Manchester United 1-1 Liverpool analysis – How the Reds knocked Man United out of Europa League

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Manchester United 1-1 Liverpool analysis – How the Reds knocked Man United out of Europa League

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Arun S Kaimal

03/18/2016

Liverpool had done their job at Anfield a week back. A 2-0 lead was in the bag, and Manchester United had to do all the work on the night. Even after giving their all in the second leg, the Red Devils ended up as the second-best team in the tie with Liverpool waving them goodbye with a 1-1 draw and an aggregate 1-3 win to enter their 23rd continental quarter-final.

Formations

Liverpool (4-2-3-1): Simon Mignolet (GK), Nathaniel Clyne, James Milner, Dejan Lovren, Mamadou Sakho, Jordan Henderson, Emre Can, Adam Lallana, Philippe Coutinho, Roberto Firmino, Daniel Sturridge

After a week-long break, Liverpool arrived at Old Trafford with just one change to their XI that took on the Red Devils at Anfield. A hamstring injury ruled out left-back Alberto Moreno from the tie, and James Milner took his place to keep the 4-2-3-1 formation intact.

Manchester United (4-1-4-1): David De Gea (GK), Guillermo Varela, Danny Blind, Chris Smalling, Marcos Rojo, Marouane Fellaini, Juan Mata, Micheal Carrick, Marcus Rashford, Jesse Lingard, Anthony Martial

Marcus Rashford hung around the right-hand side last week defending the runs of Moreno and Coutinho. With his team needing goals, Van Gaal opted to start the young striker at the top moving Anthony Martial to the left-hand side. Mata started on the right, while Michael Carrick and Jesse Lingard took the positions of Schneiderlin and Depay respectively.

football formations

Press and press from Man United

At Anfield, we saw a lacklustre Man United side that was strolling all over the pitch in search of the ball. They never hurried the Liverpool players and received a 2-0 thrashing from their rivals. With them having all to do in their home leg, United were much more focussed in their approach by chasing the ball and rushing into tackles, which resembled the way Liverpool have been playing under Jurgen Klopp.

They pressed Liverpool all over the pitch pushing them into mistakes and snatched the ball in a second to mount an attack. The ploy certainly rattled Liverpool and paved the way for United’s goal in the 32nd minute after Nathaniel Clyne fouled Anthony Martial in the box. Van Gaal’s decision to play Martial on the left against Clyne also played a part in it, with the 20-year old’s pace causing all sorts of problems to the right back. Martial took the resultant penalty and coolly slotted it past Mignolet to reduce Liverpool’s lead into half.

The other side of the press

Manchester United’s aggressive pressing in the first half gave them a goal, but it also had its downside. The defenders – Varela, Smalling, Blind and Rojo – were pushing far too forward into Liverpool’s half leaving acres of space for Sturridge, Coutinho and Firmino to run into. The Brazilian duo thrives in the space between the defence and the midfield and with Man United leaving space for them to run, a goal for Liverpool always looked around the corner.

Coutinho ran the show from the midfield, and with Varela nowhere near him, he broke the off-side trap a couple of times to race forward, only to see David De Gea standing tall in front of him. The warning signs were there, but no one from the Man United bench took note of it and it finally caused them the heartbreak just before the break with Coutinho making a mockery out of De Gea to level things up in the match.

Emre Can put the Brazilian free on the left-hand side, and Coutinho spun Varela like a top to get around him before producing a loopy shot past De Gea, to leave the goalkeeper on his knees. The 43rd-minute strike sealed the match in favour of the Reds from Merseyside with their rivals needing three more goals in the next forty-five minutes.

If the first-half was entertaining, then the second forty-five proved to be its drab cousin, with United players looking hopeless after Coutinho’s dagger into their hearts. On the other hand, Liverpool sat back and hit them on the counter, with a 1-3 cushion in their bag. Van Gaal made substitutions for the sake of it, while Klopp looked ahead to the weekend’s game by bringing off his star players. The players surrendered after the break, and the fans 15 minutes before the end. At the end, Liverpool entered the quarter-final of the Europa League as the deserving winners over two legs piling more misery on their fierce rivals.

(Also, take a look at our Managers XI - 2015/16 Premier League Managers XI - Who would make the team?)

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