Lingard makes his case.
Jesse Lingard ran to close down Joel Matip, Alisson Becker, and Virgil van Dijk as Liverpool tried to build another attack from the back not long after Manchester United conceded their third goal at Anfield.
Eventually, the three were able to play around Lingard, who turned around to see that his teammates had deserted him, lacking the dedication and stamina to follow him in. Lingard’s enraged reaction told you everything you needed to know about how he felt about them.
This is a player who will leave the club this summer, but throughout his time at Anfield, he appeared to care more than the rest of them. That’s all there is to it.
Lingard, however, is the only player who has a legitimate problem with the club this season. He has rejected a loan move in January and has been neglected ever since by the out-of-touch Ralf Rangnick.
Lingard’s performances against Norwich and Liverpool are indicative of what this team has been lacking for the majority of the season. The 29-year-old isn’t always full of quality, but he’s always full of energy and effort. He humiliated several of his teammates on Tuesday night.
Duds on defense
When that United teamsheet arrived at Anfield an hour before kickoff, you could smell the panic. Rangnick had avoided utilizing a back three at any stage during his career, but this team was so certain of what was heading their way that they thought damage containment was their only option.
This wasn’t a team put together with the goal of winning a football game; it was a team put together with the express purpose of avoiding embarrassment. They also failed on that front.
Rangnick had described how well the back three had performed in training at Carrington, but United’s horribly out-of-form defense is fortunate to be practicing against United’s hopelessly out-of-form forwards.
“We were training in this manner yesterday, and we displayed video analysis. It worked well in training yesterday, and we’ll see if it works today “Rangnick stated prior to kickoff.
It not only did not work. It everything came crashing down with Liverpool’s first straight ball. With only five defenders on the field, United allowed three Liverpool attackers to run past them from the halfway line. It was truly pitiful.
masters of pressing
Rangnick took over at United with the goal of having a team ready to face Liverpool, Manchester City, and Chelsea by spring, but as he stood frozen on the Anfield touchline, he would have recognized nothing of this performance.
Rangnick abandoned his pressing methods after only a few weeks with this desperate squad, and they are just as sluggish out of possession today as they were under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.
Jurgen Klopp has made no secret of the fact that he bases many of his ideas on Rangnick, so it must have been humiliating for Rangnick to witness his own club being pushed into oblivion at Anfield.
Except for Virgil van Dijk and Joel Matip, every Liverpool player pressed United’s defense and midfield. They were given little time on the ball and repeatedly coughed up possession in dangerous areas.
When the ball was in Liverpool’s half, they had all the time in the world to put up an attack. Bruno Fernandes would try to put pressure on Alisson from time to time, but beyond that, United were statues.
Ten Hag’s mission is impossible.
You can only imagine what Erik ten Hag was thinking as he saw United’s dreadful performance.
Getting this ragtag squad to the stage where they can compete with Manchester City and Liverpool is a near-impossible undertaking. If Ten Hag can pull United within 10 points of either club next season, he’ll have to be a miracle worker with millions to spend.
This season, United has played City and Liverpool under two different managers and has lost by a total score of 15-1. It’s been a season of embarrassment.
It’s difficult to say how much of United’s improvement after the break was due to a change in shape and a desire to avoid embarrassment, and how much was due to Liverpool taking off the pedal, but it’s encouraging ahead of the weekend.
The results on Saturday effectively made this a free hit for United, but another desperate defeat could have taken the stuffing out of them for the remainder of the season.
Instead, following a stronger 45-minute performance at Anfield, they will head to the Emirates Stadium for Saturday’s must-win match against Arsenal.
The transition to a back four and the introduction of Jadon Sancho clearly gave United an advantage in the second half, and Sancho was a serious threat with his direct running once again. He caused Trent Alexander-Arnold some problems, making you question why he wasn’t in the starting lineup in the first half.
Given their position after 22 minutes, this was virtually a triumph for United. At that moment, it appeared that they were in for a thrashing, yet they managed to depart Anfield with some sense of decency.
Pogba’s final performance
It would be fitting if Paul Pogba’s final contribution as a Manchester United player was to limp off at Anfield when his team is already strained to the limit.
This was the most serious situation United had ever faced, and they sorely needed leaders, midfielders willing to put their bodies on the line for the cause.
That is hardly a description that Pogba would agree with. As Liverpool celebrated their first goal, he ran over to the touchline to complain about a knock, then signaled he’d had enough shortly after.
In previous years, United had midfielders who would have needed to be carried off at Anfield, no matter how desperate the situation. Pogba walked away without the need for a physio or assistance from his teammates. Spineless.