By Alex Al-Kazzaz
When the lineups were released for the Premier League match between Manchester United and Liverpool, it was a shocking surprise to see both Cristiano Ronaldo and team captain Harry Maguire on the bench. No doubt, the move was risky but quite necessary. In Erik ten Hag's case, as manager of Man United, he undoubtedly made a judgment call. And it proved to be well worth it.
Man United came into their match against Liverpool buried at the bottom of the Premier League standings, coming off an embarrassing 4-0 loss to Brentford. The club's performance in their first two games was so bad that it was clear that they had no passion, no motivation, and most of all, no respect for the game. The fact that they came into this game with a negative 5-goal differential solidifies the lack of passion, motivation, and respect. Not to mention that their only goal so far had been an own goal, which took place in their opening match against Brighton, in which Man United lost 2-1.
Man United clearly did NOT look like themselves against Liverpool. But not in a bad way! Man United all of sudden was energized, focused, playing as a cohesive unit, and most importantly, they were playing passionately and the players were motivated. Man United's 2-1 victory over their longtime historic adversaries is what the club needed. The victory was hard-fought and well-earned.
The motivation clearly had to start with how Man United's manager set up his team's lineup. Lisandro Martinez and Tyrell Malacia, both of whom were acquired by the club in the off-season transfer, were in the back four alongside Diogo Dalot and veteran defender Raphael Varane. The defense looked very solid. It was certainly a great risk placing Marcus Rashford as the lone striker but with Jadon Sancho, Bruno Fernandes, and Anthony Elanga behind him, it had potential. And it turned out great. Sancho and Rashford would both score in a spectacular fashion. Fernandes served as captain for this game and he had a tremendous day performance-wise.
The team looked very good overall and at any rate, they must keep it up. Manager ten Hag has his first win as manager of Man United. Next up, Man United takes on Southampton. The club needs to start a winning streak and keep it alive.
Liverpool is off to their worst start to a Premier League under manager Jurgen Klopp. It's obvious the team is having some problems. Whether it's the injuries or the team's ineffectiveness, the team is winless after three games in Premier League play. Furthermore, Liverpool is 16th in the Premier League standings.
In Liverpool's case, losing to Manchester United the way they did, was not only frustrating for the Reds but rather embarrassing. Furthermore, despite being without Thiago, Diogo Jota, and Darwin Nunez, Liverpool still could have got the job done, but somehow, Man United was able to keep Liverpool under control. Mo Salah would score for the Reds with less than minutes to spark a possible comeback, but Man United's resiliency was too much for Liverpool.
There was a point where James Milner and Virgil van Dijk had a bit of a quarrel after they were both beaten by Sancho which led to Liverpool conceding the opening goal. Milner was clearly frustrated. Based on how that went down, what's worrisome is Liverpool's defense not being on the same page. Whatever the issue, Liverpool needs to figure things out and they got to do it quickly.