Manchester United defeat Liverpool 4-0

It is early days in Erik ten Hag’s reign and there was little at stake as Manchester United faced Liverpool in Thailand. That is, of course, unless you consider the Bangkok Century Cup to be of particular significance. However, United put in a worthy display – albeit against a very experimental Liverpool side – which showcased some of the good work they have been putting in on the training ground.

One of the most obvious tactical tweaks offered by Erik ten Hag was the deployment of the full backs and wingers in a different capacity to what United have been accustomed to. Especially in the first half, United used Diogo Dalot in an inverted capacity, dragging Luis Diaz with him. This gave United new angles for passing which they haven’t had before whilst also giving Jadon Sancho more space to work his magic, in what was a very impressive display which he capped with a goal. In the second half, Tyrell Malacia was also keen to invert but United couldn’t function as effectively as usual down the left hand side with Alex Telles playing out of position at centre back and a more unfamiliar cluster of players who had Trent Alexander-Arnold and Mo Salah to worry about.

The utility of the inverted full back was well exemplified by Dalot’s positioning for the first goal, with the full back making a run to the outside of Bruno Fernandes which began in a central area. Fernandes was afforded more time to put in a cross which Liverpool made a mess of dealing with, and Sancho was on hand to finish. In United’s second goal, a chip from Fred, Fernandes was equally responsible with his role in the build up, finding a great reverse pass to Martial which was opened up by Dalot’s run on the overlap. People have often questioned if Fred truly does have a Brazilian passport but his lofted finish over Alisson would have been applauded by the likes of Kaka or Ronaldinho.

United’s third goal demonstrated just how important pressing is to Erik ten Hag’s system. Anthony Martial was on hand to rapidly capitalise on a loose touch by Rhys Williams and made no mistake in a chipped finish over Alisson. It wasn’t as glorious as Fred’s but was arguably more impressive when considering Alisson’s one on one record. Martial went from being renowned for his finishing ability to losing all of his confidence in front of goal, but his talent has always been there. It remains to be seen if Ten Hag can get something out of him on a consistent basis but his work today was admirable.

United were much rotated in the second half, but such a young team’s ability to keep a clean sheet against what had evolved into a fully fledged Liverpool side was significantly down to Eric Bailly. The Ivorian hadn’t played for United in 2022 but looked to be much sharper than the likes of Mo Salah and Darwin Nunez and consistently cut Liverpool attacks out. The most telling of these contributions, an effortless interception on Ibrahima Konate, directly lead United’s fourth goal. Bailly’s charge through Liverpool’s entire team sparked the opening for Pellistri’s well taken finish to be possible. What was arguably the most impressive part of this goal, however, was the work of Bailly’s compatriot, Amad, in committing both Virgil van Dijk and Andrew Robertson in the time he briefly borrowed the ball from Pellistri. Amad struggled with the physicality of Liverpool’s defenders on the day after he turned 20, but his timing and instinct of when to release the ball makes him seem much older than that.

Overall, the result must be taken with a pinch of salt owing to it’s timing and the inexperience of much of Liverpool’s team. However, it didn’t really matter who United played today. What was most important was to showcase the work Erik ten Hag has been putting in behind the scenes. United played with a lot more structure and appeared to have cohesion.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *