Manchester United prevailed 2-1 over arc rival Liverpool this afternoon at Old Trafford.
In the battle for second place behind runaway leaders Manchester City, a spirited Red Devils side banished the ghost of the dull 0-0 draw at Anfield earlier in the season to down an uncharacteristically sluggish Liverpool.
Paul Pogba sustained an injury in training and Jose Mourinho replaced him with Marcus Rashford, handing the youngster his first start of 2018 to add bite to the attack while Bailey returned for his first start in November since his long-term injury.
United’s attacking intent paid of early when they went ahead in the 14th minute after 20-year old Rashford latched on to a Romelu Lukaku flick. The Manchester United youth product left a Trent Alexander-Arnold for dead before curling beyond Karius in Liverpool goal.
The Mancunians doubled their lead 10 minutes later through another route-one kick from De Gea. Lukaku won the ball from the long ball and his pass caused chaos in Liverpool’s box. The the ball then fell kindly for Rashford who fired beyond a stranded Karius via a deflection from the unfortunate Alexander-Arnold.
Liverpool’s fearsome attacking trio of Salah, Firmino and Mane were well tamed by United’s defence while Lukaku was running van Dijk and Co. ragged upfront as Mourinho’s team looked to put the Merseyside club to the sword. Juan Mata almost extended the lead but his overhead kick from four yards went agonizingly wide and the first half ended without a shot on target.
In the second half, Manchester United reduced the tempo of the game and contained pretty well, with no meaningful shot as Mourinho looked to park the proverbial bus and see out the match.
An uncharacteristic error from defender Bailey saw Liverpool half the deficit. The Ivorian diverted Saido Mane’s cross into his own net under no pressure to gift Liverpool a way into a match they never looked like drawing. Mourinho responded by going into ultra-defensive mode, replacing two-goal hero Rashford with Belgian targetman, Mouroune Fellaini and the 30-year old ensured victory was preserved with a battling shift in front of the defence despite the late siege.
With the win, Manchester United have moved five points to all but confirm a second-placed finish ahead of Jurgen Klopp’s side who suffered their first loss in eight games.