What the papers say
- Chelsea players have taken active roles for charitable causes
- ‘It is going to help massively for kids,’ says Rashford
Marcus Rashford has praised Chelsea’s Reece James and Mason Mount for their “amazing” charitable work during the pandemic and believes it will help drive significant social change for the next generation.
Rashford, 23, has become a leading figure in the fight against child food poverty in Britain, with the Manchester United striker only last week calling for the government to launch a major and urgent review into the free school meals system.
We can’t help everyone, but everyone can help someone. Get involved and do your bit. Small acts of kindness make a big difference❤️ pic.twitter.com/331RpgPRp8Continue reading...
Paul Pogba made the difference again as Manchester United came from behind to secure a 2-1 victory over Fulham. A stunning strike midway through the second half continued the midfielder's good form in front of goal. 'He does everything. We know Paul can do more or less everything that's asked of a midfielder. Now he's putting all the elements together in the same performance which is great to see' said manager, Ole Gunnar SolskjærContinue reading...
- Fulham defeated as United return to top with 2-1 victory
- ‘He’s very happy and physically in very good shape’
Ole Gunnar Solskjær paid tribute to Paul Pogba after the France midfielder helped restore Manchester United to the top of the Premier League at Fulham.
Pogba has morphed from problem to solution for the United manager in recent weeks and his stunning left footed winning goal in the 2-1 victory proved emblematic of an excellent all‑round performance.Continue reading...
Paul Pogba’s spectacular winner took United top of the table after Edinson Cavani cancelled out Ademola Lookman’s early goal.
Here’s Barney Ronay’s match report from Craven Cottage.
Paul Pogba speaks
Yes, it was a big win because it was a hard game. They press and they stay compact behind. We conceded a goal early and we knew it would be hard. We got the win the hard way. I hit it well. I didn’t expect the left foot would be like this. It was a beautiful goal and a beautiful win and that’s the most important thing. [On Liverpool] It’s not like I apologised but I was really mad, maybe I should have done better. It’s beautiful to win like that. No, we didn’t know [about City]. We just have to get our results. I have said this before: I love winning. It’s always about winning I would always been happy if we win. If we lose I win be angry again; this is me. This is the Premier League. It’s always hard.
Here’s the table, with United above City, who have a game in hand, and Fulham burning up one of their games in hand on their fellow strugglers.
United are top of the league, and that’s thanks to Paul Pogba’s brilliant winner. They’ve gone 366 days without losing away and haven’t lost at all for three months. Fulham gave it plenty but suffered for a lack of attacking quality.
90+4 min: United look very nervous but hang on to win. They make a final sub, and it’s Matic for Bruno. Fulham have a long throw. Matic does his job by getting the ball clear and chasing up to support Rashford, and that’s the final action.
90+3 min: Great control by Lookman, great recovery from Wan-Bissaka to block the ball to concede a corner. And then, oh my, Bailly almost deflects a Mitrovic cross past De Gea. All they could do was watch it drift by.
90+2 min: Four minutes added on. Cavani and Rashford combine but Rashford again gives the ball back to Fulham.
90 min: Rashford and Wan-Bissaka are a tad hurried in the Fulham box when they had the option of killing the ball or taking it into the corner.
89 min: Desperation on those benches. “Don’t foul him” is the cry to Fulham’s players. Scott E doesn’t want them to waste time.
88 min: Bailly heads out as Fulham launch the ball down the channels. Eventually they get it out left but beyond the wingspan of Reed.
86 min: Bailly plays a hospital pass that asks a lot of De Gea, who is up to the task. Pogba commits a tired foul but surely not enough to get another yellow. In actual fact, the foul goes against Fulham.
85 min: Two United changes. Martial and Greenwood off, Rashford and McTominay on.
84 min: Fulham are pushing on. This time it’s Lemina having a shot blocked.
83 min: Final Fulham change: Aina off, Mitrovic on. No United change as yet.
Fulham meanwhile have a chance. Shaw’s tackle is desperate and the ball comes to Loftus-Cheek whose shot ends up somewhere in the Hammersmith area.
82 min: Yet another United corner forced by a Greenwood slalom. Cavani goes down, but is not hurt just not rushing. It’s taken and Fred launches a shot that’s blocked.
81 min: Fulham free kick, and Fulham players are queuing up. It’s wasted as Bailly lets it drift out.
79 min: Another United corner, which Bruno takes his time over. It’s played short and Fred tries to play in Maguire with a “diag”. The skipper fails to reach it.
Fulham sub: on comes Lemina for Zambo Anguissa.
77 min: United’s turn to look a little tired? Or have Fulham lifted the tempo? Bruno loses the ball then runs all the way back to collect it back from Kamara.
75 min: Oof! Fulham go close. Loftus-Cheek escapes again and his shot is saved by De Gea. RLC might perhaps have done better there. Scott E certainly thinks so.
74 min: Patient build-up from United. Are Fulham a little tired by their defensive exertions. Another United corner, Andersen heads away.
72 min: Fred wins a corner. United slowing up their act and taking their time. On this occasion, Maguire does not climb highest. Fulham get the ball away.
71 min: Fulham sub: Cavaleiro off, on comes Kamara.
69 min: Ola Aina is booked for what looks like repeated infringements. Bailly does well to stop Cavaleiro in his tracks. Another look at the Pogba goal suggests it is an absolute peach.
68 min: Cavani is baulked by Andersen; those two have had quite a battle today. Cavani has been excellent tonight. He looks so suited to English football.
66 min: That, then, is what Paul Pogba can do. And he’s doing it more often for United...it’s almost three when Cavani heads at goal and Areola has to make a full-length save. The former PSG colleagues have had quite a battle tonight.
The ball drops, Pogba kills it like a feather, whips past two players and smashes beyond Areola. What a goal!
64 min: Fernandes and Greenwood conjure a chance. Martial heads at Areola but was offside in any case. Slow momentum building. And it is pretty slow.
63 min: United are looking a little slovenly. Surely reinforcements are to come. Rashford one of them.
61 min: Fulham camping deep. Bruno is looking for the pass, while Pogba also lurks with intent but there’s numbers to get through. Loftus-Cheeks sets off on a jaunt again and it’s Cavani who robs him.
