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Old 12-17-2018, 11:14 AM
DSYoungEsq is offline
Join Date: Jul 1999
Location: Indian Land, S Carolina
Posts: 14,411
Well, despite the stats, the whole game wasn't as bad as the score line appeared. Here's my take:

The first 5 min. showed that United came in with resolve to be plucky contenders. They were controlling the ball, looking for ways to get Young and Dalot forward, probing for chances to slip the ball to either Rashford or Lingard. Liverpool were up to the task of stopping them.

The next roughly 25 min. were a demonstration of how Mourinho's set-up was over-matched by Klopp's set-up. Young especially was neutered by the way Liverpool flooded his side of the pitch, forcing him to stay back and play as a fourth back line player. Matic and especially Herrera looked uncomfortable with their roles, acting as if they had to be fifth and sixth players in the back lines at times (Herrera, especially, was giving the ball away a LOT as they tried to transition out of defense). A goal for Liverpool was inevitable, and came exactly as you'd expect, by taking advantage of the space Herrera and Matic were ceding to the Reds just outside the penalty area (where the excellent Fabinho had time to bake a freakin' cake before lifting the pass to Mané).

Then came the United goal against the run of play, and for the last 15 min. of the half, there was a stalemate as Liverpool lost their aggressive attacking poise and let United get more settled on the ball. But the tactical side hadn't changed, so United weren't able to do much with this period.

After the half, the introduction of Fellaini for Dalot changed everything for United. Dalot hadn't shown that he could do much down the right (certainly incapable of beating Robertson). Fellaini was used to neutralize the Liverpool midfielders (especially at this point Keita, who became mostly anonymous); Young was simply moved into the back line where he was playing anyway, and that made it easier for Matic and Herrera to move forward a bit and help shut Liverpool down. Klopp let his team have 20 min. of trying to re-assert their dominance tactically, then gave in and changed things up by removing the ineffective Keita and getting Shaqiri on the field (given the results, no wonder he was impatient at how long it took to get Shaqiri instructed on set piece positioning!).

And that leads to the last 20+ min., where Mourinho failed to react to Shaqiri's introduction. Shaqiri made all the difference. He recognized that Herrera and Matic were still leaving plenty of workable space just outside the penalty area, and that Fellaini was incapable of covering three men at once. So he just buzzed around finding space and doing something useful with it. And this energized Liverpool, and flummoxed United, and thus that last 20 min. was all Liverpool. Yes, the two goals were "lucky", but you make that luck by having enough chances. And the introduction of Martial for the poor Herrera didn't make an iota of difference; not sure Martial managed to even touch the ball more than a handful of times after coming on.

Which brings us back to Paul Pogba. £83M spent on him, and Mourinho is saying that Matic, Herrera, Fellaini all are better? That they all were more likely to stop Liverpool's midfield? Hell, Mouinho's last introduction was Juan MATA, for goodness sake, rather than Pogba. It's ludicrous. A manager is supposed to be someone who brings out the BEST in his players, not turns them into sulking pine-splinter sufferers. Why even put Pogba on the bench in the first place, if he's not going to use him? Which of the players on the pitch would Pogba have come on for, prospectively, if he never got introduced into this game?

And contrast Liverpool. Every time I watch Virgil Van Dijk in a Liverpool kit, playing like the dominant center-back that he is, I can't help but feel that it's the ultimate indictment of United the last six years, because in the Ferguson days, you just KNOW Van Dijk would have been wearing a red and black strip instead. £75M spent by the 'Pool does NOT just sit on a bench wasted. Is it any wonder that United are scratching to even make Europe at all next year, while the Reds are challenging for a title?