Liverpool keep Champions League push alive with high-scoring victory over ragged Man Utd

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Liverpool keep Champions League push alive with high-scoring victory over ragged Man Utd - Getty Images
Liverpool keep Champions League push alive with high-scoring victory over ragged Man Utd - Getty Images
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There was one defensive strategy that did the job asked of it on this occasion at Old Trafford but it was the misfortune of Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer that it was not the eleven players he selected for the great postponed classic of English football.

The second storming of Old Trafford did not take place, averted by a large Greater Manchester Police presence, enough barricades to fortify a small castle and some crafty rerouting of team coaches – alas, for United no such luck on the pitch. They were beaten by a Liverpool side who have somehow reignited their hopes of Champions League qualification. The defeat for Chelsea on Wednesday leaves Jurgen Klopp’s players the task of winning their last three games potentially to secure an improbable top four spot.

This was a tremendous contest once the protagonists were safely inside Old Trafford and the United fans demonstrating against the Glazer ownership locked out with their smoke flares and protest songs drifting over the empty stadium. United, with an entirely fresh XI from the side defeated by Leicester City two days earlier, dominated Liverpool in the early stages and forced defender Nat Phillips into an own goal. But in the late stages of the first half Klopp saw his team’s old personality return.

Fans gathered to protests against the Glazers - Tom Jenkins
Fans gathered to protests against the Glazers - Tom Jenkins

They exploited United’s weakness at set-pieces ruthlessly with goals from Diogo Jota and Roberto Firmino in the first half and then a second for the Brazilian soon after the break. In the early stages of that second half, United looked dismal – afraid to pass out from the back, unwilling to take responsibility. Liverpool had chances with the score at 3-1 and did not take them. It set-up a towering end to the game in which United rediscovered a bit of their confidence and narrowed the scoreline to 3-2 with a goal from Marcus Rashford.

They were punished in the 90th minute with a fourth from the clinical Mohamed Salah to wrap up a monumental victory for Klopp. He had dropped Sadio Mane for the game and the striker, on as a substitute, refused his manager’s congratulations at the end in full view of the cameras. “I made a late decision in the last training decision to put Diogo in,” Klopp said later. “The boys are used to me explaining things but there was no time for that. Sadio is slightly angry but that is all.”

Klopp said that Liverpool could now go on to win their last three games. Tuesday’s game between Chelsea and Leicester – currently occupying third and fourth – will be fundamental to both sides to secure a top four finish with Liverpool now breathing down their necks. In the modern game one might ask if that becomes bigger for Chelsea and Leicester than even the FA Cup final between the pair on Saturday.

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Finally, Liverpool seem to be putting together some form and they will need it for the final three games - away to West Bromwich Albion and Burnley and then back to Anfield on the final day for Crystal Palace. Were, for example, Leicester to lose to Chelsea and then go on to win their final game at home to Tottenham Hotspur the last Champions League place may come down to goal difference. Providing that is, Liverpool win their three remaining games. Destiny not quite in the hands of the deposed champions but much closer than they might have expected.

There were some superb Liverpool performances, especially from Trent Alexander-Arnold with Gareth Southgate inside Old Trafford. This in spite of periods of the first half when Liverpool felt outmuscled, penned-in and generally pushed about by a United side that squeezed up tight. Liverpool were looking at the slow death of their 2021-2022 season when Phillips clunked a Bruno Fernandes shot past Alisson with his shin and yet Klopp’s side regrouped and fought back.

Solskjaer was reluctant to blame the defeat on the unusual preparations forced on his team. They arrived at lunchtime to beat any barricade and had their pre-match naps in converted hospitality boxes. “The players handled the situation well,” Solskjaer said. “None of them have been complaining. They have got on with it. We knew it was going to happen and there was no point losing energy on what you cannot control.” Later he did concede that “it has probably affected them a bit”.

