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Manchester United 3, Liverpool 0: First Thoughts

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Liverpool suffered a crushing defeat at Old Trafford in a game that exposed many ills in the playing staff and management.

This is what a real goalkeeper looks like.
This is what a real goalkeeper looks like.
Alex Livesey/Getty Images

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Manchester United 3 Rooney 12', Mata 40', van Persie 71'
Liverpool 0

  • There were rumours the day before the game that Simon Mignolet would be dropped in favour of Brad Jones. Those rumours were true as the amiable Australian returned to a Premier League starting line-up for his eighth league start for Liverpool. James Wilson was selected by Louis van Gaal, who defiantly declared that Radamel Falcao was fit in a interview shortly before the game. It was less of a surprise that Liverpool started without a striker as Fabio Borini is being primed for a January departure, Rickie Lambert has played far too much recently, Mario Balotelli only just returned to the matchday squad, and Daniel Sturridge remained injured.

  • Liverpool started well in the first ten minutes pressurised the home side and attacked with purpose. Just after ten minutes, Adam Lallana cut in from the left and played a clever ball to Raheem Sterling. The so-called contract rebel was through in on goal and his weak left foot shot was aimed straight at David de Gea. Manchester United immediately countered down the right, Antonio Valencia found far too much space after he torched Joe Allen, and played the ball across to  an unmarked Wayne Rooney who finished accurately from the edge of the area. Poor organisation in defensive transitions on the left and central areas.

  • Manchester United gained confidence for a few minutes until Liverpool resumed attacks on a shaky home side. Raheem Sterling was Liverpool's biggest threat and tested de Gea again midway through the second half. Glen Johnson was substituted for Kolo Touré just after Sterling's big chance to equalise, and hopefully the experienced right back didn't suffer a serious injury.The Ivorian was probably a better fit for a back three that Rodgers started with.

  • Mata may have been offside for the second goal but he found space far too easily to head in to double the home side's lead. Raheem Sterling found space of his own soon after but couldn't put enough power on what was a decent header for a player of his skillset. Liverpool weren't inferior to Manchester United in terms of performance but were two goals behind at half time. The defending for both goals was poor, but United struggled to keep up with Liverpool breaking through challenges and initiating counter attacks to pick up four yellow cards in dangerous positions.

  • Mario Balotelli came on for Liverpool's most impressive performer, Adam Lallana, to give the away side goals in the second half. Injury or fitness could be the only valid reason, otherwise Brendan Rodgers robbed Liverpool of the most effective presser of the ball and the likeliest source of inspiration. Raheem Sterling compounded any frustrations for away supporters as the youngster failed to beat de Gea in a one-on-one

  • In the first 15 minutes of the second half, Liverpool players seemed unaware of runs made in the attacking channels in the attacking third. Whether it was vision or understanding, Liverpool failed to put an average Manchester United side under real pressure but continued to be the better side. Sterling's movement found space and he found Mario Balotelli from twelve yards out. His powerful shot looked destined to pull a goal back but de Gea tipped his shot onto the crossbar.

  • Manchester United breakaway. Dejan Lovren terrible defending. Robin van Persie. Three nil. Louis van Gaal's side was certainly clinical and looked threatening on the counter as Liverpool were desperate to pull a goal back. David de Gea saved a few more Liverpool chances, most notably from Mario Balotelli. Liverpool's midfielders had little to offer in the final third and weren't effective in screening the defence. Joe Allen and Jordan Henderson are ideal companions for a defensive player and an attacking one in a midfield three. Philippe Coutinho has lost his mojo for now and too much is being asked of Raheem Sterling. Steven Gerrard isn't a 90 minute player anymore and Liverpool lack any authority, cohesion, and leadership in defence.

  • Essentially, Liverpool are in a real crisis. Arsenal visit Anfield next weekend and it's hard to see Liverpool stopping Welbeck, Giroud, or Alexis from scoring. Ten points behind Manchester United. Five points behind Arsenal. Both sides have injury problems far greater than Liverpool. The top four is out of reach for a side in midtable, providing midtable performances and results, and experiencing midtable managerial decisions.

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We'll be back shortly to take an in-depth look at everything that happened in today's game with the full recap. Until then, let us know your take on the ups and downs of the match in the comments, and if you haven't already, join the community on the Liverpool Offside, where we'll have full coverage and lively in-game discussion for every match this season.