59 min: Loftus-Cheek on another of his runs, but his pass is read by neither Lookman nor Cavaleiro. He’s been an increasing danger to United.
57 min: It’s a pair of tense benches. Scott E still talking incessantly and there’s the odd squawk in a Scandi/Manc accent from United’s boss.
56 min: Bruno header, great save from Areola but also offside. Bruno again looks very unhappy. It was a fine cross from Pogba that set up that passage of play.
54 min: Bruno shoots, but his shot is blocked. His face is like thunder when Adarabioyo gets in his way. Then Greenwood’s cross is headed out by Andersen, and then Shaw’s volley goalwards is blocked by Andersen.
52 min: Suddenly, Loftus-Cheek escapes down the flank. He does so twice in fact. The first time, the ball flies across goal, with no takers. Then he plays in Lookman who shoots straight at De Gea.
51 min: Cavani working back like a Trojan. Bruno gets a ball through the gap and Martial is again casual with his shot. A pass inside might have been the better part of valour. From the resultant corner Harry Maguire climbs highest but Ola Aina does just enough to put him off.
49 min: Martial and Fred fail to break through the Fulham wall. Then Martial reads a Shaw run that never comes. Martial looks to the heavens but should be blaming himself in truth.
47 min: Pogba is slow on the uptake in sweeping up a headed clearance from Bailly. Lookman steals in and Reed whacks a shot wide. The ball fell for him and glory was seen, and soon lost.
46 min: Away we go again. As in the opening minutes of the first half, Fulham press up, clearly on Scott E’s instructions.
A big 45 minutes coming up for both teams here...Ole seems quite smiley as he comes out. Scott Parker makes his way across the field in his dapper jacket, his quiff unshaken by the wind.
Fatsani has his say: “I am not a soothsayer nor a prophet but I will easily join the bandwagon of those taking Man United as serious title contenders if they successfully negotiate the Parker’s Parked Bus and get a result tonight. They tend to struggle against such!”
Peter Kingsnorth has an observation to make and also a prediction. “Pogba looks like a walking red card, already on a booking and almost catches a Fulham player with a high boot. But with Ole needing him to break down the Fulham defence, he if subs him it may cost united the game..”
Here’s why United really need to win this one.
Two minutes of time added on tick on without too much incident. They go in at level pegging. Lookman’s goal was well taken, and had United rocking but once Bruno Fernandes got into the game the visitors took hold. Cavani’s goal was slotted in after a mistake from Areola. Fulham have been ragged at times while still not allowing United to get into too much of a flow.
45 min: Greenwood chases down the ball, down his lonely furrow down the right, but can’t prevent a goal kick.
43 min: Wan-Bissaka gallops to the byline and bombs a cross into the back post that has Fulham scrabbling. From the opposite flank, Martial heads over. Fulham conceding territory and chances.
42 min: Lookman wins a free kick for Fulham. It’s not very well worked and the ball eventually makes its way back to De Gea.
41 min: United haven’t been great, as has been their pattern a little bit of late. It is their quality that has carried them this far.
39 min: United’s momentum has abated a little, though they nearly stole a goal when Areola failed to notice that Bruno had sneaked up behind him.
37 min: Fulham chance...Zambo Anguissa beats a couple of men, then passes the ball through to Cavaleiro who, well, takes a very heavy touch. A real waste.
36 min: Bruno Fernandoes and Tete clash and the Fulham player looks to be in pain. He gets up, and rather quicker than would be expected.
34 min: Fernandes is fouled and United have a free-kick on the left-hand edge of the area. Few questions over who will take it. He spots the ball Ronaldo-style and hoofs it over in the style of Neil Jenkins.
32 min: Lovely spinning pass from Bruno to Shaw but the full back can’t get the ball across. Mason Greenwood has been quiet on the flank. Cavani is the centre forward and perhaps cramping his style.
31 min: Scott Parker chewing wildly and asking a question of the assistant referee. Another draw isn’t a great deal of use to his team.
29 min: The Cavani goal owed much to Areola’s fumble of a Bruno’s cross. Wan-Bissaka sorties forward and Martial heads the ball off Tete’s head. From the corner, Maguire climbs highest and misses. Fulham had gone to sleep. That counts as a miss.
27 min: Something of a lull. United are sitting a little back and looking for the long pass rather than pushing forward en masse.
25 min: United supplying Bruno the ball all the time, and he is demanding it too. Pogba is very much in a supporting role. These days, and when he’s in this mood, everyone is in a supporting role to Bruno.
24 min: Fulham now looking much more nervous than before. Bruno Fernandes has got their number at the moment.
22 min: Ole himself would have approved of that goal, a real poacher’s goal. Fernandes though is now in the mood. His crashing shot is well saved by Areola. United smell blood.
21 min: Fulham take their time over a throw-in. Shaw begins a United move and gets almost to the byline and he releases Fernandes, whose shot cracks off the post. United recycle the ball. A cross from the left rebounds to Cavani and United are level!
19 min: Martial and Shaw having a row now? United are very tetchy. Bruno and Pogba both fail in their attempts to play defence-splitting passes.
17 min: Scott Parker is very vocal on the sidelines. His Fulham team concede a soft corner which doesn’t amuse him. United try to be too clever and make a mess of it. Soon enough, they are back in defence and try to build up an attack.
15 min: More Bruno rage as Luke Shaw fails to read his pass.
14 min: Fred’s ball is skewed by an exasperated Fernandes. Cavani is making a nuisance of himself in chasing shadows. It is going to take something to unpick this lock.
12 min: All of the action in Fulham’s half but they look comfortable. Bruno Fernandes has been an absentee, suffering with a severe lack of space.
11 min: Pogba’s down. And it looks like an ankle problem before he’s resurrected. He took a rap but it looks to be an impact injury.
10 min: United penalty claim as Fred falls. Fulham break and Pogba is booked for a cynical foul. Both were correct decisions.
9 min: Loftus-Cheek, back defending, stops a Shaw cross in the left-hand corner.
8 min: This is a test for Manchester United, who really don’t like to play against a massed defence. Fulham have retreated into their shell already and will probably use Lookman as their outlet.