They started so well. Even before Phillips’ clumsy intervention for the first goal was a move that went from Paul Pogba to Rashford to Aaron Wan-Bissaka without any real pressure. The usual avenues were shutdown for Liverpool but it was from set-pieces that their chances came. “We didn’t defend well enough,” Solskjaer said. “It’s something we have to work on”.

Liverpool had a penalty against Eric Bailly overturned by Var review. His left foot certainly grazed Phillips’ right leg but referee Anthony Taylor’s review footage showed that the ball had been played first. That was the first corner United defended poorly, but not the last. Another on 34 minutes saw Phillips dig out possession, moving away from goal to make room for the shot on the turn. It was not a clean hit but Jota improvised perfectly, guiding it in with the inside of his heel and his back to goal.

Same again for Liverpool’s second in the third minute of time added on at the end of the first half. This time a Alexander-Arnold free-kick on the right side for Firmino to head in after his marker, Pogba, had fallen over. Henderson was at fault for Firmino’s second, a shot from Alexander-Arnold bouncing off the goalkeeper and into the path of the Liverpool striker. Although United had given the ball away twice, first the midfielder Fred, and then Shaw. United were in disarray. Jota hit the post. Alexander-Arnold went through and struck his shot at Henderson.

At last United got a breakthrough when Cavani guided a pass through to Rashford and he finished well. The game swung again with a goalline clearance from Phillips but it was Salah on the breakaway, from substitute Curtis Jones’ fine ball, who had the final say.

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09:10 PM

FT: Man Utd 2 Liverpool 4

A well-deserved win for Liverpool to close the gap on Chelsea to four points with a game in hand! The Champions League race might be going to the wire after all.

United were far too erratic defensively, they looked a chaotic mess at times without Maguire, and despite threatening a comeback they can have no complaints. Two home defeats in a week, but in truth it does not cost them much. Apart from some confidence and momentum perhaps.

09:07 PM

93 minutes

Our own Jamie Carragher gives Alexander-Arnold man of the match. Well deserved.

09:06 PM

Four minutes of stoppage time to play

Neco Williams replaces Salah now Liverpool have the points in the bag.

09:05 PM

GOOOOAAALL! Liverpool wrap the game up

Liverpool showed their teeth to win the ball in midfield and Jones did well to volley the ball into the United half. The home team had everyone pushed forward and Salah was left clean through.

Not offside, because he started in his own half, but he stayed cooled and passed the ball into the far corner. Henderson perhaps could have narrowed the angle a little more.

09:03 PM

88 minutes

Mis-kick from Phillips has Liverpool hearts in mouths but it runs through to Alisson. They have forwards on the pitch, but it looks like Liverpool are starting to settle for this scoreline now. Can United produce another moment of inspiration?

09:01 PM

86 minutes

Bailly off, replaced by Matic. McTominay goes back into centre-back. Wan-Bissaka whipped the ball into Cavani on the edge of the box but he was penalised for handball as he tried to knock the ball into the path of Greenwood.

08:59 PM

84 minutes

Liverpool attack with menace but Firmino scoops a cross over the bar after good work from Salah, who has got his head up well in the final third tonight. Cavani booked for a late tackle on Thiago.

08:57 PM

82 minutes

A crucial 10 minutes or so coming up for Liverpool. It would be a hammer blow to drop points given the chances they had to go 4-1 up. Mane with a foul on McTominay on halfway.

08:55 PM

80 minutes

McTominay booked for a foul on Fabinho, and moments later he slipped and brought down Mane on the edge of the box. Could have been a second yellow within 30 seconds but he got away with it. Klopp laughs to himself on the touchline.

08:53 PM

77 minutes

Free-kick in a shooting position for United after Thiago is penalised for handball. 25 yards out, dead central. Fernandes is over it, as is Rashford. Tries to go up and over the wall but too much elevation on it.

08:50 PM

75 minutes

Mane's first action is to scuff a cross into Henderson's arms. Fernandes then mis-places a chipped ball and Alexander-Arnold sends Mane clear with a wonderful pass over the top. Henderson does really well to stick a leg out and win the ball.

Rashford at the other end, cuts inside but drags his shot into the side-netting. Some game now!

