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Manchester United 3, Liverpool 1: The Walking Dead

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United poor, Liverpool worse in 3-1 defeat.

Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

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Manchester United 3 Blind 49', Herrera (PK) 70', Martial 86'
Liverpool 1 Benteke 84'

There's supposed to be fire when Liverpool face Manchester United. This is a match that should make you feel something unrefined deep down in your gut -- it's what makes this rivalry one of the best in all of professional sports. That feeling was mostly absent today, as Liverpool stumbled to a 3-1 defeat.

Brendan Rodgers asked for trouble with his starting line up -- Roberto Firmino and Danny Ings out of position on the wings, Dejan Lovren on the pitch. But tactics can't explain the way that Liverpool responded to Manchester United's high press in the first half. Each time Liverpool won the ball back in their own defensive third, someone managed to give it right back to United. Simon Mignolet and Lucas both put the defense under immense pressure with a couple of careless giveaways, and Liverpool were fortunate to enter the half level.

Actual things happened in the second half. Unfortunately, most of the things that happened were bad things. United jumped out to a 1-0 lead with a bit of set piece trickery -- everyone crashed Liverpool's goal except for Daley Blind, who settled into vacated space at the edge of the box. Juan Mata squared the ball into Blind's path, and Blind rocketed it into the corner of the net.

Liverpool picked up their play a tick after conceding and had two excellent chances to level the score. A poor David de Gea clearance led to a Danny Ings volley in a dangerous position, but de Gea did brilliantly to push the shot wide with his fingertips. Martin Skrtel nearly scored off a corner not long after the Ings chance, but he was denied by a last ditch block by Blind.

Despite the relative increase in attacking threat in the second half, Liverpool still appeared rather disjointed up front with Christian Benteke isolated in the attack. One goal looked like a big ask, and when United went 2-0 up through an Ander Herrera penalty, the match looked over.

But Benteke gave Liverpool fans a glimmer of hope with what might end up being the goal of the season. He made perfect contact with an acrobatic overhead volley, sending the ball screaming past de Gea. 2-1 with time left to chase an equalizer.

The elation didn't last. Not even for five minutes. Substitute prodigy striker Anthony Martial destroyed Skrtel with a marauding dribble into the box, and after leaving the center back for dead, he slotted cooly past Mignolet. 3-1, game over.

Philippe Coutinho and Jordan Henderson would have helped in this one, but to blame their absences for this loss ignores Liverpool's deeper problems. There's no identity, little cohesion and a whole lot of question marks surrounding this team. What's most maddening is that the same things apply to United, but Liverpool couldn't take advantage because of their own ineptitude.