Wednesday, May 29, 2024

Manchester United 2-2 Liverpool (4-3 AET): Talking points as United end Liverpool’s quadruple hope

Veselin Trajkovic in Editorial, FA Cup 18 Mar 2024

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Manchester United booked a place in the semifinals of the FA Cup on Sunday, by beating arch-rivals Liverpool after intense 120 minutes of football at Old Trafford.

The game

United took the lead early, with Scott McTominay pouncing on a rebound as Caoimhin Kelleher stopped Alejandro Garnacho’s strong effort from close range in the 10th minute. However, the teams went to the halftime break with Liverpool in front as Alexis Mac Allister equalized in the 44th and Mohamed Salah turned the contest around in the second minute of stoppage time. United substitute Antony made sure his team stayed in the game after the final whistle with an 87th minute equalizer.

As the contest went into extra time, Harvey Elliot’s deflected effort beat Andre Onana to restore Liverpool’s lead in the 105th minute, but in the 113th, United took advantage of a Darwin Nunez mistake in his own half and Marcus Rashford leveled the score again. And just when it appeared the winner would be decided in a penalty shootout, Liverpool had a corner at the end of which Elliott lost the ball and allowed the home side to hit back quickly, and it was Amad Diallo who sprinted fastest to sent the ball past Kelleher in final seconds.

Aside from the seven goals this thriller yielded, there were plenty of chances at both ends. For United, McTominay and Rashford missed glaring ones, while for Liverpool, Salah came close and Nunez ruined a promising counterattack through indecision which eventually led to a mistake.

Liverpool had the greater possession percentage (59%), but United took more shots in total, 28-25, and both teams hit the target 11 times each. A lively game of football in all aspects, providing good entertainment not just for the fans of the winning side, but for the neutrals as well.

All in all, it was a deserved victory for Erik ten Hag’s men, who seemed more motivated and with greater energy in crucial moments of the contest.

No quadruple for Liverpool

Having won the Carabao Cup, secured a place in the quarterfinals of the Europa League and still in with a realistic chance of winning the Premier League, Liverpool obviously hoped to see off Jurgen Klopp at the end of the season with all four trophies going into this game. That hope, however, is now gone.

The more sensible among the Reds’ supporters will have acknowledged that winning four competitions in one season always seemed like a tall order, whatever their vast pride might have said; even the great Manchester City team of last season couldn’t do it.

There’s still two trophies for them to chase, and that will be difficult enough, even with their schedule for the remainder of the season made a little lighter by this heartbreaking defeat.

Important victory for Ten Hag

With Sir Jim Ratcliffe now in charge of the club and some changes at Old Trafford already underway, there has been much speculation about Erik ten Hag losing his job at the end of the season. His team sit in sixth place in the Premier League table which obviously isn’t where the 20-time English champions want to be at this stage of the campaign, with a nine-point deficit to fourth-place Aston Villa six points behind Tottenham Hotspur in fifth; 17 points behind leaders Arsenal and Liverpool.

With that in mind, it’s obviously very important for the Dutch tactician to have his team still fighting for silverware, and they probably won’t give the remaining stages of the FA Cup any less thought than the Premier League between now and the end of May.

The semifinal draw was extremely favourable for United. It has pitted them against Coventry City, who sit eighth in the Championship, rather than Manchester City or Chelsea, who will battle each other in the other semifinal.

But before facing Coventry on April 20th, Ten Hag’s men will have to navigate through tricky trips to Brentford and Bournemouth, as well as face Chelsea, Liverpool again, and Newcastle.


Veselin Trajkovic

Vesko is a football writer that likes to observe the game for what it is, focusing on teams, players and their roles, formations, tactics, rather than stats. He follows the English Premier League closely, Liverpool FC in particular. His articles have been published on seven different football blogs.



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