Manchester United v Liverpool match in pictures
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Manchester United lost 5-0 to Liverpool on Sunday in a defeat which highlighted numerous major issues in their squad. One of the key problems in the team lies in the centre of midfield, a position that many thought manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer would have solved over the summer; however, he may no longer have the opportunity to right his wrongs now his time in the United dugout looks to be coming to an end.
Naby Keita opened the scoring for the Reds with a simple finish past David De Gea in the fifth minute before Diogo Jota tapped home from close range to make it 2-0 after just 13 minutes.
Then the game opened up for Mohamed Salah, the most in-form player in world football currently, who scored a hat-trick (38’, 45’, 50’) to pile the pressure onto Solskjaer’s shoulders. Paul Pogba was also shown a straight red card for a two-footed challenge on Keita in the 60th minute.
Liverpool were without midfielder Fabinho for the clash and also had usual starters Sadio Mane and Joel Matip on the bench in what appeared a weakened line-up, whereas the Red Devils were only without summer signing Raphael Varane.
The embarrassing loss means that Solskjaer is now a firm favourite to be the next Premier League manager sacked, but things could have been different if he utilised his funds more considerately in the summer.
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United signed Varane, Cristiano Ronaldo and Jadon Sancho before the start of the 2021/22 campaign in a window that gave them plenty of strength, experience and belief.
However, the club were also interested in West Ham’s defensive-minded midfielder Declan Rice, but after prioritising other attacking signings they may have now missed the opportunity to bring the Englishman to Old Trafford.
At 22 years old, Rice is one of the country’s most exciting young talents and his displays at Euro 2020 showcased that he is ready to play at the very highest level.
This season, West Ham have been playing Europa League football and the midfielder has looked head and shoulders above his opposition, and the £100million price tag that his club slapped on him now looks a steal.
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United could have been tempted to offer said sum in January to try and rescue their season, but Hammers manager David Moyes has said that it would take an even greater figure to prise the vice-captain away from East London now.
Asked by Sky Sports whether he ever worries that potential clubs could arrive on West Ham’s doorstep with an offer for Rice, the Scotsman replied: “No I don’t, because there was a bargain to be got with Declan at £100m. That bargain’s now gone.
“We have a lot of really good players at this football club. I think while you’re building and developing, people might always come and look at your players.
“But it’s good that they are because that tells us that they’re doing well.”
United were not the only Premier League outfit linked with Rice over the summer, rivals Manchester City, Chelsea and Liverpool were all interested in the midfielder, who turned down two contract extension offers from West Ham over the summer.
The Euro 2020 finalist’s contract expires with the Hammers in 2024 and there is a slight sense of uncertainty surrounding whether he will stay beyond that point or seek a move sooner.
After the 5-0 loss to the Reds that highlighted how shaky United are in midfield, Solskjaer will be disappointed to hear that he can no longer solve one of his major issues for £100m.
The likes of Scott McTominay, Fred and Nemanja Matic have shown in weeks gone by that they aren’t the calibre of midfielder you would associate with a title-winning side, and Pogba’s 15-minute cameo that he lacked the discipline to be utilised in a deeper role.
Solskjaer’s days appear to be numbered, but the Norwegian could have had a very different start to the new season if he went heart over head in regards to his transfer negotiations.
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