“We know that Liverpool are a very good team and that you have to press them. You have to do it as a unit, with energy. That’s why I chose Rashford, Sancho and Elanga”. Finally, Erik ten Hag had already told before the meeting a good part of what was going to be this Manchester United – Liverpool (2-1), Monday evening, when justifying his team composition at the microphone of Sky Sports.
After two defeats to start the Premier League season, including a humiliating one at Brentford (4-0), the Dutchman had no choice but to change against the sworn enemy. Changes, there have been: four in total compared to the second day, including two more significant than the others. Cristiano Ronaldo and his spleen were asked to sit on the bench – as on the first day – to come out only a handful of minutes from the end. Harry Maguire, usual captain, too.
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And it’s a transformed Manchester that has completely suffocated Liverpool, admittedly deprived of (too) many executives in a laborious start to the season. Races, intensity, duels won: United displayed everything they had missed so far. And Ten Hag’s choices have all been validated.
Rashford reborn, Martial emerges from the shadows
It was a Jadon Sancho who hadn’t scored since March who opened the scoring, with a superb sequence after a surprise service from the holder Anthony Elanga (1-0, 16th). Then the excellent Marcus Rashford put an end, shortly after returning from the locker room, to a series of 997 minutes (started in January) without scoring with the Red Devils (2-0, 53rd). All on a service from incoming Anthony Martial, who had not yet been used this season and who had not been decisive since February… during his loan to Sevilla FC.
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And what about the defensive performance of the Dutchman’s troops. Tyrell Malacia held his left lane perfectly for his first tenure, while Lisandro Martinez, recruited at a hefty price, finally reassured Mancunian supporters. At his side, Raphaël Varane justified his tenure, again the first of the season.
“Varane is a very experienced player, he has won everything and brings communication within our defense. We want mobility and agility in the back four”, announced there again Ten Hag before the meeting. Clear-sighted upstream, the ex-coach of Ajax obviously showed himself fulfilled at the microphone of Sky Sports after the debates.
We can talk about tactics, but it’s about attitude
“We can talk about tactics, but it’s about attitudehe launched. There was communication, fighting spirit. With these ingredients, you can see what players can produce. I told the players that we had to act, not talk. Make it a team, fight, be brave.” A visibly muscular speech that has borne fruit. On Monday, the Red Devils all pulled in the same direction, from defenders to attackers.
Impossible, by delivering this analysis, not to rethink the images of the impassive CR7 on his bench. “Sometimes goalscorers think they can’t put in the effort because they have to save energy for their attacking moves. Nowadays that’s a requirement, and that’s what you’ve seen. makes me happy that Rashford and Sancho scored the goals.” appreciated Ten Hag, who preferred to start Martial over Ronaldo when he replaced Elanga at the break. Messages, in words and deeds, could not be clearer for the Portuguese.
“I wanted a different approach, a different attitudehe insisted. This is just the beginning, we must remain humble. We can be much more dangerous but first we have to become a team.” “The difference was the energy,” summed up Rashford. Monday night more than ever, the absentees were wrong on the side of United. Because Ten Hag may have found a good part of the formula.
Jadon Sancho (Manchester United) scored against Liverpool. / Premier League
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