6 min: For Manchester United, that goal was the definition of sloppy. For Fulham, that was a well-executed springing of the offside trap.
Long ball out to Lookman who surges through. He’s onside, played there by Wan-Bissaka, and scores. Great finish. And a big shock. Scott Parker punches the air in delight!
4 min: The television coverage has allowed a decent earful of the benches and their exhortations to the players. Fulham’s crew and bringing the ruckus. United have two sniffs, first Greenwood and then Cavani.
2 min: It’s cagey but Fulham have pushed up from the start. Wan-Bissaka comes under some pressure with the ball on the edge of his box. Fulham then press hard once more, and Lookman gets space to shoot. It’s a low skidder and David de Gea is happy to claim it with his body behind the ball.
1 min: And away we go.
OK, we are go at the Cottage...Scott Parker and Ole exchange pleasantries to the sound of Insomnia by Faithless.
Richard Hirst has been in touch. “Venturing into the land of inappropriate comparisons, I feel this game is the perfect follow up to the inauguration. Quiet and moderate Biden/Fulham about to repudiate narcissistic and self-entitled Trump United. It will be good to feel that we are playing our part in knocking them off their ....... perch. Not that I think we will, anymore than the red half of the USA will accept Biden, but in both cases one can dream.”
Richard may not be a Manchester United fan.
Here’s where Ole Gunnar Solskjær earns his corn by urging his men to great things on what looks a stinking night. The rather antsy buildup music that visitors to Craven Cottage are used to hearing is blaring out to the empty stands. So, here come the teams.
Manchester City have won 2-0 against Aston Villa, though had to work hard. They are top of the league and thus United must win to leapfrog City and Leicester City.
The teams again.
Fulham: Areola; Aina, Andersen, Adarabioyo; Tete, Reed, Zambo Anguissa, Bryan; Loftus-Cheek, Cavaleiro, Lookman
Subs: Rodák, Hector, Odoi, Kebano, Mitrović, Ream, Lemina, Onomah, Kamara
Jonathan Wilson has plotted a path to glory for United.
Ole’s been bullish in pre-match.
For Fulham, Bobby Decordova-Reid makes way for Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Joe Bryan steps in for Antonee Robinson.
For Manchester United, Eric Bailly replaces Lindelöf at the heart of the defence. Edinson Cavani and Mason Greenwood replace Marcus Rashford and Scott McTominay, with Paul Pogba, who played off the flank at Anfield, is playing in midfield.
Should Manchester City - currently playing Aston Villa at the Etihad - win then United will have to climb over both them and Leicester to top the table. Scott Murray has the latest from that.
Johnny Haynes. Ole’s Army makes its way down to what will be a brass monkey’s night out on the banks of the Thames. Manchester United need to win to leapfrog Leicester as Brendan’s boys have a better goal difference. They come up against a home team who have improved their performance level while won since November - against Leicester - but only lost twice, with creditable defeats to Liverpool and Manchester City bookending six straight draws. It’s still far from impossible that Scott E Parker’s Fulham pull themselves out of the mire if they find out how to win matches. United’s performances at Burnley and Liverpool were not exactly scintillating but grinding along seems as a good a policy as any this season. Last time Fulham were in the Premier League they lost 7-1 on aggregate to United, losing 3-0 at home in February 2019 to two goals from Paul Pogba - including a penalty - and one from Anthony Martial. Johnny Haynes.
Kick-off at 8.15 pm, join me.
On a sodden, freezing Wednesday night in west London Manchester United came from behind to claim a fiercely fought 2-1 win against an impressive, resilient Fulham team.
The result leaves United top of the Premier League table, and extends to 17 matches their unbeaten away run, equalling the all-time club record. Best of all it arrived thanks to a moment of the highest quality from Paul Pogba, who was a quietly majestic presence in midfield.Continue reading...
- United manager says ‘staying at the top is the challenge’
- United can regain lead from Leicester on Wednesday
Ole Gunnar Solskjær says Manchester United have a “laser focus” on becoming champions, fully aware it will be far harder to stay competing at the top than it was to get there.
The 1-0 win at Burnley last Tuesday made United leaders after 17 matches for the first time since December 2012, although their draw at Liverpool on Sunday meant Leicester were able to overtake them with a 2-0 win over Chelsea on Tuesday.Continue reading...
Elite sport should not carry on. While The Fiver has wilfully sat at home with 7,327 toilet rolls and endless tins of baked beans (just in case we run out of water for the bath), perched in front of the Keeping Up Appearances boxset, professional footballers have been galavanting with vigour, hosting Christmas and New Year’s Eve parties with gay abandon to give the authorities the nudge they need to STOP FOOTBALL!Continue reading...
The 0-0 draw at Anfield on Sunday again showcased the limitations of the Manchester United manager yet they are still very much in the title race
What does it mean? What does any of it mean? Manchester United’s 0-0 draw at Liverpool on Sunday means they remain top of the Premier League table one game before they reach their halfway point, but they’ve now played each of the other Big Six sides, plus Leicester whose consistency over the past five years perhaps affords them associate membership of that group, and they haven’t beaten any of them. Is that a title challenge? Perhaps it is, but it wouldn’t be in anything resembling a normal season.Continue reading...
Ole Gunnar Solskjær takes a leaf out of Fergie’s book, Mason Mount channels vintage Lampard and Wolves’ woes go on
There has been recent evidence that Ole Gunnar Solskjær’s adherence to the lessons learned at Sir Alex Ferguson’s feet was wavering. His Manchester United have lately shown something of their own identity, but here Solskjær used a classic Fergie blueprint. Even when United were far superior to Liverpool, Anfield was where the old master’s team would sit deep and try to score on the counter, or from set pieces. It is not difficult to imagine unsung players like Scott McTominay and Fred being handed a Ferguson detail of sweeping up the bits and pieces in midfield in the mould of a Phil Neville or Quinton Fortune. There was to be no unlikely goalscoring hero in the mould of a John O’Shea, Diego Forlan or Gary Pallister. Instead, Sunday will be recalled in future for Anfield’s emptiness, a match endured rather than enjoyed. And Ferguson, even during his imperial period, would probably have been happy with a point. John Brewin
• Match report: Liverpool 0-0 Manchester United
- Klopp: ‘I think the performance was good enough to win’
- Solskjær says Anfield stalemate ‘an opportunity missed’
Jürgen Klopp defended his misfiring champions after Liverpool failed to knock Manchester United off their Premier League perch.
