Liverpool remains light years ahead of Prem rivals

Virgil van Dijk (right) gave Liverpool an early lead on Sunday against Manchester United. (Photo by Andrew Powell/Liverpool FC via Getty Images)
Virgil van Dijk (right) gave Liverpool an early lead on Sunday against Manchester United. (Photo by Andrew Powell/Liverpool FC via Getty Images)

The scoreboard at Anfield somehow still only had Liverpool, the Premier League champions-in-waiting, one goal to the good more than 92 minutes into Sunday’s marquee contest against once-mighty Manchester United. Then Mohamed Salah finally added a second to twist the dagger in the Red Devils and win the game 2-0.

To anybody who actually watched this battle between the two most successful teams in English history, though, the gulf in class between the clubs in early 2020 couldn’t have been starker.

Because from start to finish on Merseyside, Liverpool utterly and comprehensively dominated Man United. Seven years removed from its most recent Prem crown, the visitors remain tied on points with sixth-place Wolverhampton Wanderers.

The reigning European champions, on the other hand, exacted revenge for a 1-1 tie at Old Trafford in October — the Reds’ lone slip-up so far in this season of destiny — by reeling off their 19th straight win at home, one that put them 16 points clear of Manchester City.

On Sunday, Virgil van Dijk fired Liverpool ahead for good just over 13 minutes in, the Dutch center back’s towering header off a corner kick too strong for keeper David de Gea to keep out from close range:

Twice it looked like Liverpool had doubled its lead before the first half was out. But twice the officials called back the apparent goals — one after VAR determined that Van Dijk had fouled De Gea during the buildup to Roberto Firmino’s curling strike, and the second because of an offside.

It wasn’t until the third minute of second-half stoppage time until the Reds finally put the match away though Salah’s deadly counterattack:

The post-match stats did a better job than the scoreboard of telling the story, with Liverpool out-shooting and out-possessing Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side by wide margins. At one point, the Reds had 11 corner kicks to United’s zero, although the final five of the game went to the visitors.

It might technically be true to suggest that had Solskjaer’s charges been more clinical in the attacking third, the outcome might have been different. Andreas Pereira had a golden opportunity to pull United level late in the first half, but he couldn’t get his boot on Aaron Wan-Bissaka’s ball.

United was also without leading scorer Marcus Rashford, who will be sidelined up to three months with a double stress fracture in his back, according to a report from Times of London scribe Henry Winter. Rashford has been Solskjaer’s most irreplaceable player all season; it was always going to be an uphill climb without him away from home against the best club team on the planet.

And it was. As much as Man United fans don’t want to hear it, there is no shame in losing to this Liverpool side, of course, especially in front of their own supporters. At the same time, how can Klopp’s Liverpool not conjure memories of the great United teams that owned the Prem (and won a pair of Champions Leagues) in the 1990s and 2000s under legendary bench boss Sir Alex Ferguson?

But the successes of early last decade seem like eons ago for United fans, as the Reds have firmly established themselves as both the darlings and standard bearers of the English game as they close in on their first domestic title in 30 years. This is Liverpool’s league now. Sunday’s performance was just the latest reminder.

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