08:48 PM

74 minutes

Liverpool double sub: Sadio Mane and Curtis Jones come on Jota and Wijnaldum the players to come off.

08:47 PM

72 minutes

Liverpool looking really nervous now and Robertson gives away a needless corner. Lindelof rises at the back post but his header is straight at Alisson.

Liverpool looking dangerous on the break though, Thiago feeds Salah in the left channel but his shot flies over from a tight angle.

08:46 PM

71 minutes

Ooohh, what an almighty scramble in the Liverpool box it should have been 3-3. Rashford played Shaw in on the overlap, Cavani swung a leg at his cross and the ball ran to Greenwood at the back post. He kept his head and went with the side foot but Phillips got back on the line to clear.

08:44 PM

69 minutes

Liverpool quickly try to make amends but Alexander-Arnold blasts over from distance after skipping past Pogba in midfield. What a finish we could have here. The United sub has made them better.

08:43 PM

GOOOAAAALL! United have one back through Rashford

It's good from Cavani to receive the ball to feet, turn and slip a pass through to into Rashford's stride and he poked the ball past Alisson into the the far corner. United are back in the game!

08:42 PM

68 minutes

Liverpool defend the corner well and threaten at the other end. Wan-Bissaka won a big tackle to deny Jota down the left.

08:39 PM

65 minutes

Pogba with some classy play in the middle of the park, a good flick and ball over the top towards Rashford but a Phillips header and Robertson clearance deal with it. United do have a corner though.

08:38 PM

63 minutes

United sub: Greenwood replaces Fred. Pogba will move into a deeper position, which might help United break through Liverpool's pressure.

08:37 PM

61 minutes

Rashford wins a foul by pushing the ball past Alexander-Arnold and running into him.

Liverpool counter attack though, and just when United looked like surviving they caused their own problems yet again! Wan-Bissaka gave the ball away, Alexander-Arnold tested Henderson and then Bailly was fortunate to be caught dallying in his own box.

08:34 PM

59 minutes

Liverpool slicing through United again and it really should be four! Fred gave the ball away to Alexander-Arnold and Liverpool had numerical advantage on the break. Jota was wide open on the left, Firmino found him and he hammered the ball off the near post with his left foot. Maybe would have been better going with his right.

08:32 PM

57 minutes

United play back to Henderson again and he can only hammer the ball out of play for a throw. Liverpool keeping the ball down the right end from their perspective. Some characteristic pressing from Klopp's team today. Williams fouls Cavani on halfway.

08:30 PM

54 minutes

Pogba fouled in midfield by Thiago, but Taylor brings play back because United took the free-kick while the ball was moving. Consecutive league defeats would take their air of the United bubble with the Europa League final on the horizon.

08:27 PM

Firmino at the double

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08:27 PM

51 minutes

United trying to clear their heads, and Lindelof almost finds Rashford with a diagonal in behind the Liverpool defence. The ball did not quite fall for him and Alisson sweeps up.

08:23 PM

48 minutes

United all over the place here. Perhaps this performance emphasises the importance of Harry Maguire. Bailly has caught Jota with a late tackle and there is a stoppage in play.

08:22 PM

GOOOOAAAALLL! Firmino scores

So many United mistakes. Fred mis-placed a pass, United just about dealt with Alexander-Arnold's low cross but then Shaw ran into trouble trying to dribble out. The ball was played back to Alexander-Arnold who struck a powerful shot straight at Henderson, but the goalkeeper spilt it and there was Firmino to bury the rebound.

08:21 PM

47 minutes

Liverpool with a bright start to the half, settling into another spell of possession. Fabinho involved, but a through ball runs all the way through the Henderson. Liverpool keep the pressure on though....

08:20 PM

Players are back out

Champions League qualification is in Liverpool's own hands.

08:04 PM

HT: Man Utd 1 Liverpool 2

After that early own goal, Liverpool have scored twice and very nearly had a penalty. They have been the more dangerous team in general play, but United have threatened sporadically and we know Liverpool's defence is fragile.

