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Manchester United 0-5 Liverpool: Premier League – as it happened

The Guardian
The Guardian
 2021-10-24

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8.34pm BST

7.13pm BST

That’s it for today’s blog . It’s been a seismic humiliation for Manchester United, and a day of unimaginable euphoria for Liverpool. Goodnight!

Related: Mohamed Salah hits hat-trick as Liverpool thrash Manchester United

7.12pm BST

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s post-match interview

“It’s the darkest day I’ve had leading these players. We weren’t good enough. Can’t give a team like Liverpool those chances, and unfortunately we did. The whole performance wasn’t good enough. [Do you and the coaching staff accept responsibility for the performance?] It’s mine, that’s it. The coaching staff are very, very good, brilliant, and I choose the way we approach the game, and today we weren’t clinical enough going forward.

“We’re at home, we’re playing against Liverpool, we’ve always had a similar approach against them here - to go high and press. Today they took their chances early on, which they haven’t done before. I think Man United should always try to stamp their authority on the game at home.

“You can look back at last season when we lost 6-1 against Spurs. This is worse, miles worse. We have to get over this as quickly as we can. We’ve come too far as a group to give up now. The supporters were fantastic - it could have gone one way or the other but they supported the team until the end. We know we’re at rock bottom, we can’t feel any worse than this.”

7.04pm BST

The more I think about that second half, United got off lightly . They were 5-0 down after 50 minutes, then Paul Pogba was sent off, and at that stage Liverpool looked ravenous for more goals. As the second half developed, though, they started to go easy on United and the match petered out.

7.01pm BST

In other news...

6.58pm BST

The thoughts of Harry Maguire

“First and foremost, apologies to the fans. It’s nowhere near good enough for this club. We’re all disappointed in the dressing-room. I’m here because I have to be here, but the only thing I’ve got to say is to apologise to the fans. They were still singing when we came off, and we appreciate that, but as a club we’ve got to do better.

“I’m not here to analyse the game. We gave them too many chances and they were clinical. It’s nowhere near good enough. We’ve got to stick together - there’s no point blaming people. You need to go home tonight, look at yourself in the mirror and see what you can do better.

“We’re doing everything we can and we’re working as hard as possible, but at the moment it’s not good enough. I keep coming back to that phrase but it’s the only way I can put it.”

6.52pm BST

Manchester United 0- 5 Liverpool

Related: Mohamed Salah hits hat-trick as Liverpool thrash Manchester United

6.50pm BST

We’re still waiting to hear from the two managers . The analysis of each goal on Sky really rams home how badly United defended. Gary Neville’s voice is getting higher with each goal.

6.46pm BST

6.44pm BST

Gary Neville is going off on one on Sky Sports . He doesn’t have a face like thunder; he has a face like the apocalypse. He looks desperate to clean someone’s clock, just to release a bit of frustration.

6.43pm BST

6.40pm BST

“Hi Rob,” says Alex Maguire. “You wrote a piece a couple of years saying Solskjaer deserved more time. Was wondering what your opinion is now?”

I think he should be sacked, though I’m not certain that will happen. I hope he resigns. I know I’m in a minority but I think he deserved to keep his job up to the start of this season – there was a steady year-on-year improvement, they played the best football at United for over a decade and they beat a lot of good teams. But it was clear very early this season that something wasn’t right, and in the last month they have redefined the word ‘shambles’. I think Solskjaer has done a better job than all the other post-Fergie managers, and he’ll be the first United manager in decades to leave a decent young squad for his successor. But it was clear, even before today, that it has come to an end.

6.40pm BST

Here’s Mo Salah, the first visiting player to score a leagie hat-trick at Old Trafford since Dennis Bailey in 1991-92

“It’s great to win 5-0 here. We just tried to play our footballand get the ball between the lines, and we did that. As long as the team keep winning I am always happy. It’s only one game - it’s really big to win 5-0 at Old Trafford but ultimately it’s only three points. We want to win the Premier League.”

