Daniel Sturridge and Roberto Firmino were the heroes against Manchester United as their goals in either half helped Liverpool to a two nil lead in the first leg of their Europa League clash at Anfield. Manchester United had goalkeeper David De Gea to thank as he pulled off world class save after save to deny Liverpool.
Liverpool manager Jürgen Klopp made three changes to the team that beat Crystal Palace last weekend with Nataniel Clyne, Phillipe Coutinho and Daniel Sturridge returning to the Liverpool starting line up. With Anfield buzzing and the fans up for the game it was United who had the first chance, when after thirty seconds young forward Marcus Rashford misjudged Memphis Depay’s cross and missed an opportunity to put his side one nil up. An early yellow card for captain Jordan Henderson gave fans something to worry about. Rashford’s early miss was as good as it got for United in the first half as Liverpool completely dominated the Red Devils. Daniel Sturridge opened the scoring for Liverpool after twenty minutes from the penalty spot after Memphis Depay fouled Liverpool right-back Nataniel Clyne in the box. This was a lead Liverpool deserved as they hit United at the back time after time only to see De Gea deny and frustrate the Reds. De Gea made saves from Phillipe Coutinho shortly after Sturridge’s goal; Sturridge on thirty minutes after a Chris Smalling miscued clearance and an Adam Lallana volley three minutes later. Such was Liverpool’s dominance in the first fourty five minutes that Manchester United had no shots on target and did not force a save out of Simon Mignolet.
Louis Van Gaal changed things up in the second half as he brought on Michael Carrick for the ineffective Rashford. This seemed to settle United for a time as they gathered a bit of momentum and were able to string more than three passes together. But they could not get past a dominant Liverpool defensive line. Both Mamadou Sakho and Dejan Lovren were able for everything Manchester Uniteds attacking line threw at them. United got their one and only shot on target (yes you are reading that properly) after fifty one minutes when Morgan Schneiderlin had a right footed shot from outside the box which was easily saved by Mignelot. Three minutes later United had De Gea to thank for keeping it at one nil when he saved from both Alberto Moreno and Philippe Coutinho. De Gea was called into action again on fifty seven minutes when he kept out a fierce Coutinho half volley and then from Clyne.
Roberto Firmino ended the first game as a competition when after seventy three minutes he collected an Adam Lallana cross to slot his left footed shot in to United’s top right hand corner. Firmino’s goal will be one Michael Carrick will not want to see again as he was at fault for the goal.
Liverpool finished the game with 56 per cent of the possession, had thirteen shots at goal with a massive eight on target. Manchester United left Anfield with just the one shot on target and no corners. The only stats United won tonight was the foul stats, committing sixteen fouls to Liverpool’s fifteen.
I said after the win against Manchester City that in my opinion that victory was Liverpool’s most complete performance of the season. Tonight’s win is just as if not better than the victory over City. Jürgen Klopp is slowly turning Liverpool in to an attack minded patient team. They did not panic tonight when they went in at half time only one nil up. They pressurised United in to submission, they gave United no time on the ball, constantly hassling them when they were in possession which forced the United players in to mistake after mistake after mistake. Liverpool were too quick and too mobile for what can only be described as one of the worst United teams in years.
Van Gaal has a massive job on his hands to turn the tie around. With a tough game at the weekend against West Ham United, Liverpool will be confident of progressing next Thursday night at Old Trafford. As for Liverpool, with a weekend off Jürgen Klopp will be hoping his side can produce another performance like they did tonight and if they do, they will safely qualify for the next round of the Europa League.