The front three of Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mané endured an off day as Klopp’s men could not break down United at Anfield. It was Liverpool’s third successive league match without a goal.Continue reading...
Last year’s free-scoring champions were blunted by Manchester United but all blame does not lie with Mohamed Salah and co
Of course it was nil-nil. Liverpool came to Anfield for the most spiteful, razor-edged derby in elite-level English football having scored in their last 42 Premier League home games. They took to the field without a single specialist central defender against a free-scoring Manchester United. The week had been shot through with hopeful talk of title charges, Judgment Days and the usual final countdown waffle.
At which point, welcome to the more mannered world of Covid-era football, a stage show that is required to generate its own pulse and where players are asked to alchemise from the empty air the kind of heat and fire that tends to make the difference in a game like this.Continue reading...
Alisson maintained Liverpool’s four-year unbeaten run with two key saves in the last 15 minutes of an intriguing, respectful but largely uneventful game
PS City v Palace here. Now do one.
That’s it for today’s blog. Thanks for your company and emails. Goodnight!
And here’s Jurgen Klopp
“If we win this game 1-0 it’s completely fine because of the possession we had, the football we played; a lot of things. You cannot deny Man United for 90 minutes - we never could, it’s probably not possible for anybody, especially when they are in a good moment. But with all the things which were said before the game - they are flying, we are struggling - the boys played a really good game tonight, my boys, against a good, organised side.
Here’s Ole Gunnar Solskjaer
“We didn’t play well enough. We didn’t impose ourselves on the game, especially first half. We grew into the game and towards the end you felt it was there for us to win. We created two massive chances and there were two brilliant saves by the keeper.
And the winner of today’s match is...
Here’s Jordan Henderson
“We’re a bit disappointed we haven’t taken the three points. We did enough to win the game, especially first half - a lot of the ball, creating chances, just couldn’t find the back of the net really. They had one or two chances, to be fair to them, but overall I felt we were the better team.
“You said, ‘This won’t end 0-0. You have my word,’” says Polly Hodgson. “I was ready to give up on this game but you promised... I don’t want to blame you but...”
Look, I’m no Quasimodo.
Here’s Harry Maguire
“I thought they started the game better than us, and then in the second half we were braver on the ball and created the best two chances. On another day we win the game. It was cagey but it was two good teams matching up. We found it difficult to get a rhythm in the first half - we knew they would press high but the intensity ... we didn’t get the rhythm with the ball. We spoke about it at half-time because we were disappointed with our performance. In the second half it was a lot better and we had two great chances.
“Well,” says Paul Trainor, “I suppose that’s one way of avoiding flak for goal celebrations!”
Hmm, I’m not sure what to make of that. Although Liverpool dominated possession, Alisson had to make two big saves in the last 15 minutes. Thiago looked a class apart, even in such exalted company, but the front three - Mo Salah in particular - looked tired.
United may reflect on this as both a good result and a missed opportunity, though I’d say that was down to a lack of precision and concentration in attack rather than a lack of intent. And both teams did defend really well - particularly Henderson, Fabinho (who was majestic), Maguire, Fred and Shaw.
Peep peep! Manchester United stay top of the table after an intriguing, respectful and largely uneventful draw.
90+4 min Rashford is booked for a foul on Jones.
90+2 min Alexander-Arnold’s corner is headed away by Pogba, who then tries to lead a break and is well tackled by Milner.
90+1 min Origi’s cross is put behind for a corner by Maguire. Dot dot dot.
90 min There will be three minutes of added time.
90 min United are probing in Liverpool’s half. Pogba has now moved into the No10 position.
89 min: United substitution A very unhappy Bruno Fernades is replaced by Mason Greenwood.
89 min: Liverpool substitution Gini Wijnaldum is replaced by James Milner.
88 min It hasn’t been a classic but it’s bloody tense, I’ll tell you that for nowt.
87 min Mason Greenwood is about to come on for United, as is James Milner for Liverpool.
85 min: Liverpool substitution Divock Origi replaces Firmino. He goes left, Mane up front.
84 min Alisson makes another fine save from Rashford, though the flag then went up.
83 min: Big save from Alisson! Wan-Bissaka runs aggressively at Robertson and hits a deflected cross towards the near post, where the unmarked Pogba takes it beautifully in his stride and blasts it towards goal from eight yards. Alisson stays big, wears it in the chest, and manages to shovel it behind for a corner. On reflection it was a poor finish from Pogba, straight at Alisson, even if it was hit with thumping force.
82 min This is Liverpool’s best spell of the second half. Alexander-Arnold hammers a cross that is cleared brilliantly by Lindelof. United break two on two with Rashford on the ball. He tries to run Fabinho, who tracks him all the way and makes a brilliant interception. Cavani is fuming that Rashford didn’t play him in, rightly so I think, but it was outstanding defending.
81 min Salah pokes a dangerous cross that is missed by the stretching Firmino at the near post and hoofed away by Wan-Bissaka at the far.
80 min Thiago slashes a half-volley well wide from 20 yards. It was a good move: Alexander-Arnold across the field to Robertson, who played it to Wijnaldum. He teed up Thiago, whose spectacular attempt was off target.
78 min: Good save from de Gea! Thiago walks away from Fred, not for the first time today, and smacks a rising drive from distance that is pushed away dramatically by the flying de Gea. Replays show it was a comfortable save, much closer to him than it first looked.
76 min: Liverpool substitution Curtis Jones replaces Xherdan Shaqiri, who played well on his return to the side. He was full of bright ideas, even if they didn’t always come off.
75 min: Big save from Alisson! That was the cleanest move of the match. Maguire played a fine pass through to Rashford, who waited on the edge of the area and then played in the overlapping Shaw. He cut the ball back carefully towards Fernandes, who opened his body to steer a low shot towards goal. Alisson reacted smartly to kick it away with his left foot.
74 min “If Liverpool were to score late on,” says Gary Neville on the subject of United’s tactics, “you’d be really regretful that you didn’t go for it.”