6.29pm BST

6.26pm BST

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6.25pm BST

Solskjaer got a decent reception from the United fans . There were vicious boos at half-time but nothing much at the final whistle. Mo Salah, meanwhile, has the match ball in his arms and a huge smile on his coupon.

Updated at 6.27pm BST

6.24pm BST

Liverpool fans will be talking about this win for the rest of their days. They could have won by more: they were 5-0 up when Mo Salah completed his hat-trick in the 50th minute, and the substitute Paul Pogba was sent off shortly after for a disgusting tackle. Liverpool went easy on United after that. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has a glazed look as he shaked hands with Jurgen Klopp and walks towards the tunnel.

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Cavani looks dejected as the players walk off the pitch. Photograph: Michael Regan/Getty Images

Updated at 6.34pm BST

6.23pm BST

Full time: Man Utd 0-5 Liverpool

A seismic humilation is complete.

6.22pm BST

90+2 min Liverpool break from a United corner and almost make it six. Salah played in Jones, whose shot was blocked.

6.20pm BST

90+1 min Three minutes of added time.

6.20pm BST

90 min Liverpool have been quite generous in the last 20-30 minutes. There’s been the occasional burst but they have spent most of the time passing the ball around near the halfway line.

6.18pm BST

88 min This win moves Liverpool to second, a point behind Chelsea and one ahead of City. We could be on for one of the great title races.

Updated at 6.19pm BST

6.17pm BST

86 min Wan-Bissaka is booked for a late tackle on Jota. He’s the sixth United player to get a yellow card today, and Pogba was sent off as well.

6.15pm BST

85 min Oxlade-Chamberlain shoots wide from distance. I’ve just seen that Cavani miss, and it turns out his shot was diverted onto the bar by Robertson.

6.14pm BST

84 min “I believe the videprinter used brackets for 7 to differentiate it from 1, as both digits looked similar on the old text screens,” says Lewis Jones. “I’m not sure anyone watching this game would confuse them, mind.”

6.13pm BST

83 min: Cavani misses an open goal! Oh dear. A free-kick was headed back across goal by McTominay and shovelled onto the bar by Cavani, four yards out. I’m not sure it would have counted anyway as I think McTominay was fractionally offside.

6.12pm BST

81 min Mane has a shot blocked by Maguire. This is just so surreal. Even when Manchester City won 6-1 at Old Trafford, it wasn’t like this. That game was 3-1 after 88 minutes; today Liverpool were 5-0 up after 50 minutes.

6.10pm BST

80 min A few of you have emailed to say that Steve Bruce could manage United. Gerard Hearne has gone a step further by suggesting he could do a job at centre-half.

6.09pm BST

79 min Liverpool’s intensity has dropped a little, though Salah looks hungry for more goals. Greed is good.

6.07pm BST

76 min Great banter from Jurgen Klopp. With his side 5-0 up against 10 men, he brings on one of the world’s best attackers: Sadio Mane replaces Roberto Firmino.

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Mane comes on as a substitute to replace Firmino. Photograph: Phil Noble/Reuters

Updated at 6.33pm BST

6.04pm BST

74 min Salah’s cross towards Firmino is cleared by McTominay. Liverpool have had 88 per cent of the possession in the last 10 minutes.

6.01pm BST

71 min: Great save from de Gea! Alexander-Arnold nicks the ball away from Dalot and swishes a rising drive from the edge of the area that is tipped over by de Gea, leaping to his right. That was a really good stop and a lovely strike.

6.01pm BST

70 min “Hi Rob,” says Andy Bradshaw. “When does the score go to brackets? Is it 6 (six) or 7 (seven)?”

That’s a good question. I reckon it’s seven, although my videprinter knowledge isn’t what it was.

5.59pm BST

69 min Nothing much is happening. Liverpool are keeping the ball quite literally for fun.

