Report: United 2 Liverpool 4
Manchester United fell to a second successive Old Trafford defeat in 48 hours as arch rivals Liverpool ran out 4-2 winners on Thursday night.
The Reds had started well following Tuesday's loss against Leicester City with Bruno Fernandes scoring his 28th goal of a phenomenal campaign on 10 minutes.
But United fell away as Diogo Jota levelled and a goal either side of the interval from Roberto Firmino put the visitors on top.
Inevitably, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side, with 10 changes from the Leicester reverse, didn’t give in and a Marcus Rashford goal gave us hope.
Never-say-die United typically chased an equaliser, but Mo Salah ended our hopes of securing second place in the Premier League on the night by scoring Liverpool’s fourth in the 90th minute.
Not our night Gallery
United are edged out in a fierce contest at Old Trafford.
FIRST HALF - BRUNO STRIKES BUT LIVERPOOL LEAD
It was an eventful opening five minutes with both sides presented with great chances to open the scoring. The first went to the visitors when a Luke Shaw giveaway ball ended with a pass through to Firmino. The forward, preferred to Sadio Mane, unexpectedly attempted a cross rather than a shot and Eric Bailly made a brilliant covering block. The ball struck his trailing hand but after a brief VAR check no penalty was given.
A howler of a mistake followed from Liverpool goalkeeper Alisson. Under no pressure, he inexplicably passed the ball out right to the feet of Edinson Cavani. Despite eight goals in his last eight appearances, the Uruguyan couldn’t punish the Brazilian no.1 despite virtually having an empty goal to fire at.
There was no let up by the Reds and we took the lead after 10 minutes. Aaron Wan-Bissaka set up Fernandes in the box and the Portuguese’s bending shot saw Liverpool defender Nat Phillips stick out a leg and divert it into his own goal. The goal was eventually credited officially to Bruno.
Referee Anthony Taylor then gave a penalty to Liverpool after 26 minutes when he adjudged Eric Bailly’s challenge on Phillips as a foul. But the official was instructed to take a look again on the touchline screen after a VAR check and he realised he had made a mistake and correctly changed his decision after replays showed Bailly played the ball.
Liverpool, however, were building up a head of steam and a Jota shot was brilliantly tipped over by Dean Henderson. It was only a brief let-off, however, as from the corner and a goalmouth melee, Phillips eventually emerged from the fray to take aim with a shot and Jota’s expert backflick found the net for the equaliser.
Paul Pogba came closest to putting United back into the lead, but his shot hit the side-netting late in the half. Disappointingly, three minutes into added time of the first period, Liverpool took the lead as a simple free-kick to the back post by Trent Alexander-Arnold was headed home by Firmino.
SECOND HALF - MARCUS GIVES US HOPE BEFORE SALAH FINISHES IT
Liverpool’s late first-half dominance, comeback and momentum continued after the interval and they were 3-1 ahead two minutes after the restart.
Firmino grabbed his second as we failed to clear our lines, with Alexander-Arnold's thunderous shot too powerful to be held by Henderson and Firmino reacted first to gobble up the loose ball.
United struggled to regain a foothold in the match as the buoyant visitors kept us pressed back and only the woodwork in the 59th-minute saved the Reds from going even further behind. Once again United gave the ball away and Liverpool swept forward with Jota striking a post in the 59th minute. Henderson was beaten on that occasion, but our goalkeeper stopped another Liverpool attempt soon after.
Out of nothing the Reds gave themselves a lifeline in the 68th minute. Shaw and Cavani were in the build-up with the latter threading a pass through to Rashford who finished superbly to make it 2-3. The whole match had suddenly shifted and the Reds had become the major force.
Mason Greenwood, who had come on for Fred just after the hour-mark, had a shot cleared off the line in the 71st-minute and pounced on the loose ball only to see his follow-up attempt from close range blocked as a rattled Liverpool side battled to keep us at bay. Henderson then came to the rescue at the other end as the match see-sawed.
However, as United continued the search for a dramatic escape we were hit on the break and Salah ended all hopes as he coolly broke forward and finished calmly in the 90th minute.
United: Henderson, Wan-Bissaka, Bailly (Matic 86), Lindelof, Shaw, Fred (Greenwood 63), McTominay, Rashford, Fernandes, Pogba, Cavani.
Subs not used: De Gea, Telles, Williams, Tuanzebe, Mata, van de Beek, Amad.
Goals: Fernandes 10, Rashford 68
Booked: Bailly, McTominay, Cavani
Liverpool: Alisson, Alexander-Arnold, R. Williams, Phillips, Robertson, Fabinho, Wijnaldum (Jones 73), Thiago, Jota (Mane 73), Salah (N. Williams 90+2), Firmino.
Subs not used: Adrian, Kelleher, Tsimikas, Shaqiri, Origi, Woodburn.
Goals: Jota 34, Firmino 45+3, 47, Salah 90