Manchester United repelled a second-half fightback from bitter rivals Liverpool to keep a firm hold of second place in the Premier League standings.
The 2-1 victory saw the Red Devils amass 65 points, extending their lead to five points over third-placed Liverpool. Jose Mourinho also secured his second win over Jurgen Klopp in nine meetings in all competitions between the sides they have managed. The result also extends the Merseyside club’s run of matches without a win against Manchester United since 2014.
Man United 2-1 Liverpool FT:
Pass accuracy: 68%-83%
Chances created: 4-12
Marcus Rashford's two first half goals are enough to give Man United the win against Liverpool. pic.twitter.com/ilfYUSl2Tz
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) March 10, 2018
After a jaded first-half showing, Liverpool stormed into the Manchester United half and got themselves back into the game when Eric Bailly deflected a Sadio Mane cross into his own goal. The visitors created a host of opportunities to draw level but United succeeded in protecting their lead through the brace of Marcus Rashford in the opening 45 minutes.
Rashford strikes twice early for the Red Devils
After the two sides battled for midfield control in the early goings, Manchester United struck first. Romelu Lukaku rose high to flick on David de Gea’s goal kick into the path of Rashford. The youngster drove forward into the box and cut to the right past Trent Alexander-Arnold, sending the defender back to Anfield earlier than scheduled, before stroking a measured finish past Loris Karius.
New favorite gif…..
Beautiful from Rashford. 😍🐐 pic.twitter.com/s29Yf0TRq2
— Castro1021 (@Castro1021) March 10, 2018
Liverpool could have leveled straight away had Mane managed to get a touch on Roberto Firmino’s cross into the area, but the visitors looked to take the game into United. And when Virgil Van Dijk reached a James Milner cross with his head but which then bounced off his shoulders wide, Liverpool looked most likely to equalise.
However, United had other ideas and Rashford doubled their lead with a near identical goal. From another de Gea goalkick, Romelu Lukaku threaded a ball through for Juan Mata in the box. Van Dijk intercepted but his attempted clearance fell to Rashford who struck across Karius and into the far post again.
Liverpool struggle to fashion shooting opportunities
Mourinho immediately organised his side to shore up in defence and Liverpool struggled to advance into the final third. Such was their difficulties in finding pockets of space that Firmino tried a low strike from distance which didn’t bother de Gea at all.
If Liverpool made little progress, United excelled in creating opportunities when going forward. Mata should have made it three for the hosts when Alexis Sanchez picked him out all alone in the box. Instead of controlling the ball first, the Spaniard went for a spectacular bicycle kick that flew inches wide of the post.
Juan Mata's Overhead Kick
— The True Red Devils (@TrueRedDevils__) March 10, 2018
Earlier, Old Trafford had welcomed the visitors with animosity but as United held a two-goal advantage, they made the atmosphere worse for Liverpool. Jurgen Klopp knew his side has been second best so far. Towards the break, his men huffed and puffed in an attempt to make a game out of it.
Klopp sends Liverpool out on the front foot
After the restart, Liverpool immediately went to work. Van Dijk looped a header over the bar and the Merseyside club may have gotten a penalty when Firmino set Mohamed Salah up in the box with a splendid lobbed pass. With Ashley Young all up in his grill, the Egyptian attacker could have elected to go down. Instead, he stayed on his feet and the referee waved play on.
By this time, Liverpool maintained pressure on United who are pinned back. Another penalty shout for Liverpool came shortly after. Andy Robertson whipped his cross into the arm of Antonio Valencia and the visitors strongly asked for a spot kick. However, the referee turned their appeals down a second time.
Mane’s wicked deflection off Bailly sets up nervy finish
So far, the hosts rebuffed every wave of attack that Liverpool threw at them. Mourinho’s game plan had been playing to a T but a wicked deflection gifted Liverpool a goal back. Mane, who had been splendid in the second half, scurried down the left and unleashed a low cross to the box. It skipped the first defender but Eric Bailly got in time to make contact with the ball. Unfortunately, the Ivorian inadvertently diverted it into the near post with de Gea beaten.
Eric Bailly. The cheek, the skill, the execution. David De Gea’s not saving those. pic.twitter.com/ZgMf90ztSj
— Chris Dixon (@chrismd10) March 10, 2018
Liverpool increasingly looked dangerous in the final third and Mourinho felt his side needed a personnel change. He went for height and heft as he introduced Marouane Fellaini for Rashford. Ultimately, the Belgian’s introduction gave United a more robust presence in the pitch. The combative midfielder proved a bulky nuisance for Liverpool players, pressing and barging against their backs at will.
Still, Liverpool surged forward for an equaliser, setting the game up for an anxious final stretch for United. Giorgio Wijnaldum, in for Alexander-Arnold, sliced a long-range strike off a United shirt for a corner but the resulting kick came to nothing.
Six minutes of stoppage time certainly felt an eternity for the Old Trafford faithful. Liverpool still had time for a corner from which Manchester United could only half-clear. As the ball looped over and came down for Salah who shaped to take it first-time, one could hear the whole stadium hold their breath in anticipation as to how that would turn out. The result was Salah sending it to the stands and United could breathe a sigh of relief following a massive victory over their long-time rivals.