5.57pm BST

66 min The Liverpool fans are having the time of their life, singing “Ole’s at the wheel” and cheering every successful United pass. They have had some huge wins in here in the Premier League era, 4-1 in 2009 and 3-0 in 2014, but this is off the scale.

5.55pm BST

66 min See 65 min.

5.54pm BST

65 min WHAT THE FECK IS GOING ON?

5.54pm BST

64 min United have gone to five at the back in an attempt to preserve their 5-0 deficit.

5.53pm BST

63 min Keita is stretchered off. It really was a disgraceful tackle from Pogba, and it wouldn’t be a surprise if he has broken his leg.

5.52pm BST

62 min Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain comes on to replace Naby Keita. Manchester United make their last two substitutions: Diogo Dalot and Edinson Cavani replace Bruno Fernandes and Marcus Rashford.

5.51pm BST

61 min Keita is still receiving treatment, and in fact a stretcher has been brought onto the field.

5.50pm BST

POGBA IS SENT OFF!

Quite right. He went over the ball and plunged his studs into the side of Keita’s leg.

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Pogba is shown a yellow card by referee Anthony Taylor. Photograph: Phil Noble/Reuters
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Pogba’s foul on Keita is reviewed by VAR. Photograph: Michael Regan/Getty Images
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After the review Taylor shows Pogba a red card. Photograph: Alex Livesey - Danehouse/Getty Images

Updated at 6.21pm BST

5.50pm BST

VAR check Pogba was booked for a studs-up tackle on Keita, but it was a shocking tackle and Anthony Taylor is going to look at the monitor. It was a horrible challenge.

5.49pm BST

59 min Pogba is going to get sent off!

5.48pm BST

58 min “Hi Rob,” says Adam Roberts. “A horror film a bit early for Halloween: When Harry Met Salah.”

Arf, very good.

5.47pm BST

56 min Salah’s free-kick hits the wall. A lot of teams declare in a situation like this but Liverpool look desperate to score more goals.

5.45pm BST

55 min United are five goals down and they’re a bit fortunate that Ronaldo and Maguire are still on the pitch. This is a seismic humiliation.

5.45pm BST

54 min Maguire is in big trouble here! He’s been penalised for fouling Jota on the edge of the area. Maguire did get the ball but only after he had gone through Jota, who would have been through on goal. Maguire is booked, but that could easily have been a red card.

5.44pm BST

NO GOAL! Man Utd 0-5 Liverpool

Ronaldo was fractionally offside, and the Liverpool fans are enjoying a level of euphoria and schadenfreude that they didn’t know existed.

5.43pm BST

GOAL! Man Utd 1-5 Liverpool (Ronaldo 52)

You can’t really call it a consolation goal, can you? It was an excellent finish, though, rattled into the far corner after he moved away from Alexander-Arnold and Konate. Hang on, there’s a VAR check.

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Ronaldo scores a goal. Photograph: Michael Regan/Getty Images

Updated at 5.52pm BST

5.42pm BST

52 min Jose Mourinho’s last game at United was against Liverpool. Jurgen Klopp is becoming to Man Utd managers what Graeme Smith was to England cricket captains.

5.41pm BST

51 min “It’s baffling how bad the United defence is,” writes Jihwan Kim. “Two seasons ago they were third-best in the league, and last season it was still top-five. Now, every time the opposition so much as runs at them they look in disarray. To make matters worse, the back four plays so narrow that any ball to the side results in a one-on-one with de Gea.”

On the plus side, Varane is having a stormer.

5.41pm BST

Henderson wins the ball in the centre circle and curls a devastating pass around Maguire with the outside of the foot. Salah scoots onto it, draws de Gea and flips the ball over him. It was a lovely finish, but the pass was just glorious.

5.40pm BST

GOAL! Man Utd 0-5 Liverpool (Salah 50) - SALAH HAT-TRICK!

It gets better and better and worse and worse.

