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Winners & Losers

Liverpool winners, losers and ratings as Van Dijk and Alexander-Arnold flop in Man Utd defeat

5:23 PM EDT 8/22/22
Virgil van Dijk James Milner Liverpool Manchester United 2022-23
Salah scored again, but the Reds' other star men continue to let Jurgen Klopp down as Erik ten Hag gets what he craved

Liverpool’s stuttering start to the season continued as they were beaten 2-1 by fierce rivals Manchester United at a bouncing Old Trafford.

Having drawn their first two Premier League matches of the campaign, the Reds’ struggles continued as goals from Jadon Sancho and Marcus Rashford condemned them to their first defeat to United in four-and-a-half-years.

Mohamed Salah's late header set up a nervy finish, but Liverpool's response came way too late, and their sub-par performance barely merited anything from the game in any case.

Jurgen Klopp has insisted all month that his injury-hit squad are not in need of a new signing, but their limitations were brutally exposed again here, against a side that began the game near the bottom of the table and engulfed in a seemingly perpetual state of crisis.

This is the first time Liverpool have failed to win any of their three games of a league season in a decade, and they ended the night 16th in the table, with hopes of a title challenge already beginning to fade. 

The silence from the away end, in stark contrast to last season’s delight, spoke volumes.

  • Mohamed Salah Liverpool Manchester United 2022-23

    The Winners

    Mohamed Salah:

    It could be worse for Liverpool. Just imagine if Mo Salah hadn't signed that new contract yet?

    The Egyptian is now the Reds' all-time top goalscorer in this fixture, his late header taking him past Steven Gerrard to 10 - seven of which have come in his last four visits to Old Trafford.

    It may not have been enough to drag his side to a result, but it was reward for Salah's persistence, and another example of his spirit and his relentless high standards. Even when not at his best - and he wasn't here, by any means - he always believes, always keeps going and usually delivers.

    Klopp must wish a few more of his players would show the same kind of attitude currently.

    Harvey Elliott:

    Amid all the - understandable and correct - discussion around Liverpool's midfield, one fact is going a little ignored. Harvey Elliott is turning into a damn fine player.

    The teenager put some of his more senior colleagues to shame here, playing with confidence and composure, and a belief that his side could get something from a game which means so much to supporters.

    He'll improve too, which bodes well. But for now, the fact that a youngster is the Reds' one real bright spark is telling. Klopp needs more, much more, from his senior men.

    Transfer fans:

    It looks unlikely, but Liverpool really could do with a new signing before the transfer window closes.

    The strength and reliability of their midfield was questioned in July, in fairness, but here in late August it looks a real issue. James Milner, at 36, has started their last two Premier League games, as has Elliott at 19. Fabinho was left out of the starting XI here after a spell of poor form, Naby Keita was nowhere to be seen amid growing rumours that he is unsettled, while the rest of Klopp's options are injured.

    Liverpool should, if nothing else, be examining the options open to them. Klopp says they'll only move if the right player is available, but there are ways to make 'the right player' available - and they usually include money, and plenty of it.

    In January, Liverpool left it late before signing Luis Diaz when they had initially planned to do nothing. What a shot in the arm the Colombian gave them for the rest of the season.

    Three games into this campaign, the Reds look a side in need of a similar lift.

  • Trent Alexander-Arnold Liverpool Manchester United 2022-23

    The Losers

    Trent Alexander-Arnold:

    Liverpool's home-grown hero made his first Premier League start at Old Trafford, but his memories of this famous old ground are not all good.

    Remember the chasing he got at the hands of Marcus Rashford here in 2018? There were shades of that this evening. Rashford was on the pitch again, but it was Anthony Elanga who was Alexander-Arnold's tormentor-in-chief.

    The young Swede had the England full-back running scared in the first half. Elanga should have taken advantage of Alexander-Arnold's absence to score himself early on, but hit the post. No worries, he picked himself up and got in again down the United left, setting up Sancho for the opening goal.

    Alexander-Arnold, who had escaped a booking for an early foul on Rashford, would soon after pick up a booking for tripping Elanga just outside the penalty area. He improved in the 15 minutes before half time, but by then the damage had been done, and in the second half he again struggled to get to grips with a rejuvenated Rashford.

    He'll want to forget this night as quickly as he forgot the one four years ago.