72 min Salah’s snapshot from 20 yards hits Shaw and deflects Firmino. He can’t control it and it runs through to de Gea. It was a really difficult ball to kill, though if anyone can...
71 min A sloppy header from Alexander-Arnold goes behind for a corner. Fernandes swings it deep and Pogba, running away from goal, heads straight at Alisson. It wasn’t a chance; he did well to head it into a dangerous area but there was nobody there.
70 min There have been some excellent performances, most of them defensive - Henderson, Fabinho, Thiago (not so much defensively), Maguire, McTominay, Fred (without the ball), Shaw.
69 min Pogba plays another poor long pass, straight to Alexander-Arnold, and just stands still as Liverpool break. Fred wins the ball back, but that didn’t look great.
68 min Henderson holds off Pogba to win the ball back. Nothing spectacular, but he’s been doing things like that all day. We expect it of Fabinho now but Henderson has been terrific at centre half.
67 min ... and he smacks it into the wall.
66 min The free-kick is 30 yards out, slightly to the left of centre. Rashford is going to take it...
65 min Alisson comes out of his area to beat Fernandes to a through ball. It runs loose to Cavani, who tries to work the space for a shot and is deliberately fouled by Fabinho. He’s booked.
65 min A 25-yard shot from Fernandes kicks up awkwardly in front of Alisson, whose hands are as safe as ever. That’s United’s first shot on target.
64 min Fred dummies Thiago superbly in midfield to launch a counter-attack, but Fernandes’ pass towards Rashford on the left is intercepted well by Fabinho.
63 min McTominay heads the second corner away as well.
63 min The resulting corner is headed behind for another by McTominay, who has been quietly excellent with and without the ball.
62 min Firmino’s cross-shot ricochets towards Salah, whose shot takes a deflection off Maguire and spins wide. That all stemmed from a very loose pass out of defence by Shaw.
61 min: United substitution Edinson Cavani replaces Anthony Martial, who was sporadically threatening on the left. I guess Rashford will move out there now.
60 min Alexander-Arnold swishes a beautiful crossfield pass out to Robertson on the left. He puts in a brilliant deep cross that bounces up invitingly towards Firmino. Maguire comes across and the ball deflects off both he and Firmino for a goalkick. My first thought was that Maguire kicked the ball onto Firmino, but replays suggest that might not have been the case. For a split-second he looked certain to score.
58 min Saying which, Cavani has apparently been called back by the United bench.
57 min Both teams have decent options from the bench, particularly United. They will want to get Edinson Cavani on at some stage, though I’m not sure that will happen if it stays 0-0. It’s hard to see where he fits in the current system.
55 min Alexander-Arnold’s low shot from the edge of the area is easily saved by de Gea.
54 min Fernandes’s corner is poor and Liverpool break. Robertson curls a fine long pass towards Salah, who heads it into the space beyond the last man Shaw. There isn’t quite enough space for him to work with, however, and it just runs through to de Gea. Maguire was a bit lucky not to get a yellow card for an attempted tactical foul on Mane early in that move.
53 min: Excellent block from Fabinho! Wan-Bissaka sprays a crossfield pass to Martial on the edge of the area. He slides it down the side to Fernandes, whose first-time shot on the turn is superbly blocked by the sliding Fabinho.
52 min McTominay plays a good pass into Rashford, who plays an even better one to leave Fernandes one v one against Alexander-Arnold on the edge of the area. He tries to twist away from Alexander-Arnold, who does well to get his body between the man and the ball.
50 min Mane gets the wrong side of Wan-Bissaka and cuts the ball back towards the near post, where McTominay makes an important interception. Wan-Bissaka made a risky tackle, attempting to get a telescopic leg around Mane. I think he missed; either way Mane didn’t go down, so it’s moot.
50 min Martial’s cross on the turn is intercepted well at the near post by Henderson. Liverpool break and Mane’s improvised header almost puts Salah through on goal. Mane is starting to look lively.
49 min This won’t end 0-0. You have my word.
48 min Liverpool have made a fast start to the second half. Shaqiri’s through pass deflects nicely into the path of Salah on the right of the box. He lobs a deep cross towards Mane, whose header towards goal hit the head of Wan-Bissaka.
46 min Peep peep! Liverpool begn the second half. Salah and Mane are back on their usual wings - Mane left, Salah right.
I missed a minor controversy on the stroke of half time. One minute was added on, but the whistle was blown after 55 seconds - just before Thiago played a dangerous pass over the top towards Mane. That didn’t impress Jurgen Klopp much.
“Intriguing indeed,” says Richard Harris. “Liverpool started the brighter and must have been hoping to catch United on another of the slow starts that has been a feature of their season. For all the huff and puff Liverpool haven’t really looked like scoring whereas Fernandes very nearly did with that free kick. As is often the case we are left hoping that the second half will be a tad more exciting. Manchester City will be the big winners you feel if this ends in stalemate.”
If you were a City fan you’d want a United win, surely? For all the Fear of the Unthinkable, the big threat is still Liverpool.
“For the record,” says Andrew Wesley, “this game is a textbook example of Premier League teams being clueless about the how kit selection can ruin games for colour blind people. This isn’t a rare condition - one in 11 men are affected - and for us the teams are indistinguishable but for Utds socks. Any chance you can point it out because it’s an unwatchable mess for millions of us. See @colourblindorg for further ranting...”
I feel slightly ashamed to say this hasn’t crossed my mind until I read your email.
An email! “The longer this goes on, with Liverpool not scoring, the more disappointing it’s going to be when Fernandes scores his inevitable penalty,” says Matt Dony. “(Childish? Yes. But isn’t that what this fixture is all about?) Brave team selection from Klopp. Still plenty of time for it to pay off, but I’m nervous. Mind you, I’m always nervous. Well, I say ‘nervous’; what I mean is, ‘absolutely terrified’. Football is not good for my emotional state.”
You’re being too harsh on yourself. I remember you being a study in equanimity when Wales played in the semi-final of Euro 2016.
Peep peep! An uneventful but intriguing - genuinely - half comes to an end. Liverpool were much the better team in the first half hour; United were more dangerous in the last 15 minutes. There was only one shot on target, a comfortable save for David de Gea from Roberto Firmino, though Bruno Fernandes flashed a free-kick just wide. See you in 10 minutes for the second half.
