Premier League: Liverpool’s front three of the future delivers familiar woes for Manchester United
In a week when the end of Jurgen Klopp’s first great line of attack became certain, the new attacking trident repeated the trick so often used by Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane to rip Manchester United to pieces in a valuable reality check for both sides.
Darwin Nunes and Cody Gakpo have a very long way to go before they can claim to be as devastating as Mohamed Salah’s former hunting partners, but a double each in a 7-0 win is a great way to start , the biggest victory over their great rivals. for the team that beat them 4-0 and 5-0 last season. Most importantly, these three have the opportunity to discover the same multiplicative power that made Firmino, Mane and Salah the four most feared words in European football for a while.
These three will be different: no one at Liverpool has stormed the pitch with the bullish rush of Nunez, the threat from the air and the pushy dervish. Salah himself has had to adapt for the good of the team this season. Once again at Anfield, the Egyptian was more likely to be found at the right sideline than drifting in the centre, Trent Alexander-Arnold instead using the right half of the distance to show off his sharp passing range. Of course, when the chance presented itself for Salah to do some damage to the breakaways, he didn’t need a second invitation, a resounding right-foot kick, to add another look of humiliation to United’s unfortunate demise.
Tying it all together was another false nine. Jurgen Klopp wanted to keep Firmino long after it became apparent that he was fading away because of his selfless qualities, the way he emphasizes the game of others, a number 9 who would be more than willing to sacrifice his own. throws if a teammate is better. These qualities are hard to come by, but Liverpool have experience when it comes to spotting talent in advanced areas.
Much more questions went to Gakpo, who arrived at Merseyside as a curious figure: too tall and short for the kind of shot that makes him a top-notch winger, but without a track record that could be a clean nine. The return of the goal was outstanding, but was his £44m transfer fee earned on a volatile streak of long-range scoring? Of course, the 23-year-old looked awkward in those first few games in the red shirt. Now that he has scored four goals in his last five league matches, he is beginning to fall into place.
This result may have seemed unfortunate since the late 2010s, but as outgoing Liverpool data chief Ian Graham pointed out this week, the results were there. In many ways, it was a slightly drawn-out replay of the devastating debut against Real Madrid 12 days earlier, a match in which Nunes and Gakpo hissed menacingly before those behind them fizzled out. United had opportunities to punish a weak defense, even a moment of Alisson’s over-the-top swagger that could well have left the goalkeeper ashen-faced.
Their visitors never seemed to be able to exploit such errors. Marcus Rashford was knocked out of xG after the World Cup and under the circumstances, it’s only natural that he could use his best chance straight for Alisson. Casemiro may just be tired, or perhaps an early injury got in the way. Whatever the explanation, he was not the only midfielder who hid so many flaws in this team. United have enjoyed a favorable record of late, but even after a run of victories they had the key figures of a team more likely to fight for third and fourth than seriously test Arsenal and Manchester City.
It goes to show that this team should not be torn to shreds by any version of Liverpool. But too many in white surrendered to the red wave. Bruno Fernandes responded with an irritability that bore all the hallmarks of Ralph Rangnick’s interregnum. Maybe Cristiano Ronaldo’s banishment didn’t kill the mental monsters in the restrooms at Old Trafford.
Erik ten Hag has already proven he can get a reaction from his side after being humiliated, but this team had to improve to a level where they weren’t at risk of embarrassment. Instead, they were once again crushed by their worst enemy. Gakpo and Nunez will come up with several more similar games in the coming years.