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Salah scores of Liverpool’s fifth goal. Photograph: Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

Updated at 5.45pm BST

5.38pm BST

49 min United’s next three fixtures, before the international break, are not the easiest either: Spurs (a), Atalanta (a), Man City (h).

5.37pm BST

47 min Alexander-Arnold’s free-kick brushes the head of Firmino and drifts behind for a goalkick.

5.36pm BST

46 min Fernandes is booked for a poor tackle on Jones.

5.36pm BST

46 min Peep peep! United begin the second half, having made one change: Pogba on, Greenwood off. They’ve switched to a diamond midfield.

5.35pm BST

“I would be hesitant to wait for Pochettino as he was free all that time when Ole got the job,” says Ruth Purdue. “They chose not to try and get him. I personally always asked for Allegri. His tactical mind is excellent and needed a project like us. Who else is free? Zidane? Would he come or is he waiting for France or PSG?”

It would be quite amusing to let Conte loose in that dressing-room, though it would contradict all their talk about long-term planning in the last few years. (Also, Pochettino was at Spurs when Solskjaer get the job wasn’t he?)

Updated at 5.36pm BST

5.30pm BST

Half-time listening

I actually think history will be kind to Solskjaer’s time as United manager, but it’s over now. After this, it would be cruel not to sack him.

Updated at 5.33pm BST

5.26pm BST

“Wowzers,” says Matt Dony. “Ok. Fair enough. It probably won’t go wrong.”

5.26pm BST

“This Manchester United side is like a Ferrari and caravan welded together,” says Ciaran Boland. “They are capable of brilliance and calamity in equal mesures. This is shocking stuff so far.”

I think that’s my favourite description of this United team. I keep coming back to the thought that they finished above Liverpool last season. How can you reconcile that with this?

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Ole Gunnar Solksjaer walks off at half-time. Photograph: Tom Jenkins/The Guardian

Updated at 5.40pm BST

5.21pm BST

Half time: Man Utd 0-4 Liverpool

Peep peep! The half-time whistle prompts vicious booing around the ground. United have been totally humiliated by a Liverpool side who aren’t even in top gear. Naby Keita scored the first, Diogo Jota made it two and then Mo Salah helped himself to a couple of goals. I think the record victory in this game is 7-1; if Liverpool keep pushing, they have every chance of beating that.

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Salah scores the fourth Liverpool goal. Photograph: Tom Jenkins/The Guardian

Updated at 5.30pm BST

5.20pm BST

More horrible defending from United . Liverpool move the ball far too easily from left to right, with Jota finding the unmarked Salah in the area. He drags a precise first-time shot past de Gea at the near post. That’s an excellent finish, actually, because the ball was bobbling slightly.

Updated at 5.28pm BST

5.19pm BST

GOAL! Man Utd 0-4 Liverpool (Salah 45+5)

It’s four!

5.18pm BST

45+3 min Now Fred is booked for a high foot as Keita ducks into a bouncing ball. United’s noggin is starting to go.

Updated at 5.18pm BST

5.17pm BST

45+2 min Ronaldo is booked. It was seconds after Alisson blocked his shot. He had a swipe at Jones, who was shielding the ball, and then booted the ball when it was stuck against the body of Jones. He could easily have been sent off for that.

5.16pm BST

45+1 min Three minutes of added time. Alisson makes a good save from Ronaldo, who then causes a rumpus by booting the ball into the body of a Liverpool player. This could be a red card.

5.14pm BST

44 min United continue to look bright and determined in attack, which is quite admirable in the circumstances. If they get the next five goals, who knows?

5.11pm BST

42 min The most alarming thing for United is that Liverpool haven’t even been at their best.

5.11pm BST

41 min Luke Shaw is booked for a foul on someone or other.

5.11pm BST

40 min This is an incredible chance for Liverpool to humiliate United. If they are ruthless in the second half, they could score six or seven.