45 min One minute of added time.
44 min Thiago has been less influentual in the second part of the first half. United have changed anything tactically; football just be that way I guess.
42 min Thiago’s pass is intercepted by Fred and United break. Pogba moves past the halfway line before being sandwiched by Henderson and Thiago. No yellow card, probably because Paul Tierney didn’t know who brought Pogba down first.
40 min Wan-Bissaka plays a pass down the line to Rashford, who is clearly offside. Play is allowed to continue until the move peters out, prompting a minor moan from Jamie Carragher on Sky. “Someone will get injured!” That’s United’s seventh offside of the game by the way.
39 min Pogba spins a lovely long pass towards Rashford, who is just beaten to the ball on the edge of the area by Alisson. Rashford was then flagged offside, though replays showed it was very close.
38 min United have been much better in the last 10 minutes or so. The first half may not have been exciting but it has - no euphemisms here - been really intriguing.
37 min Martial beats Shaqiri, Mane and Alexander-Arnold - the latter with a lovely nutmeg - before Fabinho steps across to make an emphatic tackle 35 yards from goal.
35 min Rashford breaks dangerously into the area, and there’s a bit of excitement before the flag eventually goes up. Rashford was offside in the first phase.
34 min Wijnaldum, who has been excellent, plays a good pass down the left to Salah. He cuts inside and runs at Maguire, who holds him up fairly well in the area. The ball breaks to Firmino, whose left-foot snapshot from 15 yards is straight at de Gea. That’s the first shot on target, and the best chance so far.
34 min The free-kick is slightly to the left of centre. Fernandes hits a booming effort that flashes just wide of the near post. Alisson was flying desperately across his goal, which suggested it was very close; the replays confirmed it.
33 min Shaw, who has been United’s most enterprising attacker, plays a nice one-two with Fred and is fouled 23 yards from goal by Shaqiri. He’s booked. This is a chance for Fernandes...
32 min Salah and Mane have switched wings for Liverpool. United are still playing with Pogba on the right.
31 min McTominay plays a good pass into to Fernandes, who is tactically fouled by Fabinho 45 yards from goal. Shaw’s free-kick is misjudged by Alexander-Arnold and comes to Maguire, but he’s offside.
29 min Wijnaldum fouls Pogba 40 yards from goal on the right. Fernandes’s free-kick finds Shaw round the back on the left, and his cross takes a couple of ricochets before being cleared.
28 min Statwatch: Liverpool have had 73 per cent possession and eight shots to United’s none. But neither side has had a shot on target yet.
27 min Shaw makes an excellent run through the inside-left channel and angles the ball back to Fernandes. His attempted through ball is cut out but that was a bit better, particularly from Shaw.
25 min It’s all Liverpool now. Maguire’s poor pass out of defence is blocked by Firmino and deflects to Mane. His cross rolls towards Fred, but his clearance is straight at Wijnaldum. He has a shot blocked and then Shaqiri curls over from 20 yards.
23 min Slowly but surely, Liverpool have taken control of this game. They are outnumbering United in the centre of midfield and have generally managed to stop the counter-attacks at source.
22 min United break from that corner, but a lazy long pass from Pogba allows Liverpool to go on the counter-counter-attack. Alexander-Arnold drives a long pass to Mane, who plays in Firmino. His shot is well blocked by Lindelof and Salah smacks the rebound over the bar from 20 yards on the volley.
21 min Robertson surges infield and plays a short pass to Shaqiri on the edge of the D. His shot is deflected wide. Liverpool take a quick corner, which leads to another when Alexander-Arnold cross hits Fernandes and goes behind. The second corner is headed away at the near post by Lindelof.
19 min Luke Shaw has been taking ages over throw-ins since the first whistle. That might be a tactic to change the pace of the game, Suljovic-style.
18 min Fred breaks down the left and curls a dangerous pass around the Liverpool defence towards Rashford at the far post. Robertson does very well to hold Rashford off and draw a foul.
17 min Shaqiri slides a brilliant pass into the area towards Mane, who makes a textbook run from left to right. He is covered by Wan-Bissaka so turns away from goal and finds Firmino on the edge of the box. He slices well wide with his left foot. That was a poor effort, not least because Robertson was in acres of space to his left.
16 min The ball has started to go down, so there’s a brief break in play while it is changed.
14 min Firmino’s long-range shot is blocked by Maguire. The ball spins across the area to Robertson,l who slices a half-volley over the bar. The move started with a fine pass from Thiago to Firmino; as Gary Neville says on Sky, at the moment he’s running the game.
13 min United haven’t had much of the ball so far - 29 per cent - though they will be happy that Liverpool haven’t threatened to overwhelm them as they did in the first 15 minutes of this fixture last season.
12 min Thiago walks majestically away from Fred, not once but twice, only to overhit a simple pass to Alexander-Arnold. He is a glorious footballer, and has looked a class apart in the early minutes.
10 min Fernandes’s through pass towards Rashford is intercepted well by Henderson on the edge of the area.
9 min As expected, Liverpool are pressing high and trying to smother United. They’ve made the better start, though there hasn’t been much in it.
7 min Thiago is dropping very deep to collect the ball, almost as a third centre-half. The tactics on both sides are pretty intriguing.
6 min And now the first promising move from United. Martial plays a one-two with Shaw and slides a pass down the inside-left channel to release Rashford. His cross is kicked away at the near post.
5 min Liverpool are starting to find a bit of rhythm. Thiago steps away from Fernandes with disdain near the halfway line and floats a fine pass out to Alexander-Arnold on the right of the area. His cross is blocked by Shaw.
3 min The first good move from Liverpool. Shaqiri and Wijnaldum combine to find the overlapping Robertson, who mishits a cross into the side netting.
2 min These are the revised line-ups.
Liverpool (4-3-3) Alisson; Alexander-Arnold, Fabinho, Henderson, Robertson; Shaqiri, Thiago, Wijnaldum; Salah, Firmino, Mane. Substitutes: Kelleher, R Williams, N Williams, Phillips, Milner, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Jones, Minamino, Origi.
