Premier League

Manchester United stick to script and prove they are light years behind Liverpool

Sean Walsh
Man Utd were hopeless once again
Man Utd were hopeless once again / OLI SCARFF/GettyImages
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When Manchester United secured their 19th and 20th Premier League titles, Liverpool were mired in mid-table obscurity.

A series of wrong decisions at all levels meant the Anfield club were fading out of the limelight (well, for the right reasons anyway, neutrals were getting a kick out of their misfortunes). It's hard to believe that a decade later they are one of the two biggest forces in English football again, even harder to believe that Man Utd have switched roles with them completely.

All of United's flaws in the post-Sir Alex Ferguson era came racing to the surface in their latest humiliation at the hands of Liverpool: a 4-0 defeat on Merseyside on Tuesday night. A woefully imbalanced team (featuring Phil Jones in the year 2022) managed by a sporting director took to the field against one of the modern era's finest winning machines.

It emerged last month that Jurgen Klopp's Reds prepared for the 2019 Champions League final with a friendly against Benfica's B team, sending them a pre-set list of tactical list of instructions in order to mimic Tottenham. It would flatter United to say they were as competitive as that team of teenagers were.

Liverpool ran considerable rings around their north-west foes. The opening fourth-minute goal saw the Reds' attackers - and Trent Alexander-Arnold - pull Diogo Dalot and Harry Maguire way out of position in order to sneak in behind, with Mohamed Salah crossing for Diogo Dalot to tap in.

The second goal was similarly as pinpoint from the hosts, but United's press - set out by the supposed godfather of such a tactical innovation - meant those in white and blue may as well have been orange traffic cones.

Between those goals, Sky Sports commentator Martin Tyler insisted this was not a performance befitting of the Manchester United name. Part of the Red Devils' many problems is that this is exactly the kind of display that they are now synonymous with, a pathetic and predictable abomination toyed about like a cat playing with a dismembered mouse.

United's only conceivable route back into the match was through Liverpool's deserved complacency, but that itself is a damning indictment of the gap between these two clubs. Even then, the Reds added two more goals while playing at walking pace.

Where seemingly all of Liverpool's signings have been roaring successes, United's all look like complete failures. A squad overhaul is needed, but how can there be any guarantee of that panning out when the last decade's worth of deals have been so putrid?

Since Ferguson's retirement, the Red Devils have limped from one false dawn to another. Up next in that long line of potential disappointment is the appointment of Erik ten Hag, the anointment of their new hope. Good luck to him in trying to sort this mess out.


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