    Virgil van Dijk:

    What's wrong with Liverpool's rock? The Dutchman just hasn't looked himself so far this season, as evidenced against Fulham's Aleksandar Mitrovic on the opening weekend, and this was another worrying evening.

    His refusal to close down Sancho for United's opener was strange, and led to some furious words exchanged with James Milner. Van Dijk was also caught on his heels by Anthony Martial for the second goal, albeit from a wayward touch from Jordan Henderson.

    With their defensive lynchpin struggling, Liverpool are struggling. They need the old Van Dijk back, and quick.

    Naby Keita:

    The question has to be asked: just what is going on with the Guinea midfielder? Keita was not a part of the Liverpool squad here, left out amid growing speculation he could be set to leave the club.

    Reds sources - and indeed sources close to the player - insisted his absence was down to an injury, which was either extremely ill-timed or very convenient, depending on your level of cynicism. Keita was on the bench against Crystal Palace last week, and trained as normal with his team-mates on Saturday, but he didn't even travel with the squad here.

    Cause for concern? Certainly, given Liverpool's current dearth of midfielders. And with reports emanating from Germany that the 27-year-old is unhappy with his current situation - he has less than a year left on his contract - there has to be at least a degree of doubt now as to whether Keita will be at Anfield come September 1.

    Last week, Liverpool strongly dismissed the idea of him leaving, a stance reiterated by Klopp at his pre-match press conference on Friday. "If Naby leaves - which he won't - there would need to be a replacement," he said.

    Who knows, maybe we will see some late transfer business at Anfield after all?

    Darwin Nunez:

    A few minutes before half-time, the TV cameras panned to the Old Trafford stands, where Liverpool's new £64 million ($76m) signing sat, tracksuited and glum-faced.

    If Nunez hadn't already realised the folly of his decision to react to Joachim Andersen's wind-up act at Anfield last week, then he certainly will have done tonight. These were the games he would have dreamed of when joining the Reds, and yet there he was, twiddling his thumbs while his under-pressure team-mates toiled.

    He'll learn from his mistake, of course, but it was a good move from Liverpool to bring him along to this game.

    Look at what you could have won, Darwin. Your team needed you.

  • Alisson Jadon Sancho Marcus Rashford Liverpool Manchester United 2022-23

    Liverpool Ratings: Defence

    Alisson Becker (5/10):

    Sent the wrong way by Sancho's turn for the goal. Some wayward kicks.

    Trent Alexander-Arnold (4/10):

    Given big problems early by Rashford and Elanga. Exposed for the goal and then booked. Better second half but by then it was too late.

    Andy Robertson (5/10):

    Less targeted by United than Alexander-Arnold but he is not having a big impact at either end of the field currently.

    Joe Gomez (6/10):

    Important block to deny Rashford at 1-0 and he was easily the better of Liverpool's two centre-halves.

    Virgil van Dijk (4/10):

    Stood off Sancho fatally for United's opener, and was rightly given an earful from Milner as a result. Doesn't look himself at present.

  • Jadon Sancho James Milner Liverpool Manchester United 2022-23

    Midfield

    James Milner (4/10):

    Sat down by Sancho for the United opener. Will always graft and battle, but he looked his age here in all honesty.

    Jordan Henderson (4/10):

    Slow start but got into it before half-time. Loose touch led to the second goal and he was taken off soon after.

    Harvey Elliott (6/10):

    Played with more maturity and composure than many of his more decorated team-mates.

  • James Milner Roberto Firmino Liverpool Manchester United 2022-23

    Attack

    Mohamed Salah (7/10):

    Clattered early by Martinez and had little impact in the first half. Continued to work, and got his reward with a late header to set up a tense finale.

    Luis Diaz (5/10):

    Battled well and looked dangerous in spells, but the quality was too often lacking in his play. Looked frustrated.

    Roberto Firmino (4/10):

    Dropped very deep in the first half and was careless with a scooped pass in a great position. Miskicked volley in the second half summed up his night. Anonymous.

  • Jurgen Klopp Liverpool 2022-23

    Subs & Manager

    Fabinho (6/10):

    Why didn't he start?!

    Fabio Carvalho (6/10):

    Replaced Milner at 2-0 and made a difference. His shot led to Salah's consolation.

    Kostas Tsimikas (N/A):

    Only introduced for the final few minutes.

    Jurgen Klopp (5/10):

    Decision to leave out Fabinho looked strange at the time and even stranger at half time. Options off the bench severely limited but Carvalho made an impact.