Manchester United earned a deserved 2-1 victory over Liverpool at Old Trafford to kick-start the Erik ten Hag era and leave their rivals winless after three Premier League games.
Ten Hag elected to drop Cristiano Ronaldo and Harry Maguire following successive losses to begin the campaign, a decision that was rewarded by a much-improved display, reports DPA. An incisive move culminated in Sancho calmly slotting past Alisson after 16 minutes as Liverpool conceded first in a club-record seventh consecutive Premier League game.
Marcus Rashford’s goal early in the second half gave United breathing space prior to Mohamed Salah’s header nine minutes from time, which proved a mere consolation.
The hosts’ first-half display was in complete contrast to their 4-0 loss at Brentford, with Anthony Elanga — preferred to Ronaldo — striking the post early on with just Alisson to beat.
United were ahead soon after when Sancho collected Elanga’s pass, fooled James Milner and Alisson with a dummy and found the bottom-left corner from the first shot on target.
Liverpool struggled to get going but nearly levelled before half-time in bizarre circumstances as Bruno Fernandes miscued a clearance against Lisandro Martinez on the goal-line.
With Old Trafford rocking, despite threats of a walk out in protest at the club’s owners, half-time substitute Anthony Martial played in Rashford on the counter for United’s second.
Rashford was denied another by a good Alisson save, while David de Gea kept out Luis Diaz and Roberto Firmino before Salah’s nodded in after United failed to deal with a corner.
Despite some late pressure from Liverpool, the home side – perhaps fortunate not to see Fernandes sent off following a kerfuffle after Salah’s goal — held on for a massive victory.
Erik ten Hag hailed Manchester United’s fighting spirit following their victory. Reflecting on his first competitive victory as United boss, Ten Hag told Sky Sports, “Now you see we bring attitude on the pitch and there was communication, there was a fighting spirit and there was a team, and you can see what they can achieve because they can play good football.
I’m really happy and satisfied. We wanted a different approach and we have got that. Brentford was not the way I want to play football. I want to see a team, I want to see players who fight. You have to be brave in and out of possession and I think we have seen that today all over the pitch.
“But we have a long way to go. When you are in a process you have to deal with setbacks but you also have highlights and today was a highlight.”
Ten Hag made two strong selection calls in leaving Cristiano Ronaldo and Harry Maguire out of his starting line-up. The Dutchman said, “We have a squad and we have a way of playing, a style and a game plan. You look at what is the best approach to the game.
“That is what we did today and we will do it every game. Today it was those players, Saturday it could be different.”
Ten Hag insists Ronaldo can fit into his plans. “I think he can. In his whole career he did it under several managers, in several styles and systems. He always performed so why can’t he do this? His age is not an issue.”