Erik ten Hag can finally breathe free without the threat of a looming noose around his neck. He has broken the curse and allowed joy to pervade the alleys of Old Trafford.
The recent memories of the 5-0 thrashing that brought Liverpool back to the perch last season can now be forgotten and a new souvenir of a 2-1 victory can be handed out for eternity.
Manchester United has registered their first Premier League victory of the Ten Hag era with a resounding win over the Reds. After failing miserably in the first two games, the Red Devils looked lost, broken, and deterred about their future.
But many believe that before the game against Liverpool, Ten Hag really brought out the fighting spirit in the players that seems dormant a while ago. An abysmal start to the season is now followed by a fan-pleasing victory that United will cherish and hope to build on.
The Reds who came to Old Trafford as favourites didn’t know what hit them. They were beaten at their own game. United pressed and pressed relentlessly, not allowing any spaces for Jurgen Klopp’s men to exploit, as they could only manage five shots on target in the entire game.
This incessant pressing resulted in an unlikely first goal from Jadon Sancho. A sumptuous ball played in between the defenders by Christian Eriksen found Anthony Elanga in the box, who then passed it on to Sancho.
The Englishman was quick on his feet and with almost an effect of a pirouette beat a sliding James Milner and slyly found the bottom corner, giving United a well-deserved lead.
But behind James Milner was Liverpool’s defence veteran, Virgil van Dijk, who stood firm with his hands behind his back as any defender would, anticipating to block the shot.
However, on the night, this was his biggest mistake. Sancho manoeuvred the ball around him and Van Dijk couldn’t do anything but stay put with his hand tied at his back.
After Liverpool conceded, Milner was furious and ran up to Van Dijk, confronting him about his defensive blunder. Why didn’t he come forward? Why didn’t he put his body on the line before Sancho and close the space for him to finish?
It wasn’t the first time that Van Dijk had made such a mistake. Lately, in the season opener against Fulham, Van Dijk trailed the defender till he reached the box and made the interception that resulted in a penalty.
The Dutchman never tackles until he’s taken the defender to the six-yard box. This approach has cost Liverpool dearly and is now slowly becoming an unaddressed problem.
However, when this error was committed in the game against United, rival fans didn’t hold back. Here’s a glimpse of the memefest that followed –
Even though one game cannot diminish the legacy of Van Dijk at Liverpool but if the Reds are to get back to their winning ways, the Dutchman should surely tweak his defensive abilities and go forth to tackle the opponents with grit.