Hit: Martinez silences doubters
The 5’9″ Lisandro Martinez was six feet tall when Manchester United picked up Erik ten Hag’s first victory.
Just over a week ago, the £57m Argentina centre-back was taken off at half-time after being outplayed by Ben Mee and Brentford, with questions over whether his size, or his absence, would be able to cope in the Premier League. .
Darwin Nunez’s absence at Liverpool undoubtedly helped, but the 24-year-old showed his quality on the left side of United’s defense against Mohamed Salah. It was a different challenge – one of positioning and patience, knowing when to step in and being aggressive.
“Being 5ft 9in is a problem,” said Sky Sports pundit Jamie Carragher. “But if I think of the best centre-back I’ve ever seen, it’s Franco Baresi. He was 5-foot-9, 5-foot-10. If you’re that size, you have to be exceptional in everything else. He was 10/10 in everything else, 6/10 in the air. Martinez did it tonight. He has to win the game on the ground, he has to read the game. That will make up for his size.
Ten Hag’s decision to drop Harry Maguire for Raphael Varane was also vindicated – the ex-Real Madrid defender seemed the perfect match for Martinez, calm and collected.
The difference a week can make.
Miss: Liverpool’s slow start strikes again
It’s been an awfully slow start to the season for Liverpool – literally.
Jurgen Klopp’s side have now conceded the first goal in nine of their last 10 competitive appearances in all competitions – and in their last seven Premier League games. The first time the latter stat has happened in their top-flight history.
Some may point to Liverpool’s accumulated fatigue in their 64 games last season as why they aren’t so sharp. But the fact that it has happened in the first three games of this new season shows that Klopp – who dismissed the idea of a single reason to start slowly before last week – has an endemic in his squad.
“We conceded a goal early. Again. We started slow. Again,” Andy Robertson told Sky Sports. “We can’t keep falling behind. During the warm-up it was the quietest stadium I’ve heard in this stadium and they [the United fans] wanted something to lift them up and we gave them that.
“We have to come together and deal with it as a team. We have to be a team that starts the game well and puts pressure on the other team. Fulham started better than us, they started better than us today. “Last season fullback, he’s already started. We can’t keep giving them a goal start.
Bournemouth come next at Anfield and if Liverpool fall further behind then Klopp can’t keep blaming different excuses.
Are United better off without Ronaldo?
Manchester United have regained their intensity.
Having covered 13.8 kilometers less than Brentford in their previous game, United looked like a completely different team. Erik ten Hag’s side covered 18 kilometers more this week, bettering Liverpool’s distance covered stat by 109.96km by racking up a total of 113.06km.
United also went from 92 sprints at Brentford to 167 against Liverpool. And despite having just 30 per cent possession against Jurgen Klopp’s side, they pressed 200 to Liverpool’s 88.
Ten Hag praised his front three for the pressure they put on Liverpool without the ball – and may also have given a subtle dig at Ronaldo, who started at Brentford but played just five minutes behind. bench against Liverpool.
“Sometimes strikers think they can’t do it because they have to save their energy for attacking moves,” the United manager told Sky Sports after the game. “Today it’s a request and that’s what you saw. It makes me happy that Rashford and Sancho scored the goals.”
Miss: What was Van Dijk doing?
Had Virgil van Dijk forgotten his glasses and needed to know when the next train was leaving Manchester according to the timetable? Or was it just stunningly bad defense?
“I didn’t realize how much time I had,” said striker Jadon Sancho, who was given the freedom from Old Trafford to score Manchester United’s first goal. Even Bruno Fernandes was telling his teammate where to place the ball. This was all down to Van Dijk standing in a central area, like a statue, with both hands behind his back, giving Sancho time to get home. Put someone like John Terry, Jamie Carragher or Nemanja Vidic in this situation and Sancho would never have had so much time.
Carragher said: “That’s the only thing I would ask him about. In most departments he’s 10 out of 10. But he lacks intensity at times. Can he just extend his leg? You have to throw you on this.”
“If you analyze Van Dijk there, he’s been sloppy all season,” said former United captain Roy Keane.
“He has to go out. He didn’t move his feet.”
As the United players celebrated, James Milner could be seen raging at Van Dijk, making it clear why the defender hadn’t pressed Sancho. “Go ahead,” Milner shouted at the defender, who didn’t look too impressed at being dug up by his teammate.
As Keane mentioned, it wasn’t a Van Dijk one-off either. You only need to go back seven days to find a more cocky Liverpool centre-back defense as Wilfried Zaha fired an end past Alisson in the 1-1 draw with Crystal Palace. There was also the foul on Aleksandar Mitrovic which led to Fulham’s opening weekend penalty.
Van Dijk is a supreme footballer, but right now he needs to get back to basics.
Hit: Rashford’s confidence returns
“It’s the first time I’ve seen Marcus Rashford play the way he did when he came on the scene where he was running on goal regularly. It was a great moment,” said Sky Sports’ Gary Neville.
Much like Manchester United’s performance, it’s a mystery how or why Rashford suddenly regained his confidence here, but when to do so.
The 24-year-old took five shots on goal – the most he’s had in a game since October 2020 – and netted his first Premier League goal since January. He shone with the ball at his feet, showing his raw pace over five dribbles.
He played through the middle in the first half before moving to the left with the order to scare Trent Alexander-Arnold further, eventually scoring with a perfect finish after one against a masterful Alisson.
Gareth Southgate, were you watching?
Miss: Can Trent be trusted in the big games?
For all that Trent Alexander-Arnold brings to the future, he’s thoroughly let down by an indefensible inability to defend against the big players.
Once again, the Liverpool right-back has been brutally exploited by Marcus Rashford and Anthony Elanga. It came early on when Rashford burst in from his England team-mate to charge at goal.
Then Alexander-Arnold was played by Christian Eriksen and Elanga for United’s first – then was nowhere to be seen when his man, Rashford again, burst in for the second.
Alexander-Arnold’s defense has been regularly called into question. Intimidated by Brentford in Liverpool’s 3-3 draw last season, the defender also lost track of Vinicius Junior in the Champions League final and was beaten at the far post by Aleksandr Mitrovic at the weekend. opening of this campaign in Fulham.
His repeated defensive frailties might suggest why England manager Gareth Southgate never really rated Alexander-Arnold at major tournaments.
“He lacked intensity,” Jamie Carragher said of the full-back for United’s first goal. “The right side of the defense was a problem for Liverpool,” said Gary Neville when asked about the second.
And when Alexander-Arnold has a day off, as he did at Old Trafford where he regularly topped the assists, then Liverpool have a real problem on that flank.