How Ten Hag's 'Running Reds' dominated Liverpool

Tuesday 23 August 2022 12:05

Ahead of the Liverpool game, Erik ten Hag was keen to put tactics to one side and talk about his Manchester United team delivering “the basic stuff”.

What did he mean? Well, in his pre-match press conference at Carrington last Friday he mentioned phrases like: “The right attitude.” And “a fighting spirit on the pitch.”
 
He got that in spades on Monday night, as United rushed, harried and discomforted Jurgen Klopp’s outfit from minute one until the end.

The Reds played some great stuff on the ball, but what seemed to most please a vociferous Old Trafford crowd was the simple aggression and graft on show.
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Stats revealed that United covered 114km during the match – almost 20km more than at Brentford a week earlier – outrunning a Liverpool team that have been widely praised for their intensity during the last few years.

Ten Hag’s men got stuck in, too, making 24 tackles to Liverpool’s 13.
 
We also made more blocks (18-14), underlining the lads’ commitment to putting everything on the line in order to kickstart our season after two painful defeats.
But don’t kid yourself that United parked the bus and simply hoped to cling on: our xG (expected goals) of 1.7 outshone Liverpool’s 1.5.In simple terms, that means we created better quality chances than the Merseysiders.

Anthony Elanga hit a post in a one-on-one against Alisson in the early stages, and Marcus Rashford narrowly failed to score with two great attempts in the second period.

As Liverpool sought an unlikely route back into the game during the closing stages, we understandably dropped deeper and ceded possession. But United were clearly the more threatening team going forward throughout the contest.
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However, the stats only indicate part of the story. It was the manner in which United went about the evening's business that really seemed to rouse the raucous crowd.
 
The figures show that Lisandro Martinez had 41 touches, recovered the ball three times, made seven clearances and one block. 
 
But what they don’t spell out is the passion and bite behind those numbers. Martinez tackled as if his life depended on it, and his aggressive approach clearly rattled James Milner and Mohamed Salah, to name but two opposition players.

 

We made 51 more sprints than Klopp’s visitors, and the sight of Erik ten Hag’s “Running Reds” – to quote Statman Dave on Twitter – haring round the massive pitch had M16 up off its feet from the very first whistle.
 
Leading the way was Bruno Fernandes, with 17 presses, just ahead of Scott McTominay (15) and Tyrell Malacia (15), who was making his first Premier League start.

The Old Trafford crowd can accept losing, but it cannot accept a lack of effort and desire. On Monday night, the squad delivered a performance of massive heart, and inspired the best atmosphere at the Theatre of Dreams since the pre-Covid Manchester derby of March 2020.

Hopefully, there’s much more of that effort to come, as the Ten Hag era builds up some speed in the weeks and months ahead.
 
All stats referenced are sourced from football website FBREF.

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