We do so enjoy thumping historic rivals, and 9-0 on aggregate represents — by some distance — the largest deficit Manchester United have ever lost two games against the same opponent by in the Premier League era.
The distance between the sides is vast at the moment, and never has that been exemplified better than in the first half of tonight’s game. Liverpool did everything they wanted to, Utd did nothing at all, and realistically, the tie was done by the half hour mark.
The second half still had to be played, allowing the Reds to tack on another pair of goals and pad their already superior goal difference further, but it was all largely academical, and it was difficult not to let ones mind drift towards the derby on Sunday, and, perhaps, potential parades in a month’s time.
At any rate, below the line, we look at some winners and losers of this delightful game of football.
Rainfall: Prior to tonight’s game, it had been x days since Mohamed Salah scored a non-penalty goal for Liverpool. In that time, he had missed seven consecutive clear cut chances His underlying numbers were largely unchanged, and he was getting opportunities, but his touch and decision making consistently let him down, and many felt that perhaps the dual disappointment of losing the AfCoN final and missing out on the World Cup in most devastating fashion, paired with the amount of minutes played was beginning to weigh on him.
The Egyptian Prince looked revitalised tonight, though, and while Manchester United did not make things particularly difficult for him, it was nonetheless delightful to see Salah at his clinical best, as he buried chances in each half.
If Mo rediscovers his shooting boots to finish out the season, oddsmakers will have to rework their probability algorithms for the Reds winning absolutely everything on offer.
The Maestro: Good heavens Thiago was fantastic tonight. Despite producing zero goals or assists, and every member of the front line generating at least one of each, there was little doubt at the end of the game which player would take home the man of the match trophy.
The former Bayern man was unplayable in the first half, connecting on 59 of 60 passes, a significant percentage of which were either pinpoint crossfield switches or disguised linebreakers, and consistently covered the pitch in stepovers, ball rolls and assorted magic throughout.
The nature of the match meant that his statline could never look quite the same in the second half, but Thiago still finished the game with 105 out of 110 passes, three shot assists, three dribbles, three tackles and two interceptions before getting subbed off to a standing ovation in the 80th minute, having put on a masterclass of two-way midfield dominance.
He picked up a slight knock before the sub, but appeared to walk it off and was resistant to the idea of being taken off, but if Thiago stays healthy for the remained of the season, that is a significant boost to Liverpool’s quadruple hopes.
SADIOOO: A goal and an assist — and what an assist! — for Liverpool’s new false nine tonight, taking his tally since returning from the African Cup of Nations to nine plus one. Many fans were — predictably, they are a fickle lot, after all — writing Sadio Mané off after a disappointing 2020/21 campaign, but the 30-year old is proving that rumours of his demise are greatly exaggerated, and with Luis Díaz proving a dependable deputy on the left flank, the Senegalese attacker has spent more and more time in the centre of attack, improving in the role on a weekly basis.
Should probably get that contract situation sorted.
The Away Team: I mean, obviously, but the opening 45 minutes of this match was, without exaggeration, the worst half of football this writer has ever seen Manchester United play, and I watched them get trounced 4-0 at Old Trafford less than six months ago.
Coming into the match in a 5-4-1, the visitors were clearly looking to defend compactly and hit the Reds on the counter, but they never came close, and were chasing shadows to no avail all the way until the break.
Going into the tunnel at the half, Utd had not taken a single shot, had two touches in the Liverpool box, and only 15 touches in the attacking third, managing only 24% possession. It was a shocking half of football, from a team that, although weakened by injury, displayed just how much work Manchester United have to do to close the gap on their historic rivals.
They weren’t quite as bad in the second half — how could they be — but although the same pundits who make noise about Liverpool’s high line will talk about how Utd got back in the game after the break, they still only took two shots, only bumped their possession percentage up to 28, and conceded another pair of goals.
An abysmal performance from a team lacking identity, faith and quality. Erik ten Hag is reportedly coming in when summer rolls around, and the Ajax coach looks to have his work cut out for him.
The Away Crowd: On a day where Anfield collectively stood up and applauded for a full minute in solidarity with Manchester United’s Cristiano Ronaldo, who lost his newborn child yesterday, the visiting fans still found it appropriate to sing about Hillsborough and the S*n.
Despicable scumbags, the lot. Find them and ban them.
What Happens Next
Now we wait. For Manchester City to slip up, that is. The Emiratis face Brighton tomorrow, and need a win against Graham Potter and Adam Lallana if they want to recover top spot in the table.
Then, it’s onto the Merseyside derby on Sunday, as the Reds host an Everton side fighting for their lives near the bottom of the table, three points out of the relegation zone. It looks a tall order for the Blues, but as any hack commentator will tell you, form goes out the window in a derby.
Hopefully not by too much.