An astonishing second half goal blitz which saw Liverpool score six goals and destroy their big rivals Manchester United 7-0 at Anfield, completed an afternoon of great celebration on Merseyside, and huge embarrassment for Erik ten Hag’s team.
Two of the goals were scored by Mo Salah, which took him to 129 in the Premier League, overtaking Robbie Fowler and becoming their record scorer, despite playing 61 fewer games. It was the biggest beating handed out in the history of this fixture and equalled United’s heaviest ever defeat.
It certainly brought the Red Devils crashing back down to earth, after the elation of winning the EFL Cup against Newcastle United at Wembley, just seven days earlier. For anyone who may have been doubting Jurgen Klopp’s outfit after a disappointing campaign it was an ominous reminder of the quality possessed within their squad, as they continue their relentless and now seemingly ineviatable push for Champions League qualification.
Rivalry dates back over hundred years
They both have a fellow giant of a football club within their own city, but for these two teams the Liverpool verses Manchester United fixture is the biggest game of the season, despite there being some 35 miles between the two cities. The intense rivalry is often traced back to the late 19th and early 20th centuries and centred around the construction of the Manchester Ship Canal, when Mancunian merchants became disenchanted with the level of duties they had to pay to export and import their goods coming from their nearby seaport. As a group, they funded the ambitious construction of the waterway, which was opposed by Merseyside politicians, and bred resentment between the northern powerhouses.
United having better season
In recent seasons Liverpool have been way ahead of their big rivals, and but for the brilliance of the other Manchester club, they would have totally dominated the Premier League. United by contrast have had some very poor years by their high standards, but this season there has been a reversal in fortunes and the Anfield outfit have struggled badly at times, whilst United under the stewardship of Dutchman ten Hag, have begun to look as if they are finally emerging from their slumber.
Goal just before half-time crucial
Going into the game many were predicting a close affair with a draw the safe bet and despite frequently penetrating the United flanks, for 43 minutes the game remained goal-less. Then not for the first time in the half, United’s costly Brazilian wide-man, Antony, failed to track back as Liverpool’s left-back Andrew Robertson drove forward.
The Scot spotted the run of Cody Gakpo and played him the perfectly weighted through ball. The Dutchman – who ironically had been a long-term target of ten Hag before the Merseysiders stepped in and snatched him from PSV Eindhoven in the January transfer window – cleverly cut inside and finished expertly, to give the Reds a deserved lead, to take into the break.
Game all but over five minutes into second period
United would probably have felt that they were still in the game at that point, but five minutes into the second half the contest was effectively over, as Liverpool scored twice more. First Darwin Nunez put his head on a Harvey Elliott cross and three minutes later Gapko tucked away another smart finish, following excellent work from Salah. The Netherlands forward has certainly hit the ground running following his move and has now been directly involved in 25 goals in 22 league games in 2022/23 (13 goals and 12 assists), for his two clubs.
Salah breaks scoring record
It was now time for Salah to join the goalscoring party; firstly the brilliant Egyptian smashed home from just inside the box to make it four, then after Nunez had headed the fifth, the Kop rose to acclaim their new record Premier League goalscorer, as he was in the right place at the right time to took away a loose ball, to put Klopp’s team six up.
Indisciplined United fail to put in the effort
United were all over the place and several players to their shame, looked to have thrown in the towel. In one particularly telling passage of play Stefan Bajcetic skipped past Bruno Fernandes on the right hand side, and the Red Devils skipper appeared to simply stop, not making any attempt to chase his opponent; not the action or example expected of any captain of any team, but certainly not of a club as high profile as Manchester United.
Wonderful climax for departing hero
Then just to really rub salt in the wound, two minutes from time, fans favourite Roberto Firmino who had earlier in the week announced he would be leaving the club at the end of the season, drilled a shot under shell-shocked United keeper David De Gea, for the seventh. Everything had clicked back into place, the confidence flowed, the slick passing and sharp movement returned and United basically could not live with them.
Liverpool’s front three were almost unplayable and the victory takes the Reds to within three points of Tottenham Hotspur in fourth spot, with a game in hand.
Record equally defeat
For Manchester United, they remain in third so still have lots to play for, but this will undoubtedly knock their confidence levels, as well as being a humiliation against their great rivals. They have actually lost more Premier League matches to Liverpool (19 times) than they have against any other side in the competition’s history. The scoreline equalled their record ever loss which had occurred three times previously, all before the Second World War. They were defeated by the same margin by Blackburn Rovers way back in 1926, and then again in successive years, first to Aston Villa in 1930, followed by Wolverhampton Wanderers in 1931.
Klopp recognises his team once more in “super” show
Not surprisingly Klopp was delighted with his side’s performance calling their start “super dominant and super flexible”. He accepted that the result was something of a freak, but irrespective of that he felt that the team were outstanding. He observed: “A few months ago everyone thought it was a good moment to play Liverpool, you can’t say it publicly but everyone thought it, because they felt we were struggling a lot, but now it is less of a good moment, we look much more like ourselves.”
He went on to make the point that they had played top football against the team that are in excellent form, and it gives them a real push in the right direction. Asked about Salah breaking the record he called his star striker’s 129 goals an “unbelievable and insane” number, and said “We appreciate him now, but in the future people will look back and be wow, we witnessed something really special.”
No excuses offered up by United management
United manager ten Hag was bitterly disappointed with his teams application calling it their worst of the year, which was hardly a surprising or revealing assessment. He accused his players of allowing their heads to drop and stopped doing their jobs, which for a team of Manchester United’s stature, is completely unacceptable. He said they lacked discipline, were unprofessional and became eleven individuals and no longer a functioning team.
He apologised to the fans who he said his players had let down. “As a squad, as a team, you have to stick together and support each other and fight for each other, but we didn’t do that. We have made a lot of progress this year but you see what happens when you don’t keep standards.”
Great start to Liverpool career for recent signing
Liverpool’s Cody Gakpo said he had been told how special the fixture was and was delighted to play his part in such an amazing performance. “We were determined, eager to keep going and pressing them.” When asked which goal he enjoyed the most he replied: “The most beautiful was the second one, the most important was the first one.”
Disappointing reaction from United captain
Manchester United captain Bruno Fernandes called the game very frustrating, which was something of an understatement. He said he thought his team had controlled the first half, not a view shared by many, but felt they had lost some balance in the second half. Six goals conceded in one half does seem a little unbalanced that is true enough!
He remarked that games come thick and fast and that they had overcome setbacks before and was confident they would respond quickly again. Not quite the apology for such an inept display that most United supporters would have hoped to hear.
Salah shows class on and off pitch
Last word to the record-breaker Salah, who said it was a very special win, but added that the side needed to stay humble and keep clocking up the victories, admitting that the result should give them “a big push.” On his scoring record he remarked: “It is very special; I cannot lie and to get it today against Manchester United is unbelievable.”