Liverpool embarrass Man Utd at Old Trafford

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Mohamed Salah became the first away player to score a hat-trick at Old Trafford for more than 18 years
Mohamed Salah became the first away player to score a hat-trick at Old Trafford for more than 18 years

Mohamed Salah scored a hat-trick and Paul Pogba was sent off as Liverpool embarrassed Manchester United at Old Trafford.

Four of the Reds’ five goals were scored in a clinical first-half display as a mixture of poor defending and fine finishing humbled Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s insipid side.

Naby Keita rolled in the first from Salah’s through-ball to put Liverpool ahead after just five minutes before Diogo Jota slid in a second soon after.

Salah then got his first, smashing the ball into the roof of the net as he scored for the 10th straight game before the Egypt forward made it 4-0 on the stroke of half time with a close-range finish.

There were boos at half time from the home fans but it got worse soon after the restart when Salah scored his third after the in-form forward was brilliantly found by Jordan Henderson.

Cristiano Ronaldo had a goal ruled out for offside before Manchester United’s misery was complete when Pogba, on as a half-time substitute, was sent off for a two-footed tackle on Keita after being on the pitch for just 15 minutes.

Liverpool back to their ruthless best

Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp
Mohamed Salah is now the top-scoring African in Premier League history with 107 goals

Liverpool were always going to come back stronger from the suffering of last season, when injuries and the worst run of home form in the club’s history saw them drawn into a dogfight for a place in the Champions League.

They rallied superbly to finish third and carried that good form into this new campaign, with an ominous composure about Klopp’s side from the first day.

With Virgil van Dijk back in defence and Salah playing at a level that suggests he is the world’s best player, they are a ruthless machine and how United felt that power.

Bruno Fernandes actually missed a very good chance to put United ahead before Keita opened the scoring but once Liverpool got ahead, Solskjaer’s side had no answer.

With Salah as the main weapon, they cut through United at will, reducing both their players and the crowd to nervous agitation every time they went forward.

Salah is in the form of his life and this United defence was an open invitation to him and Liverpool’s range of attacking options.

In the last eight days alone, Liverpool have scored 13 goals in three games on their travels, taking in the 5-0 win at Watford and the 3-2 victory against Atletico Madrid in the Champions League.

This was Liverpool looking as formidable, confident and dangerous as they did when they won the title in 2019-20. It is shaping up to be a three-horse race along with Chelsea and Manchester City for the title and this was the performance of true thoroughbreds.

The only downside to their day was the injury to Keita, injured in a two-footed challenge by Pogba in what is a cruel blow to the midfielder given he has been showing the best form of his stop-start Liverpool career.

What now for Solskjaer?

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer looks on as Manchester United lose to Liverpool
Manchester United have lost by a margin of five or more goals at Old Trafford without scoring themselves for the first time since a 5-0 defeat at home to Manchester City in 1955 under Matt Busby

Solskjaer was in defiant mood after United came from two goals down to beat Atalanta in the Champions League but there is a frailty and confusion about this team that means they will constantly fall short – and this inevitably puts further pressure on the manager.

There are defeats that carry greater significance than others and the sight of United chasing shadows five goals down while Solskjaer stood helplessly on the touchline being taunted for long periods by joyous Liverpool fans made this one of those days.

Any defeat to Liverpool is painful for United fans. When the defeat is as comprehensive as this one and in front of their own supporters, it is a day that will cut deeply to every part of Old Trafford.

It was a defensive shambles, with poor communication and lack of understanding about what the team is trying to do cruelly exposed by Liverpool. As a result, this game was effectively over within 13 minutes.

Solskjaer has praised the backing of United’s fans and the Stretford End largely stuck with him and the team but there is no disguising the fact there were loud jeers at half time and by the time the final whistle sounded, huge sections of the stadium were deserted.

There was also a lack of discipline in the United performance, Cristiano Ronaldo perhaps fortunate to escape a red card for kicking out at Curtis Jones while he was on the floor then Pogba – presumably sent on to restore some slight semblance of order – getting one for his challenge on Keita.

United have been steadfast in their backing for Solskjaer but the shock waves of this result will have questions being asked more strongly than ever about his position by everyone from the club’s hierarchy to their fans.