
‘We don’t have any issues. Nobody is happy but that’s normal. It’s not nice to look at the league table.’