5.09pm BST

Mo Salah scores for the tenth consecutive game! His snapshot from the edge of the area was blocked by Maguire but the ball broke perfectly for Keita on the right side of the area. He looked up and fizzed a low cross back towards Salah, who sidefooted it past de Gea from six yards.

Updated at 5.09pm BST

5.08pm BST

GOAL! Man Utd 0-3 Liverpool (Salah 38)

And that’s Blockbusters.

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Salah celebrates after scoring Liverpool’s third goal. Photograph: Alex Livesey - Danehouse/Getty Images

Updated at 5.18pm BST

5.07pm BST

36 min Shaw fizzes the ball into Fernandes, who loops a clever first-time pass over the defence. Rashford runs onto it, 12 yards out, and shoots well wide. It was a very difficult ball to take first time, and in hindsight he should have taken a touch.

5.05pm BST

34 min A vital header from Robertson diverts Fernandes’s cross away from Ronaldo. The resuling corner leads to a bit of a scramble in the area before Keita clears.

5.04pm BST

34 min “Unfortunately, not able to watch the match,” says Matt Dony. “Didn’t have high hopes. (Do I ever?) Just checking in now, pleasantly surprised by the score line. But wondering how it might all go wrong. Why do I do this to myself, Rob? I should be able to enjoy football. I wish I wasn’t the way I am.”

Imagine what mood you’d be in if you were a United fan.

5.03pm BST

33 min An outrageous pass/cross from Alexander-Arnold just evades Jota in the area.

5.02pm BST

32 min: Vital save by de Gea! Rashford plays an appalling pass that puts Salah through on goal. He cuts infield from the right and whips a shot from a tight angle that is blocked by the chest of de Gea.

5.01pm BST

31 min: Chance for Firmino! Alexander-Arnold’s corner is headed away by Maguire to Keita, 20 yards from goal. He mishits a shot that turns into a pass for Firmino, who pokes wide from the left edge of the six-yard box. That was another decent chance.

5.00pm BST

30 min A poor header from McTominay goes straight to Keita on the edge of the area. He lays it back to Henderson, whose whipped shot is deflected behind for a corner.

4.59pm BST

29 min: Good save from Alisson! Greenwood turns on the edge of the area and, with almost no backlift, thrashes a shot across goal. Alisson dives to his right to push it behind.

4.58pm BST

28 min This is United’s best spell of the match in terms of sustained possession. They still look jittery, though, and desperately need to get one back before half-time.

4.56pm BST

26 min Milner off, Jones on.

4.55pm BST

25 min Now James Milner has gone down with a muscle problem, and it doesn’t look like he’ll be able to continue. Curtis Jones is getting ready.

4.54pm BST

23 min The crowd are groaning at every mistake, major or minor, which makes such mistakes even more likely.

4.52pm BST

22 min After a long spell of possession, Shaw rifles a long-range shot just wide of the far post. That was a fine effort. United have played quite well going forward; the problem is that their defending has been hideous.

4.50pm BST

20 min There’s a break in play while Keita receives treatment.

4.49pm BST

19 min This game is so open. Greenwood’s cross is headed away by Konate, but Fernandes pokes the loose ball to Ronaldo on the left side of the area. He takes a touch and smacks a shot over the bar. That wasn’t a bad chance either.

4.48pm BST

18 min “Ole didn’t have to win to keep his job,” says Mary Waltz. “But getting shredded and embarrassed like this will find him going back to Norway...”

I think the club are still saying his job isn’t under threat, but United have started the season so badly that it does feel like the end. A lot depends on whether they want to wait for Pochettino or not.

4.46pm BST

17 min McTominay hooks over following a corner, though the flag had gone up anyway.

4.45pm BST

15 min Ronaldo plays a good pass to Rashford on the left of the area, but he dithers and loses the ball to van Dijk.