08:03 PM

GOOOAAAALLL! Liverpool lead on the stroke of half time

Alexander-Arnold whips the free-kick to the back post and Pogba loses the run of Firmino who waltzes on to the cross to nod home from a few yards out. What a turnaround.

08:02 PM

45 minutes

There will be three minutes of added time. Fernandes is down after a he kicked through the leg of Thiago on the follow through from a shot. Liverpool do have a free-kick in the United half.

07:59 PM

44 minutes

United finishing the half quite strongly but Rashford neglects to shoot after a good dribble inside the box. Henderson off his line well again after Thiago tried to send Salah in behind.

07:57 PM

41 minutes

Great feet from Pogba on the left corner of the box and he rippled the side netting with a powerful left-footed strike to the near post. It looked like Alisson had it covered.

07:55 PM

Jota's goal

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07:54 PM

39 minutes

Alexander-Anrold tried to fade the ball in behind the United defence but Henderosn swept up. Then Wan-Bissak won a crucial tackle in the box with Jota threatening again. McTominay does well to spread the play to the left for the home team, who get the chance to breathe on the ball.

07:52 PM

36 minutes

United's defence at sixes and sevens all of a sudden, and they just about get back to stop Jota having another strike at goal. Liverpool buoyant and passing the ball with real tempo.

07:50 PM

GOOOOAALLL! Liverpool are level

From the resulting corner, Salah drilled a shot towards goal from the edge of the box. After some pin-ball in the area, Phillips kept the ball alive and hooked the ball at goal and there was Jota to flick the ball past Henderson from close range.

07:48 PM

34 minutes

Cracking effort on the volley from Jota after a Robertson cross but Henderson was equal to it and tips over.

07:48 PM

The penalty incident

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07:46 PM

30 minutes

United's turn to threaten from a corner and McTominay's header deflects behind for another. From the second phase, Fernandes picked out Pogba at the back post and his header back across goal was not far away from Cavani.

07:44 PM

Var check: No penalty!

Anthony Taylor overturns his original decision. Bailly definitely got the ball but you often see fouls given for catching opponents on the follow through.

07:42 PM

PENALTY LIVERPOOL!

Good work from Salah to win a corner and the ball broke for Phillips near the edge of the box and Bailly went flying in. He got to the ball first but the follow through caught Phillips on the shin. Taylor going across to consult the monitor....

07:38 PM

23 minutes

Sweeping move from Liverpool involving Salah and a delicious cross from Alexander-Arnold but Henderson comes out and smothers to stop Jota poking the ball into the net.

07:38 PM

21 minutes

United's turn to enjoy a period of possession. Liverpool struggling to play out from the back, Cavani pressing, and Williams gets away with a stray pass that bounces off McTominay.

07:34 PM

Quite the stat

The last time Liverpool and Everton played league matches away from home on the same night was on March 30 1994. Everton drew 0-0 at Aston Villa and Liverpool lost 1-0 at Old Trafford. Spooky.

07:33 PM

17 minutes

Liverpool trying to play on the front foot and take charge of this game now, but the flag goes up for offside against Robertson. I think there is time and space for them to play here, they just need to keep their heads. Liverpool have won just one of their last 15 in the league at Old Trafford.

07:30 PM

15 minutes

Salah dribbled into the penalty area down the right but Lindelof stood up and blocked his shot. Liverpool put United under some sustained pressure but Pogba's blocks Alexander-Arnold's cross.

07:28 PM

The opening goal

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07:27 PM

12 minutes

United have their dander up now, pressing Liverpool and keeping the ball well in the final third. Pogba and Fernandes getting lots of early touches.

Liverpool come forward, but United are behind the ball and resolute in a 4-4-2 defence shape.

07:26 PM

GOOOOAAALL! Its a Phillips own goal

Wan-Bissaka got in behind with an underlap down the right and picked out Fernandes with a pull-back. He tried to find the far corner with an outside of the foot shot and it may have been going wide until Nat Phillips stuck out his leg and diverted the ball into the net. A bit messy from Liverpool but United will not care a jot.

