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'A waste of space' - Man Utd hit another new low in dismal Liverpool defeat

01:10 GMT+4 20/04/2022
Harry Maguire Mohamed Salah Manchester United Liverpool 2021-22
Ralf Rangnick's side were torn apart at Anfield, as their apparent lack of effort left a lot to be desired on a chastening night against their rivals

Match statistics: Liverpool 4-0 Manchester United

“This Manchester United team are a waste of space.” 

That was Gary Neville's assessment on Sky Sports commentary duty of Liverpool’s second goal at Anfield on Tuesday, scored by Mohamed Salah after a sublime team move, but it really could have been used to describe United's entire performance. 

Liverpool were everything United were not: Aggressive, physical, slick, passionate and co-ordinated. 

Anyone reading the form tables going into this game knew Liverpool were favourites. Ralf Rangnick said himself that his team would have to be at their highest level to even come away with a point.

But regardless of form and league position, this is one of those games where those away fans sitting in the Anfield Road End turn up hoping for a display of passion, grit and determination.

If their team is going to lose, then at least make it look like they are trying. 

The United players must have missed that memo.

You would not know that this United side are still in the race for a top-four finish. As Rangnick said on Saturday after their 3-2 win over Norwich City, a team that defends like this does not deserve to be challenging for a place to compete in Europe’s elite competition.

On Merseyside, there was further evidence to back up his claim as Liverpool strolled through United’s back five. 

The 5-0 defeat at Old Trafford earlier in the season was humiliating for United, and though the 4-0 scoreline was not as brutal, the display was not much better.

Liverpool toyed with United at times, with Thiago Alcantara at the heart of everything they did well. Rangnick could only wish to have a player of such aptitude at his disposal for his final five games as United boss.

A midfielder is top of the club’s transfer list this summer, and they need someone in the same mould as the Spain international. Thiago completed 98 per cent of his passes in a first half where Liverpool were in complete control, claiming 76% of the total possession.

But as good as he and his Liverpool team-mates were, they were assisted by a group of United players who were operating at a walking pace and refusing to press.

They shied out of every 50-50 challenge and struggled to deal with the class and quality on display from the home side as they moved to the top of the Premier League table.

Much has been said about the gulf in class between these two sides, and it looked far more than three league positions. 

“I’ve been watching Man United for 42 years and this is as bad as it gets,” Neville said as United ended the first half without a shot on target, the first time they have failed to do so for four years.

Rangnick’s assessment of this United team is that they could be competing at the top again in a couple of years if they get their recruitment right in the upcoming transfer windows. The evidence suggested in the past few weeks suggests otherwise.

Playing a back five, which included Phil Jones for just his second league start of the season and that they had only practiced in training once beforehand, was a bold tactic from Rangnick, and it did not work.

He did not get the defensive stability he was after as United were torn apart on Liverpool’s first foray forward as Luis Diaz opened the scoring, while the formation sacrificed any attacking threat he may have been hoping for.

A switch to a back four and the introduction of Jadon Sancho in the second half saw the visitors have their best spell of the game, but Liverpool's quality soon shone back through as Sadio Mane but the game to bed.

But these players cannot hide behind an unfamiliar system when it was the basic fundamentals of energy, aggression and physicality that they were lacking in.

It was a game that confirmed everything everybody already knew about where these two teams are at the moment. Liverpool are deservedly fighting on all fronts, chasing an unprecedented quadruple, while United are scrapping for a place in Europe. 

Erik ten Hag, who could be announced as the club's new manager in the coming days, will not provide a magic fix. This demise has not happened overnight, and has been years in the making, and so it will take almost as long to turn it around.

“You’re so sh*t it’s unbelievable,” was the chant from the home support as the United fans who had made the trip down the M62 made an early exit. Even the most ardent United fan would have to agree with them. 

They are playing like the season is already over, but with Arsenal and Chelsea to come in the next nine days, it could get a whole lot worse before it finally draws to a dismal conclusion.