4.44pm BST

From a United perspective, that was shambolic . Maguire and Shaw faffed on the edge of the D, allowing Keita to pinch the ball and play in Alexander-Arnold to the right. He slid a immaculate low cross to the far post, where Jota stretched to steer the ball into the empty net.

Updated at 4.45pm BST

4.43pm BST

GOAL! Man Utd 0-2 Liverpool (Jota 13)

Liverpool are destroying Manchester United!

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Jota scores Liverpool’s second goal past De Gea. Photograph: Tom Jenkins/The Guardian
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Jota celebrates with teammates. Photograph: Phil Noble/Reuters

Updated at 5.35pm BST

4.43pm BST

13 min Fernandes and Rashford have swapped places, at least for now.

4.41pm BST

12 min Both teams look extremely dangerous in transition, Liverpool in particular. “Fernandes will be kicking himself for not scoring,” says Ian Copestake. “But he might also miss...”

4.40pm BST

10 min Fred robs Keita and gives the ball to Rashford, who shoots just wide from 25 yards. Alisson had it covered but it was a decent effort from Rashford, who has a terrific record in this fixture.

4.39pm BST

9 min Konate deals brusquely with Ronaldo and Liverpool break. Firmino releases Salah on the right; he cuts inside and drags a low shot wide of the near post. He looked offside but the flag didn’t go up.

4.37pm BST

7 min: Good save from de Gea! United are all over the show. Keita wins the ball off Fred in a dangerous area and plays in Firmino, who screws a shot that is saved to his left by de Gea. The pass from Keita pushed Firmino slightly wide but it was still a decent chance.

4.36pm BST

Naby Keita has given Liverpool the lead! It was hideous defending from United, whose clumsy pressing meant they ended up with just Luke Shaw against three Liverpool players. Salah had Robertson to his left and Keita to his right. He chose to play in Keita, who slid the ball calmly past de Gea.

Updated at 4.37pm BST

4.35pm BST

GOAL! Man Utd 0-1 Liverpool (Keita 5)

United miss, Liverpool hit!

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Keita celebrates scoring for Liverpool. Photograph: Phil Noble/Reuters
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Keita celebrates scoring with Salah. Photograph: Tom Jenkins/The Guardian

Updated at 5.34pm BST

4.34pm BST

4 min: Fernandes misses a great chance! United should be ahead. They opened Liverpool up with some quick passing on the left: Fred to Ronaldo to Greenwood, who played in the unmarked Bruno Fernandes to his right. He took a touch but then lashed his shot high and wide.

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Bruno Fernandes is unsuccessful with an early attempt on goal. Photograph: Oli Scarff/AFP/Getty Images

Updated at 4.42pm BST

4.33pm BST

3 min It’s been a fairly scruffy start to the game, with nothing much to report as yet.

4.31pm BST

1 min No funky tactics from either manager - both teams have lined up as expected.

4.30pm BST

1 min Peep peep! Liverpool, in their smart new away kit , kick off from right to left. United are in red.

4.29pm BST

After all the chit and all the chat, it’s time for business . Let’s get it on.

4.27pm BST

“Afternoon Rob,” says Stephen Carr. “Just reading Solskjaer’s prematch comments there. Like Boris Johnson, he appears to be managing by soundbite and similarly has stayed in a job despite achieving close to eff all.”

He finished second last season. He’s beaten Pep Guardiola four times. He’s produced the most exciting United team since 2009. He may not be good enough to win the league, but some of the sneering is scandalous.

Updated at 4.28pm BST

4.25pm BST

This is the first United/Liverpool game in front of a full house since January 2020 , when Mo Salah sealed a 2-0 victory and even the most pessimistic Liverpool fan accepted they were going to win the league.

Related: Van Dijk and Salah incisions help Liverpool tear open Manchester United

Updated at 4.25pm BST

4.14pm BST

Related: Solskjær the perfect frontman for United's era of endless new dawns | Jonathan Liew

4.14pm BST

Jurgen Klopp’s pre-match thoughts

“Diogo was in outstanding form before the international break and he is training at a very high level. We saw a few things that made us think it would be a good game [to play Konate].