07:24 PM

9 minutes

Fernandes spreads the play to Wan-Bissaka but Robertson defends strongly against the full-back. Both teams guilty of giving the ball away a little cheaply in the opening minutes but United are probing down the right....

07:22 PM

7 minutes

United's back four looking a little exposed again as Bailly scrambles to win the ball in front of Jota, then Robertson's raking diagonal flies out for a throw.

07:20 PM

5 minutes

Cavani gets across the near post but heads wide from a tight angle. Firmino harries Henderson into a wayward long kick, and then Alisson makes a pig's ear of his pass out at the other end! Cavani pounced at the edge of the box but dragged his shot wide. Entertaining stuff.

07:19 PM

3 minutes

Huge penalty appeal for Liverpool after Firmino drove through the heart of United's defence and looked to square for Jota. The ball struck the sliding Bailly on the side and bounced on to his arm, which spared him from Var advising a penalty for handball. United's defence looking loose in that move though.

07:17 PM

2 minutes

Looks like the home team are lining up with Rashford on the right. I though they may have but their most direct forward up against Alexander-Arnold.

07:15 PM

KICK OFF!

United get us under way and play a long diagonal out to the left flank. They win a throw in.

07:12 PM

The players are out

United know they can kill off Liverpool's chances of a top four finish. Both teams have reserve central defensive pairings so there could be more goals than in recent meetings.

07:07 PM

Huge game for Liverpool in the race for the Champions League

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07:01 PM

There looks to be a drone over Old Trafford

Old Trafford drone - Reuters
Old Trafford drone - Reuters

06:34 PM

Solskjaer speaks

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06:33 PM

The teams the old fashioned way

Man Utd: Henderson, Wan-Bissaka, Lindelof, Bailly, Shaw; McTominay, Fred: Pogba, Fernandes, Rashford; Cavani

Liverpool: Alisson; Alexander-Arnold, Phillips, R Williams, Robertson, Fabinho, Wijnaldum, Thiago, Salah, Firmino, Jota.

06:18 PM

Liverpool team and subs: Rhys Williams and Nat Phillips centre-backs

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06:16 PM

There is a game to be played - here is the Manchester United team

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06:12 PM

Sam Wallace on Liverpool's arrival

The Liverpool FC team buses arrived at Old Trafford just before 7pm, coming into the site from the far western end, through the extensive matchday W car parks. It meant they avoided the obvious point of friction with fans gathering at the gates that protect the bridge on John Gilbert Way over the Bridgewater Canal.

06:10 PM

Sounds like fans are starting to disperse

Fans moved from the forecourt outside the East Stand around the perimeter to the entrance, where the Liverpool team coach would arrive.

Police formed a barrier to stop fans on Wharfside Way getting any closer.

The stadium was locked down temporarily but the Liverpool team was able to arrive.

05:58 PM

Sam Wallace latest on how Liverpool avoided the crowds

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05:56 PM

Breaking news: Liverpool have arrived at Old Trafford

Jurgen Klopp and his players are there safe and sound. Will need to be a quick turnaround and sharp warm-up before an 8.15pm kick off.

05:55 PM

Crowds have really swelled now

Old Trafford in background of a barbwire fence - Tom Jenkins
Old Trafford in background of a barbwire fence - Tom Jenkins

05:48 PM

The financial story of the Glazers' ownership

05:47 PM

Pre-match reading

Nobody knows United better than Jim White, and in this special report he spells out why the Glazers might just be the most toxic owners in English football. You can read the piece in full here. Here is a taster:

Either way, the Glazers were unmoved by fan anger. They continued to allow the debt to sit on the club accounts, even as the total amount of repayments and dividends to have leaked out of United since 2005 swelled over £1billion. The complaints remained extant, however. Especially after Ferguson retired and the scale of the lack of financial commitment became ever more evident.

