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Liverpool FC display at Manchester United shows Man City are still best in Premier League – Stuart Brennan


Pep Guardiola chose not to watch Manchester United and Liverpool go head to head, preferring to deal with some “personal issues”.

Had the Manchester City manager bothered, what he saw might well have re-ignited the belief that his team can slash the gap at the top of the Premier League long before it gets tricky in April.

The sight of Jurgen Klopp‘s team, timid and self-doubting when faced by mid-table United, was curious.

The Merseysiders turned up at Old Trafford as if they were facing one of Sir Alex Ferguson ’s teams in their pomp, showing way too much respect and being foxed by some fairly simple defensive tactics.

The contrast between the Scousers’ hesitant, unconfident approach, and the way City roll into Old Trafford these days was noticeable.

Of course United vs Liverpool is always a big game, but champions and champions-elect play such games as if they are just another beatable obstacle. They don’t play the occasion, they don’t play the badge, and they don’t play the history.

United cut Liverpool’s main supply line by playing Ashley Young and Aaron Wan-Bissaka high up to strangle Andy Robertson and Trent Alexander-Arnold.

The Reds actually played well for 45 minutes against City in April, when the title stakes were higher and the situation more tense.

 

But the Blues were always on the front foot, and there was a grinding inevitability about them winning that derby.

City go to Old Trafford not exactly expecting to win, but confident that if they play their normal game they will, more than likely, take all three points.

That is nothing more than a cold assessment of the current gulf between the teams.

The fact that Liverpool could not show the same level belief is perhaps the first indicator we have had this season that they are not as irresistible  as they might seem.

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Liverpool were unconvincing against a poor United team

People were talking up the contribution of Andreas Pereira, Scott McTominay and Fred, but all three  were extremely ordinary – it is just that they were up against a workmanlike Liverpool midfield who failed to exploit United’s soft centre.

City have far more class in the centre of the park than both teams, and that is where they have punished United – and just about everybody else – in the past two seasons.

With the flanks blocked off, against a teams sitting deep, and deprived of the solo genius of Salah, Liverpool did not play like champions.

The absence of Salah hit them hard. The Egyptian is one of four key players in the Liverpool team – along with Sadio Mane, Roberto Firmino and Virgil Van Dijk – who are irreplaceable.

 

Without him providing balance, and with the full backs stifled, Liverpool’s attacking threat was blunted by a very ordinary United side.

Of course, it was just one game, and Liverpool have been excellent so far this season.

But there will be more of that type of game between now and the end of the season, and Liverpool have to find a way of winning them.

It was a similar trend last season, when City proved to be vulnerable to the occasional shock result, but still finished ahead of a Liverpool team whose only defeat was by the Blues but who also drew far too many games.

Liverpool looked incapable of dealing with a United team who were for the taking by any side with variety an adaptability in their armoury.

United will, no doubt, be feisty and competitive in the Manchester derby in December, and should have star performer Paul Pogba back. But if City turn up, there should only be one outcome.



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