“You have to be brave, you have to play football. You have to respect their strength but at the same time try to deny them in all areas. We all know how good they are: the individual quality is crazy, the counter-attacking threat is massive.

“It’s a special game but in the end it’s still a football game and you have to play well. I can’t wait for the first whistle.”

4.02pm BST

Related: Back to the future for Liverpool as control gives way to constant clatter | Jonathan Wilson

4.02pm BST

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s pre-match thoughts

“We need to start on the front foot and stamp our authority on the game. The crowd will give us an extra 10 per cent energy, and it’s up to the players to do the same for the crowd. When we’ve got the ball, we need to use it well. They’re a good team if you give them easy turnovers.”

3.53pm BST

Related: Goals a bonus for Roberto Firmino, Liverpool’s beloved anti-Ronaldo | Richard Jolly

3.53pm BST

“No one who has anything invested (emotionally) in this game ever thinks it is dull,” says Ian Copestake. “It just matters way too much and the result is everything.”

3.37pm BST

Related: ‘No time to lose’ if Manchester United are to mount title bid, admits Solskjær

3.35pm BST

United are unchanged but there are a couple of surprises in the Liverpool team. Sadio Mane and Joel Matip are both on the bench, and Fabinho is out with a knee injury. Ibrahima Konate and Diogo Jota come into the team.

Man Utd (4-2-3-1) de Gea; Wan-Bissaka, Lindelof, Maguire, Shaw; McTominay, Fred; Greenwood, Bruno Fernandes, Rashford; Ronaldo.
Substitutes: Henderson, Bailly, Dalot, Lingard, Matic, Pogba, van de Beek, Cavani, Sancho.

Liverpool (4-3-3) Alisson; Alexander-Arnold, Konate, van Dijk, Robertson; Keita, Henderson, Milner; Salah, Firmino, Jota.
Substitutes: Adrian, Mane, Gomez, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Jones, Minamino, Tsimikas, Origi, Matip.

Referee Anthony Taylor.

Updated at 3.38pm BST

3.30pm BST

The teams

3.18pm BST

Preamble

Ambassador, with all this hatred you’re really spoiling us. Today’s sporting schedule has more rivalries than you can shake a fist at: India v Pakistan , Barcelona v Real Madrid , Marseille v PSG, Inter v Juventus, Max Verstappen v Lewis Hamilton, West Ham v Spurs , Ajax v PSV, Logan v Kendall – and, at Old Trafford, Manchester United v Liverpool. It might not be the biggest game in English football just now – Liverpool v Manchester City is on another level – but it still has a unique intensity.

Between us, this fixture is often quite dull. But there’s always a context that makes us think the next game will be a thriller. Today is about the return of Cristiano Ronaldo, the form of Mo Salah, the mood of both teams and, most of all, the pressure on Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. Liverpool wouldn’t mind moving him closer to unemployment; he would love a narrative-changing victory. More than anything, though, this is a mustn’t-lose game for United.

The next six weeks are likely to decide Solskjaer’s future. As well as crucial trips to Atalanta and Villarreal, United play all the other Big Six teams between now and the first weekend in December. If they lose today they will be six points behind Manchester City, seven behind Liverpool and eight behind Chelsea. But if they win, those upcoming fixtures against City and Chelsea will feel like an opportunity rather than a trial.

United are the most mercurial team in England, so anything is possible. But Liverpool have scored 30 goals in their last nine games and will expect to do damage against a defence that has kept only one clean sheet in 20 games. Liverpool have insecurities of their own, though, mainly because of their relatively poor record at Old Trafford. Jurgen Klopp has won only once on this ground, a 4-2 victory in May. With the strengths and weaknesses of both sides, there’s every chance we’ll get a few more goals today.

Kick off 4.30pm.

Updated at 3.37pm BST

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