Marcus Rashford, Paul Pogba, Mo Salah, Madio Sane, there’s no way United v Liverpool can’t have goals right? Wrong. Despite both teams having an attacking arsenal Donald Trump would be proud of, it was nil-nil at Old Trafford yesterday. Who’d have thunk it?
In United’s defence, we were missing 342 players through injury. Plus another 3 who had to go off before HT – including one of our subs. When news was announced that Scot McTominay was starting in place of the injured Nemanja Matic Twitter engaged in its weekly meltdown. United were done. McTominay is rubbish. Nemanja is essential and Liverpool are nailed on to win the league. When Ander Herrera was subbed I was genuinely concerned there’d be a mass mental breakdown.
Thankfully and whisper this quietly, United have a good squad. A manager who knows what he’s doing. And an immeasurable amount of self-belief. Consequently even several injuries aren’t the end of the world when Ole’s at the wheel.
It says a lot about United under Ole that even with four or five first team players missing, against a Liverpool side that’s more or less full strength, it was the home side who looked like winning it. Other than a 40 yard Daniel Sturridge effort, Liverpool failed to test David De Gea.
So what did Sunday’s game tell us? Here’s five things:
1. United fans are the best in the country
I’d be genuinely embarrassed if I was one of the travelling Liverpool fans. Not only did they disrespect the minute’s applause for Eric Harrison. Not only were they silent for almost the entire game- bizarrely coming to life after the game had finished but in contrast United’s fans were superb. Old Trafford was rocking for the entire game. There’s this myth that only the Reds’ away fans actually bother, while our home support is awful. Sunday certainly ended such idiotic notions.
2. Chris Smalling is Victor Lindelof’s defensive partner. End of.
Did any of us ever doubt Mike? Smalling may have had his doubters but there’s no doubt he’s a talented defender. Consistency rather than quality are what’s let him down. Thankfully Sunday, showed for the second game in a week, just how good Smalling can be. The debate on whether it’s Eric Bailly or Phil Jones who should partner Lindelof should be over. It has to be Smalling, who was excellent against Liverpool. Smalling almost made it a perfect performance by snatching a late winner.
3. Scott McTominay has a United future
One baffling trait amongst many United fans is to slate players as soon as the teams are announced. When Matic was named in the team for Juventus away, it was as though we’d already lost. Fast forward to Sunday and Matic’s exclusion was greeted with a similar outpouring of anger. Despite people believing McTominay is useless, his performances suggest otherwise. Time and time again he’s surprised his critics, only to face more grief the next time he’s named in the team.
Just as Darren Fletcher was once roundly doubted, McTominay is too. Just like Fletcher he could prove us all wrong. If he keeps putting in displays like the one on Sunday then the critics may just have to find another whipping boy.
4.Ole knows what he’s doing
When the manager brought on a less than 100% Jesse Lingard only to have to sub him later, every ‘expert’ on the planet turned on Ole. Naivety, lack of experience, all the reasons were coming out, from many fans as to why Solskjaer made the choices he did. As Marcus Rashford limped, the cries from both inside and outside Old Trafford were that he needed to come off. Immediately. Yet Ole knows his job, his players and what works. Lingard was a gamble and Ole knew that but decided it was worth it – let’s not forget had Allison not been straight off his line, then it would’ve paid off.
Even half-fit, Rashford was a thorn in Liverpool’s side and arguably a lot better than some of his fully fit team mates.
5. Luke Shaw needs to produce this more often.
Regular readers of this column – both of them – will know I’ve been one of Shaw’s fiercest critics. Not because I don’t rate the former Southampton defender. I do. He’s just not consistent enough for my liking, particularly for a player of his ability. Sunday was Shaw at his best, when United were up against it possession wise at least. Shaw and Lindelof did a superb job marshalling Mo Salah. It wasn’t just that, when Shaw did get forward he wasn’t wasteful. It was a disciplined performance from a player who’s no longer a ‘youngster.’
If Shaw can produce these performances every week, then like Smalling he could be a key figure in United’s defence.
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