The Erik ten Hag regime at Old Trafford has finally announced itself to the Premier League in historic fashion as Manchester United secured a 2-1 win against bitter rivals Liverpool to take all three points at the Theatre of Dreams in a vital clash between the country’s greatest footballing institutions.
A pair of goals from England international duo Jadon Sancho and Marcus Rashford was enough for United to climb out of the Premier League cellar and avoid pouring salt on the wound in what would have amounted to a catastrophic start to the 2022-23 league campaign akin to Arsenal’s poor form in the early stages of last season, while Ten Hag became the first United manager to win his first match in charge overall while coming up against Liverpool.
It was a much better overall outing from the Red Devils tonight, with center-back pair Raphäl Varane and Lisandro Martínez showing they could be the preferred duopoly at the heart of the defense while Tyrell Malacia had an outstanding performance in his own right.
Swedish youngster Anthony Elanga missed a golden chance to give United the lead, but Sancho and Rashford scored on either side of the interval to give the Red Devils a justified 2-0 lead by the 53rd minute.
Liverpool struggled for the majority of the evening in all phases of play, with the absences of Thiago, Joel Matip, and Fabinho (though he came on as a sub) all coming home to roost for Jürgen Klopp’s Reds, with even Virgil van Dijk putting in a sub-par performance by his standards.
But as usual, it was Mohammed Salah that gave the Anfield outfit a lifeline when he scored in the 81st minute with a well-taken header that beat David de Gea at his near post, while in the process becoming the first Liverpool player to score ten goals against United in the clubs’ illustrious history.
That would not be enough to spurn the Reds on to rescue a point, however, with Klopp’s men now taking just two points from a possible nine while slipping down to sixteenth and already well off the pace being set by table-topping Arsenal, with fellow top-four rivals Manchester City and Tottenham not far behind.
Manchester United player ratings
GK: David de Gea (7.5) - Five saves from De Gea tonight including two key efforts from close range that were turned away by the Spanish international. A good outing from him
RB: Diogo Dalot (7) - Dalot had a pretty solid night on the right side of the defense and played his part in keeping Luis Díaz quiet at Old Trafford
CB: Raphäel Varane (7) - A strong presence in the air while generally defending well all evening long. Did well to keep Firmino quiet in the number 9 role he usually excels in
CB: Lisandro Martínez (7.5) - Seven clearances and five blocks on the night for the summer signing, who performed well in his duties on the left-half of the back four in a growing partnership with Malacia
LB: Tyrell Malacia (7.5) - Speaking of Malacia, the young Dutch international had a very good outing this evening despite coming up against both Salah and Alexander-Arnold. Defended exceptionally well
CM: Christian Eriksen (6) - The Danish icon had a quiet night at the office in a midfield pair alongside Scott McTominay. It is clearly not a role he was made for but may be made to suffer
CM: Scott McTominay (7) - His future may be in question at Old Trafford and could well be dropped when Casemiro is available, but he had a very solid evening tonight
CAM: Bruno Fernandes (6.5) - Will go into the locker room asking why Elanga could have curled home his effort for the opener and taking an assist away. Was more or less decent throughout
RW: Anthony Elanga (7) - An assist for the young Swede rounded out a solid display at Old Trafford, but really should have scored the opener rather than rattling Alisson’s far post
LW: Jadon Sancho (7.5) - A goal for the young England international, and what a well-taken goal it was. He performed well across all his duties in what was a must-win for United
CF: Marcus Rashford (7.5) - Bagged United’s second goal on the night and perhaps should have had a brace when his well-struck effort flashed just over the bar. Overall he was good this evening
Sub: Anthony Martial (7) - An assist for Martial, and probably should have either scored himself or added a second assist later in the match but he was good tonight
Sub: Fred (6.5) - Brought some energy late into proceedings and generally did a solid job of shutting down a possible late Liverpool surge
Sub: Cristiano Ronaldo (6) - He did what Ronaldo does best; got into decent goal-scoring positions a few times despite only getting roughly ten minutes on the pitch
Sub: Aaron Wan Bissaka (6) - Offered fresh legs off the bench to shore up the back line given Liverpool’s pressure in the final minutes, especially through Carvalho
Sub: Donny van de Beek (6) - Was decent enough off the bench and nearly found the back of the net if not for Martial’s cut-back being slashed away by a sprawling Alisson
Liverpool player ratings
GK: Alisson (6.5) - Just two saves for Allison this evening and cannot be held at fault for either of United’s goals tonight, with the center-backs in front of him struggling in their own right
RB: Trent Alexander-Arnold (6) - A booking and a generally sub-par performance for the attacking full-back, who was found wanting on a number of occasions throughout
CB: Joe Gomez (6.5) - Not a great performance from the England man but he probably was slightly more reliable than Van Dijk. Still, he likely should not be usurping Matip
CB: Virgil van Dijk (6) - His reputation will always proceed him and he will generally deliver as promised, but tonight he struggled without Matip next to him and Fabinho ahead of him
LB: Andrew Robertson (6) - A very quiet and ineffective evening for the Scottish international left-back, who rarely had the chance to make a difference going forward as he is accustomed to
DM: Jordan Henderson (6) - Not his best day at the office but also not his worst. The England man was left exposed but also should shoulder responsibility for lacking in his ability to sit and shield
CM: James Milner (6.5) - An okay day for the veteran utility man, who, without the presence of both Thiago and Fabinho in the matchday XI, maybe wasn’t at his best but defended the middle third well
CM: Harvey Elliot (6) - Lively and tried to be direct as best he could in a key early-season fixture, but he is not yet ready to replace Thiago in the midfield
RW: Mohammed Salah (7) - Took his header well to give Liverpool a lifeline they could not capitalize on, and he was probably one of a very small few that can walk away happy with their personal performance
LW: Luis Díaz (6) - Not the show-stopping and influential performance that many have expected from the Colombian week in, week out after last season. He was shackled all evening
CF: Roberto Firmino (7) - Probably could have done better with the one chance that did fall to him, but he still provided a decent central focus as per usual
Sub: Fabinho (6.5) - Certainly was better than Henderson when he was introduced but even he was not at his best overall. A real miss from minute one, however
Sub: Fábio Carvalho (6.5) - Brought some vibrancy into the Liverpool attack and troubled United down the Liverpool left flank when he could. A decent cameo that may get him more minutes in the near future
Sub: Kostas Tsimikas (6) - Hard to gauge his performance after receiving just ten minutes of action