05:44 PM

Manchester United's players are at the stadium

They arrived at lunchtime and have just been filmed making their way towards the dressing room. No sign of Liverpool yet, only 90 minutes before kick-off. There is some confusion about whether their players were on the blocked bus or whether it was a decoy.

05:28 PM

Green and gold flares going up now

Old Trafford - Mike McGrath
Old Trafford - Mike McGrath

05:20 PM

Another picture from Mike McGrath

A significant crowd of fans on the forecourt now:

Old Trafford
Old Trafford

05:11 PM

More pictures of the protests

Manchester United fans outside the ground with police presence during a protest against the Glazer family - PA
Manchester United fans outside the ground with police presence during a protest against the Glazer family - PA
Manchester United fans outside the ground during a protest against the Glazer family, - PA
Manchester United fans outside the ground during a protest against the Glazer family, - PA

05:07 PM

An increasing number of United fans gathering now

Old Trafford - Reuters
Old Trafford - Reuters

04:49 PM

Another angle of the Liverpool coach meeting a road block

Unclear at present whether this coach is carrying the players. Liverpool have two coaches.

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04:46 PM

Liverpool coach blocked off

It seems Liverpool's coach has met an obstacle on the way to Old Trafford. This from Daniel Taylor of The Athletic:

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04:42 PM

Banner banter commences

I think they needed a bigger piece of cardboard for this one:

Protesters holding a placard reading 'Glazers Divorce Papers In Post' stand outside Old Trafford Stadium ahead of the Premier League match between Manchester United and Liverpoo - Getty Images
Protesters holding a placard reading 'Glazers Divorce Papers In Post' stand outside Old Trafford Stadium ahead of the Premier League match between Manchester United and Liverpoo - Getty Images

04:35 PM

The police presence outside Old Trafford

Old Trafford - PA
Old Trafford - PA

04:11 PM

The events of a few weeks ago

04:08 PM

The referee and his assistants have arrived

This picture is courtesy of our man Mike McGrath who is on the ground at Old Trafford.

Old Trafford - Mike McGrath
Old Trafford - Mike McGrath

03:59 PM

Looks like United's players arrived early

They drove their own cars to Old Trafford around lunchtime, to reduce the chance of disruption. They will have had their pre-match meal and done some stretching at the stadium.

03:04 PM

Liverpool's Champions League hopes still alive

There is the potential for further Manchester United fan protest at Old Trafford against the Glazer family, but on the pitch this evening's game between United and Liverpool has taken on fresh significance for the visitors.

Arsenal's surprising victory at Chelsea leaves the door to Champions League qualification ever so slightly ajar for Liverpool, but they must retrieve a seven-point deficit with two games in hand. After tonight's match, they finish the season with fixtures against relegated West Brom, Burnley and Crystal Palace so there is the chance for a sprint finish and a maximum of 69 points.

Jurgen Klopp is once again suffering from a centre-back shortage. Joe Gomez and Virgil Van Dijk remain on the sidelines, while Ozan Kabak and Ben Davies missed the win over Southampton with injuries. Liverpool have been in better form since Fabinho returned to central midfield though, winning four of their last six Premier League games. It really should have been five but for the concession of a 96th-minute equaliser at home to Newcastle.

United and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer do not have a great deal to play for, apart from the incentive of consigning their historic rivals to a season of Thursday night football in the Europa League. It is their second home league match in 48 hours, with Solskjaer making 10 changes for their defeat against Leicester. Even Klopp was sympathetic to their predicament. United are likely to be far stronger tonight, with the likes of Paul Pogba, Bruno Fernandes and Edinson Cavani back in the fold. There is a Europa League final against Villarreal to look forward to and places to play for, as Solskjaer aims to win his first major silverware in charge.

Solskjaer said: "My job is for Manchester United and my concern is the Manchester United fans.

"What they think about my team, what they want from my team and that we come together as one and show what Manchester United is."

The return fixture between these two storied clubs was a goalless draw at Anfield. Let's hope for more entertainment tonight.

Full team news on the way shortly.