1 min Liverpool’s formation looks like 4-3-3 with Shaqiri in centre midfield.
1 min United have started with Pogba on the right, Martial left and Rashford up front.
1 min Peep peep! United, in their dark grey away kit, kick off from left to right. Liverpool are in red.
The players gather round the centre circle for a minute’s applause in memory of Gerry Marsden. He is also on the cover of the match programme.
YNWA blares around Anfield. It’s more poignant than usual; this is Liverpool’s first home game since the death of Gerry Marsden.
“I’m not a public-relations expert,” says Peter Oh, “but given the current situation I don’t know if it was all that wise for Solskjaer to use the words positive and test in the same sentence.”
“Afternoon Rob,” says Martin McCarthy. “You were very confident a while ago that Liverpool would win the league fairly comfortably. Just wondered if that opinion still holds?”
I’m not as confident but I think they will. I’d probably say the chances are something like:
“I too have nostalgia for the hideous 1980s games between these two at Anfield,” says Paul Griffin. “They were horrible, spiteful affairs: the likes of McMahon and Whiteside breaching the Geneva Convention on the pitch, bile and hatred pouring of the stands, an atmosphere of menace outside the ground, I can’t fathom why I miss any of this (apart from the £2.50 tickets that were easy to come by).”
It wasn’t exactly It’s a Wonderful Life at Old Trafford either.
Here’s Ole Gunnar Solskjaer
“Victor trained the last few days so he should be ready. Anthony’s injury was more of a cramp. We know we’re playing against a good team but we have to be positive and test ourselves against the best. There’s no way we can sit back and defend for the whole game. They’re missing a few centre-backs and that’s an area we can hopefully exploit.
“Afternoon Rob,” says Matt Emerson. “I don’t have a dog in this fight, but this fixture will always take me back to the mid-eighties, when I was a ‘cockney’ student in Liverpool. I always stayed out of the city centre when Man Utd came to down, mainly due to concerns that, if they heard my accent, the two sets of supporters would stop fighting each other and gang up on a common enemy...”
“I like to think I’m a well balanced and pretty mild-mannered man,” says Kevin McManus. “But I’m also self- aware enough to know this goes out the window when we are playing the hated Man U. It isnt just me either. The whole of the Kop seems to fall prey to a collective fervour whenever Man U turn up. I took a girlfriend to the game once which was a huge mistake. She found the passion and the hatred all too much and couldnt get her head around it. Of course she was right - it is totally unreasonable for otherwise sensible grown men and women to act like that for a few hours. But I have to say it just kind of feels right when it is directed at Man U.”
One thing that’s interesting is that it wasn’t always thus. I watched the 1977 FA Cup final last week, and there was (to modern eyes) an extraordinary level of goodwill on and off the field. That all changed in the late seventies and early eighties.
“I think United should treat this game as a free hit,” says Digvijay Yadav. “For once I’d like to see them take the game to Liverpool at Anfield. It’s only happened once in memory when Gerrard stamped on Herrera. Otherwise it’s always cagey, trying to smash and grab stuff.”
I suppose one of the regrets of the Ferguson years was that they never hammered Liverpool at Anfield. They were usually horrible games, only to be enjoyed after the event by the winners.
“Afternoon Rob,” says Stephen Carr. “Klopp’s line up clearly based on the assumption that Liverpool are going to have pretty much all of ball.”
Here’s Jurgen Klopp
“Joel [Matip] has been part of the sessions since Friday. Today is Sunday, so that’s not enough. He will train normally from tomorrow. Shaq is in really good shape and showed good performances last game and in training. He’s now getting rhythm, step by step. He was out for a long time - little things only [but they added up]. He has showed in training he is ready to go, so we’ll let him go.
Sky Sports have both teams in a 4-2-3-1 formation, with Pogba on the right and Rashford on the left. That isn’t quite as odd as it sounds given Rashford’s performances against Trent Alexander-Arnold.
Henderson and Fabinho in defence means no Henderson and Fabinho in Bruno Fernandes Country
Would've had Cavani in but Martial can pull into that left-hand channel to take on Alexander-Arnold, as Pogba is not a natural winger, and bring Rashford over from the right. Lindelof over Bailly is contentious, to say the least. #mufc
In the early game, Spurs won comfortably at Sheffield United to move into the top four for a few hours.
“Hello Rob,” says Neil Carter. “Ole obviously resting Bailly and Cavani today for the tougher games ahead?”
“While having Hendo at the back feels as incongruous as singing Cardi B’s WAP in a Yorkshire accent,” begins Ian Copestake. “I trust in Klopp and whatever he has been drinking that has finally enabled him to see the Shaq. This can’t fail but be a snow-dusted cracker (unless it ain’t snowing).”
I think it’s the best option in the circumstances. Liverpool will want to bully United and pin them back. If they can’t do that with a defence comprising two central midfielders and the best attacking full-backs in the world, they never will.
“Hi Rob,” says Mark Haywood. “Interesting background article on Bruno Fernandes in today’s NY Times. Remember the days when Utd v L’pool and Everton v City would be played on the same Saturday at the proper time of 3pm?”
I don’t quite remember that, as I was born in well never mind about that detail, but I’m sure it happened. I wonder when the last occurrence was, maybe in the 1970s?
Liverpool (possible 4-2-3-1) Alisson; Alexander-Arnold, Henderson, Fabinho, Robertson; Thiago, Wijnaldum; Shaqiri, Firmino, Mane; Salah.
Substitutes: Kelleher, R Williams, N Williams, Phillips, Milner, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Jones, Minamino, Origi.
Manchester United (possible 4-D-2) de Gea; Wan-Bissaka, Lindelof, Maguire, Shaw; Fred; McTominay, Pogba; Fernandes; Rashford, Martial.
Substitutes: Henderson, Bailly, Telles, Tuanzebe, Mata, Matic, van de Beek, Cavani, Greenwood.
There’s no Joel Matip for Liverpool, so Jordan Henderson and Fabinho will play in the centre of defence again. Xherdan Shaqiri starts, which is an intriguing decision from Jurgen Klopp; he scored twice in Liverpool’s 3-1 win over United at Anfield two years ago. Shaqiri’s inclusion gives Liverpool the option of playing 4-2-3-1 or the usual 4-3-3.
