Talking Points: Manchester United 2, Liverpool.

A poor first-half display left Liverpool with too much to do as they suffered a 2-1 defeat to rivals Man United at Old Trafford. Marcus Rashford quick brace gave the hosts an ideal start, and in reply, an own-goal from Eric Bailly was the only time the Reds got on the score sheet. The Anfield Talk’s Lewis (@TizTaz99) brings us the talking points from the defeat at OT. 

Diabolical display from referee Pawson denies Liverpool at least a point…

Let’s not beat around the bush. Yes the bottom line is Liverpool lost and it was so disappointing to put in such a bad performance in what is such a meaningful fixture, but, as bad as Jürgen Klopp’s side were, if Craig Pawson could actually do his job properly then Liverpool get at least a point if not all three. The moment Emre Can was penalised for a perfectly good tackle right at the start of the game, you just knew it was going to be yet another day where a referee is extremely biased towards Man United. Klopp’s team had numerous penalty claims throughout the encounter, with at least two – Antonio Valencia’s handball and Ashley Young’s blatant pulling back of Mo Salah – being absolute stone-wall penalties. Even penalties aside, Valencia should have received his marching order for a WWE style boot to the chest on Sadio Mane, and Rashford could have and arguably should have been given a second yellow card eventually. By the end of the game, Chris Smalling throwing people to the floor was going totally unnoticed and Pawson was making up rules like stopping the game for a chest injury. People may slate it, but VAR at least makes matches fair and would have prevented Man United from getting a result against Liverpool at Old Trafford thanks to officiating errors for the second season in a row. The standard of some refs in the Premier League is disgraceful, and is anyone surprised that more often than not it is Man United who always benefits from these mistakes? Disgusting.

Alexander-Arnold’s inexperience and Lovren’s aerial failure prove costly…

So while Pawson is mainly to blame, he is not solely to blame, and Liverpool must look at their performance in the first-half, especially when it came to defending, and be very frustrated with themselves. It would have been a consideration to play Joe Gomez at right-back for this game since he is probably better defensively than Trent Alexander-Arnold, but the latter has been so impressive recently and was rightly given the nod. But he is still a very young player and has much to learn, as shown particularly with Rashford’s first goal when TAA got caught on the wrong side from Romelu Lukaku’s flick on and then allowed Rashford to cut inside to score. Even in the second-half when most of his teammates upped their game, TAA was still getting caught out and was eventually put out of his misery when he was subbed off. Liverpool’s right side was weak all match, and TAA wasn’t helped by Dejan Lovren who surprise surprise, suffered a bad day at the office days after giving an interview saying how much better he is playing. Klopp’s tactics could have been better to prevent Lukaku winning the long balls that he did, but Lovren was beaten twice in the air and these mistakes were the catalysts for both of Rashford’s goals. Contrastingly Virgil Van Dijk was superb, and purchasing a centre-back partner for the Dutchman next season is important.

Sloppy Reds nowhere near their best…

It just isn’t the day when you want most of your players putting in some of their worst displays of the season. Liverpool have been so impressive in recent weeks, and headed into the game with the confidence of claiming a huge win. But overall it was a disaster, and the likes of James Milner, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Sadio Mane as well as the pair mentioned above were all miles below par. Mane was back to sloppy touches, misplaced passes and no end product but still being involved in the Reds’ only goal – his cross diverted in by Bailly. How Klopp’s team broke down and found space between United’s tight defensive lines was always going to be important, but moves like the one where Robertson was threaded through in the first-half were all too scarce. The midfield did not help this, and offered very little creativity while preferring to run into blind alleys. Jose Mourinho’s team didn’t even play very well, but a few tactical tweaks like Lukaku targeting Lovren and numerous players marking Salah gave the home side the advantage. We just need to hope that Liverpool don’t play this badly again for a long time.

Second place is gone, but lessons must be learnt for Champions League…

Yep, it’s gone. Today’s game was pretty much a cup final for who was going to finish second in the League, with a draw possibly being a better result for Liverpool given United’s trip to Man City still to come. But Mourinho’s men triumphed and their now five-point gap over Klopp and his players will not be overcome before the season’s close. There isn’t much difference between second, third and fourth – something we will certainly keep telling ourselves until the Brighton game at Anfield – but finishing ahead of Man United is always a lovely bragging right. Attention will now turn to securing a top-four finish and trying to finish ahead of Spurs and Chelsea, but equally important is Liverpool learning lessons from this defeat for their upcoming Champions League Quarter-Final. Juventus showed it against Spurs, at the top level as long as you can stay in the game and have a few quality attackers, you can turn a game in an instance with quick-fire goals in a short space of time. We saw the same today, and Klopp must ensure that his players are switched on in games of such magnitude, because if Man United can catch us out then Barcelona, Bayern and Real Madrid will have no hesitations. Some Liverpool fans may want a Quarter-Final draw against Man United in order to enact some revenge and put an end to this Mourinho curse, but whoever the Reds are drawn against in Friday’s draw, they must be switched on from the first minute until the last.

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