Premier League

Man United 2-1 Liverpool: 5 Things We Learned

 • by Andrew Gibney
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In the battle behind Manchester City, it was Jose Mourinho’s Manchester United who came out on top at Old Trafford.

Beating Liverpool 2-1 on Saturday afternoon to go five points clear of Jürgen Klopp’s men in the race for second place.

Marcus Rashford was handed his first start of 2018, the 20-year-old hadn’t been named in the starting line-up since Boxing Day, but it proved to be a masterstroke from the Portuguese boss.

Two first-half strikes from the England striker gave the home side a 2-0 lead and although they were pegged back when Eric Bailly turned the ball into his own net, their excellent defence held firm and secured a vital three points.

Here are five things we learned from United’s 2-1 win over Liverpool on Saturday.

Rashford wins local battle

For the fans, this is a local derby which sits above all else on the football calendar. With players on both sides arriving from all over the world, there is always a worry the magnitude of the occasion could pass them by.

But lining up on Saturday were two players who know exactly what this fixture means to the people in the stands.

Down the Liverpool right, Trent Alexander-Arnold was faced off against Rashford, the defender from near Melwood, against the 20-year-old born in Wythenshawe.

And it was the former Fletcher Moss Rangers striker who won the battle of the North West. For the opener he cut inside the right-back, leaving his marker for dead before powering his shot beyond Loris Karius.

Both are thought to have bright future in the England set-up and Rashford, who now has six league goals this season, showed exactly why he is so highly thought of, scoring twice in such a huge derby.

Perfect without Pogba

Before kick-off, Paul Pogba was ruled out of the fixture due to a leg injury. Juan Mata came into the midfield, giving United a more attacking look, but it was quite the opposite.

Playing 4-2-3-1, Nemanja Matic and Scott McTominay played as the double anchors in the middle of the park and it worked to perfection.

Both were key in the 2-1 win over Chelsea, and they stepped up again in another huge game. The defence were excellent, Eric Bailly’s return improving the back-line, but the protection they had in front was key to the victory.

Matic finished by winning six tackles, made one interception and three clearances, plus he blocked two shots.

The 21-year-old, who has decided he will play his international career for Scotland, won one tackle, made five interceptions and two clearances.

Two very different roles, but extremely complimentary and no one was talking about Pogba when the final whistle went.

Lukaku makes an impact

After his goal against Chelsea two weeks ago, Romelu Lukaku would have been happy to hear the end of any criticism towards his record against the top-six.

Against Liverpool, the Belgian striker showed he doesn’t need to find the back of the net to influence the biggest games.

Ever-improving his hold-up play, the 24-year-old won two important headers in the first half and both resulted in goals for Rashford.

Rewarded with an assist for the opener, it was the No.9’s overall play which helped the home side push their advantage, especially in the first half.

With only 24 touches, one shot and two aerial challenges won, his performances was not about how involved he has to be in United’s attack, but it’s the quality, power and physicality he brings when he is involved which sets him apart.

Rather than judge the former Everton forward just on his goal record, he must be rewarded for what he does both on and off the ball.

Long day for Lovren

Virgil van Dijk was always going to start for Liverpool, but the who his partner would be was up for debate.

Dejan Lovren got the nod and it was another tough day for the Croatian defender. Twice in the first half, Lukaku outmuscled him to win the ball outside the penalty area and both times Manchester United got the ball to Rashford and the damage was done.

Usually, Lovren does better against the 24-year-old, but Klopp would have been disappointed from his defender.

This season, the 28-year-old has been successful in 64% per cent of his aerial battles, with Lukaku down at 50.7 per cent. Losing both those duels made a huge difference and put the Reds on the back foot. Although they got one back, in failing to deal with the Belgian striker, the damage was already done.

Young silences Salah

Regardless of where Liverpool finish this season, Mo Salah has had an amazing season back in the Premier League. With 32 goals in all competitions, he was the danger-man going into Saturday’s fixture, but then he came up against Ashley Young and United’s very impressive back four.

Often linked with a move away from Old Trafford, the 32-year-old isn’t perfect, but he has shown he can carry out Mourinho’s instructions and from open play and has become a very dependable defender.

Salah had a shout for a penalty in the second half with Young tugging at his shoulder, but it’s no excuse for the Egyptian having just one shot, making one key pass and failing to beat anyone off the dribble.

It was the performance from the former Aston Villa winger which nullified his threat.

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