Anthony Martial starts for United, which is a bonus after his hamstring strain at Burnley in the week. Victor Lindelof is preferred to Eric Bailly, a slight surprise given Bailly’s pace and recent form. It’s hard to be sure what shape United will play - it could be 4-2-3-1 with Pogba and Rashford wide, but my money is on a diamond and a front two to break in behind Liverpool’s full-backs.
Hello. Liverpool v Manchester United is rarely a classic game, but it’s usually a memorable one. The drama, intensity and pharmaceutical grade hatred ensure that the occasion, if not always the football, sticks around in the memory bank.
There’s always a story to tell, and down the years the subject matter has been extremely diverse: racism, Riiiiseeeeeeeeeee, darts, volleyball, Tomb Raider, cigars, vomit, saliva, faeces, Missiles of Hate, Munich chants, Heysel chants, Hillsborough chants, Berbarotica, dodgy penalties, facts, tear gas, Norman Whiteside’s rampage, Michael Owen’s rampage, Nani’s tears, Paul Scholes’ boxing skills, Eric Cantona’s collar, Neil Ruddock’s stomach, badge-grabbing, camera-kissing, 38 seconds, six fingers, P45s, a six-yard hat-trick, a hat-trick of red cards in 13 months, a hat-trick of Old Trafford matchwinners in four years and, most unlikely of all, the goalsoring prowess of Gary Pallister and Andrea Dossena.Continue reading...
Manchester United remain on top of the Premier League table, with a three‑point advantage over Liverpool, as the season approaches halfway. It is a state of affairs that would have felt ludicrous as recently as early October, when they were losing 6-1 at home against Tottenham, and even now will cause a few eyebrows to travel skywards.
Ole Gunnar Solskjær, the manager, had admitted during the week that his team had “not really set the world alight too many times”. They continued the trend at Anfield, wanting primarily to be difficult to beat, and yet they will reflect on having fashioned not one but two glorious opportunities to secure a smash-and-grab victory.Continue reading...
- Liverpool manager says rivals are under pressure
- ‘You don’t win title because you are United or Liverpool’
Jürgen Klopp believes Manchester United’s failure to compete for the title during his Liverpool reign is no surprise but the potential at Old Trafford means they are unlikely to take 30 years to win the Premier League again.
United have not been top of the table after 17 games since 2013, the year they last won the championship under Sir Alex Ferguson, but can go six points clear of the champions with victory at Anfield on Sunday.Continue reading...
When the two biggest clubs in the land meet on Sunday, the Liverpool manager must get his front three firing to reignite the champions’ title defence
A fair amount has altered since Mohamed Salah steamed through on David de Gea’s goal to seal Liverpool’s 2-0 win against Manchester United almost exactly one year ago. There were 52,916 supporters allowed inside Anfield on that different planet, Alisson could sprint the length of the pitch to embrace the goalscorer without fear of government censure and Liverpool fans finally acknowledged in public that the Premier League title was theirs after a 30-year wait. Of the many changes in Jürgen Klopp’s world since last receiving Ole Gunnar Solskjær at Anfield, it is the dilution of that fierce belief into creeping doubt that will irritate most.
It is not being wise after the event to question Klopp’s selection for the dead-rubber with MidtjyllandContinue reading...
Ole Gunnar Solskjær admits United have not dazzled this term yet they lead the table and have the talents to stay there
When Ole Gunnar Solskjær says Manchester United have “not really set the world alight” this season, the manager’s true sense might be read as: “You ain’t seen nothing yet – just wait until we do catch fire.”
United arrive at Anfield on Sunday to play Liverpool as Premier League leaders, three points ahead of the champions while not at their best. That is a rosy place to be for United because they possess the quality to perform far better.Continue reading...
Five days after reaching the Premier League summit comes the truest test of Manchester United’s ability to stay there. Ole Gunnar Solskjær’s side are unbeaten in 15 away league games since losing at Liverpool almost exactly one year ago and will go six points clear of them should they inflict a first home league defeat on the champions since April 2017. Liverpool have dipped in recent weeks but will have no better incentive to rediscover their verve than puncturing the optimism of their great rivals in Klopp’s 200th league game in charge of Liverpool. Andy Hunter
Sunday 4.30pm Sky Sports Premier LeagueContinue reading...
- Klopp says team have renewed focus for Anfield clash
- ‘We know what went wrong. We know what to change’
Jürgen Klopp believes Liverpool’s players have shown renewed focus for Sunday’s top-of-the-table showdown with Manchester United after a team meeting in the wake of last week’s defeat at Southampton.
The champions have picked up only 13 points from eight league matches starting with the draw at Brighton in November – a run that has allowed Ole Gunnar Solskjær’s side to seize the initiative in the title race. As Klopp prepared for his 200th Premier League game, he revealed his side’s determination to make up for recent struggles.Continue reading...
- ‘People can say what they want. I don’t hear, I don’t care’
- United have won 42 spot-kicks to Liverpool’s 19 in last two years
Bruno Fernandes has told Jürgen Klopp to continue to complain if he wishes about the number of penalties Manchester United win because the midfielder could not care less about the Liverpool manager’s view.
United travel to Anfield on Sunday as Premier League leaders and hope to hand the champions a first home defeat in the competition since April 2017. Since Ole Gunnar Solskjær became manager two years ago United have been awarded 42 penalties and Liverpool 19, and this season’s tally is 6-5 in United’s favour. Klopp recently stated that under Solskjær United had won more spot-kicks than Liverpool had across his five years in charge, although in fact his tally is 46.Continue reading...
Midfield risk-taker has been a transformative signing but needs to nail it in the big games – starting at Liverpool on Sunday
This is not the beginning of the title run-in. This is not the start of the middle, or the beginning of the end. Let’s face it, nobody really knows what’s going on up there in this jetlagged oddity of a Premier League season, when points have been scattered with luxurious abandon, and none of these teams seem ready to find a sustained higher gear.
Not that it makes much difference. There will, as ever, be an urge to portray Manchester United’s trip to Liverpool on Sunday as something more decisive, a make-or-breaker, a full-on Super Sunday Judgment Day-style Showdown.Continue reading...