Football Features

“They can f**king good play football” – Player ratings as Manchester United maul Liverpool at Old Trafford

By Muhammad Butt

Published: 22:50, 22 August 2022

In a stunning night of football, Manchester United got their first win of the table, beating Liverpool 2-0 at Old Trafford.

The win lifted United above their rivals in the Premier League table and was hailed as “a brilliant team performance,” by Roy Keane post-match. The Irishman added: “That’s what the club needed, the players needed it, the manager needed it. I thought they were outstanding.”

Erik Ten Hag was mostly impressed with the attitude. “We bring attitude on the pitch; there was communication, there was a fighting spirit, and especially there was a team. And as you say see… they can f**king good play football.”

Ten Hag then added that there was more to come: “It is only a start, we have to keep humble. I think we can play much better, if we have a little bit more composure – give an extra pass, we can be much more dangerous.”

Here’s how the players rated at Old Trafford:

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Manchester United

David de Gea – 6 – Had precious little to do and his kicking was still atrocious but when asked to make saves he did, indeed, make saves. One with 10 minutes to go was particularly nice it was notable that he only had to make that save because he remained rooted to his line. An error that came back to haunt him as on Liverpool’s subsequent corner his poor save from a Carvalho shot allowed Salah to sneak the ball at his near-post and give Liverpool a lifeline.

Diogo Dalot – 7 – Combatted Luis Diaz with intense aggression and that, for the most part, did the trick.

Raphael Varane – 8 – Is several orders of magnitude better than Harry Maguire at defending and organising and his impact on the United defence was palpable. His game-high 9 clearances were huge. Ten Hag will be praying he can stay fit for the rest of the season.

Lisandro Martinez – 9 – Absolutely flawless in dealing with everything Liverpool threw at him. Repeatedly appeared on the front-foot to win the ball back but also was ready to run back and cover behind his team-mates, especially when he cleared off the line as Bruno Fernandes almost scored an own goal.

Made a mockery of the criticism he has faced since signing for United, and looks to be exactly the kind of ferocious defender they need. As Erik ten Hag said after the game: “his fighting spirit is there. And also his positioning and his battling; over the ground but also in the aerial. He is not the tallest but he has good timing.”

Tyrell Malacia – 9 – A demon in defence. Put Salah in his back pocket and never let him out, the Egyptian had to run away from him to get any joy. Made a game-high 5 tackles, advanced the ball really nicely too, and is fairly obviously a superior footballer to Luke Shaw.

Scott McTominay – 7 – A decent display largely because United bypassed him when in possession and instead just had him tackle everything that moved.

Christian Eriksen – 7 – Floated through the game with a presence that was equal parts anarchic, anonymous and also: impactful. His first-time return pass to Elanga made the opening goal possible but mostly he was just kind of there.

Bruno Fernandes – 9 – With no Ronaldo to cramp his style and with the captain’s armband to build his confidence he played with the same kind of commitment and verve he showed back in 2021. Was a relentless driving force with the ball and without it, especially in the last 10 minutes, he was everywhere.

A true captain’s display where he was constantly appearing at decisive moments. As Ten Hag said after the match: “I think he took responsibility. And I think it encourages him, the captaincy. I think he showed leadership together with Rafa Varane. Together on the pitch I think they made a huge difference.”

Jadon Sancho – 8 – Showed a superhuman amount of sauce to open the scoring, sitting down multiple Liverpool players with a delightful fake before popping the ball into the back of the net.

Anthony Elanga – 7 – For the most part he struggled to beat Alexander-Arnold 1-v-1, but still pinned the wing-back in his own half through relentless application. And in the end he also pulled off a neat little cross to set-up Jadon Sancho for the opening goal.

Marcus Rashford – 8 – Full of running and pressing. Set the tone right at the top of the pitch and gave none of the Liverpool defenders a moments rest with his runs and defending. Like Ten Hag said post-match: “you have to bring it on the pitch out of possession and then you can be a threat in possession. And that is what you saw. It makes me happy that Rashford and Jadon Sancho scored the goals.”

Tired eventually but not before scoring a crucial second strike for United, his first for 17 games, with a driving run and a potent near-post finish beyond Alisson. Could this be the start of the Rashford rennaissance?

Manchester United Substitutes:

Anthony Martial (for Elanga 46′) – 8 – Came on at half-time to add more a stable presence in attack and did just that with his composed and perceptive play. Ran Liverpool ragged at times and set-up Rashford’s goal with a beautiful bit of hold-up play.

Fred (for Sancho 71′) – 7 – Added a combative element to midfield and even moved the ball with a surprising deftness.

Donny van de Beek (for Eriksen 86′) – n/a – Came on late.

Aaron Wan-Bissaka (for Dalot 86′) – 6 – Came on late but managed to make two clearances and win a foul with a nice dribble.

Cristiano Ronaldo (for Rashford 86′) – 5 – Came on late and scuffed a half-chance into the stands.

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Alisson – 5 – Sold up the river by Sancho’s dummy for the opening goal and absolutely rinsed by Rashford for the winner too. Still, you wouldn’t say he was bad and his defenders definitely let him down.

Trent Alexander-Arnold – 4 – Got dominated by a combination of Elanga and Rashford. Just couldn’t get forward enough until United were well set in their defensive positions.

Joe Gomez – 4 – You feel for him as he was clearly not fit and got absolutely hosed by United’s movement and runs. Had Marcus Rashford looking like 2012-era Cristiano Ronaldo.

Virgil van Dijk – 4 – Just a terrible night of football for Liverpool’s defensive colossus. The last time he started next to Gomez at centre-back he conceded 7 goals to Aston Villa so in that sense it was an improvement but the truth is while he managed to mangle United in some physical duels, he struggled massively asked to defend space. His pose as Sancho opened the scoring will become an iconic meme.

Andy Robertson – 6 – Liverpool’s best defender albeit that wasn’t hard as United rarely came down his flank. “We can’t keep giving them a goal start,” Robertson said after the match.

Jordan Henderson – 4 – A really poor performance. Offered no resistence to United and couldn’t get his team going.

James Milner – 3 – Abysmal. Made 0 tackles and was an open highway to United attacks moving through him. His only notable contribution was his incessant arguments with Van Dijk. Liverpool are desperate for a midfield signing.

Harvey Elliot – 5 – Wasn’t quite as sharp as you would want but still looked more lively than many of his team-mates.

Mohamed Salah – 7 – Liverpool’s best player. Malacia bottled him up for the most part but he still managed to create a game-high 4 chances and score Liverpool’s only goal, making himself the top scorer in the history of Liverpool vs. Manchester United.

Luis Diaz – 6 – Gave Diogo Dalot all sorts of problems but couldn’t get anything in terms of end product.

Roberto Firmino – 4 – An anonymous presence.

Liverpool Substitutes:

Fabinho (for Henderson 59′) – 6 – Added a bit of solidity to midfield. Liverpool will have been wishing he was fully fit.

Fabio Carvalho (for Milner 73′) – 6 – A lively display off the bench where he darted in and around United players. His rasping drive led to the Liverpool consolation.

Kostas Tsimikas (for Robertson 85′) – n/a – Came on late.