Match report from Bangkok where Jadon Sancho, Fred, Anthony Martial and Facundo Pellistri seal perfect start for Man Utd manager Erik ten Hag; Liverpool put to the sword after starting with an experimental XI and making flurry of changes
Tuesday 12 July 2022 22:52, UK
Erik ten Hag enjoyed a dream start to life as Manchester United manager with an emphatic 4-0 pre-season victory over weakened rivals Liverpool in Thailand.
United ran riot against an extremely unfamiliar Liverpool side, with Jadon Sancho's rasping drive, a fabulous lob from Fred, and a breakaway effort from Anthony Martial securing an unassailable three-goal lead at the break.
Liverpool, who started the match with five teenagers and did not introduce big hitters Mohamed Salah, Virgil van Dijk, or summer signing Darwin Nunez, until the 61st minute, left themselves with too much ground to make up on United, who put the seal on the encouraging victory with a brilliant late fourth from Facundo Pellistri.
Ten Hag's tenure may be in its infancy, and this performance was almost certainly aided by Jurgen Klopp's team selection, but with the positives plentiful for Manchester United there is cause for optimism at the dawn of this new era.
United and Liverpool both contributed to a frantically entertaining start in front of thousands of expectant fans at Bangkok's Rajamangala Stadium, and it took just 13 minutes for the breakthrough goal, Sancho firing into the bottom corner after pouncing on Isaac Mabaya's mis-control.
Liverpool youngster Luke Chambers had two bites at hauling Liverpool level before summer signing Fabio Carvalho went close and Luis Diazhit the woodwork amid a flurry of activity in front of the United goal, but it would be Ten Hag's side who doubled their lead on the half-hour mark as Fred nonchalantly chipped in from 18 yards on his unfavoured right boot.
Klopp made 10 outfield changes on the half-hour mark but two quickly became three, with Martial marking his return from his loan at Sevilla with a brilliant solo goal which saw him streak into Liverpool area and clip a shot over Alisson Becker.
Liverpool steadied but were unable to capitalise on United's 10 half-time alterations, and only mustered a response on 70 minutes when Nunez stung the palms of goalkeeper Tom Heaton, who had replaced the injured David de Gea moments earlier.
With a stronger, more familiar, first-choice XI on the field for the finah 30 minutes, Liverpool improved. Mohamed Salah hit the post and Nunez missed a sitter, but any hopes of a comeback were nipped in the bud 13 minutes from time when Eric Bailly was allowed to surge unchallenged through midfield and Pellistri fired home after combining with Amad Diallo.
Man Utd manager Erik ten Hag speaking to MUTV: "I know we have good players, now we have to construct a team. I'm happy with the first game.
"It will take lots of time [to get this team playing my way]. I have seen a lot of mistakes today. Let's be honest, Liverpool plays in three teams, they were not at their strongest.
"We must not overestimate this result, but still I have seen some really good things. We have a lot of creativity and speed up front. Like I said, we have potential.
"I think that was a team with a great spirit and we know we are just started. The press, we made some mistakes, but we also created some chances with pressing."
Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp speaking to liverpoolfc.com: "Obviously the game came a little bit too early for us, for some of our boys, so I think we agree that we saw a lot of good things in this game, but in the decisive moments we were not clear enough with finishing our situations off.
"We gave massive chances away, pretty much. Pretty much no-brainers, but United did well in these moments, they finished the situations off. We admit that, but that's it pretty much.
"The most important thing now after the game, even when I hate losing, everybody has 30 minutes in their legs now, for some on the third day of training [that's] really harsh but that's the life of a professional football player. So now we can work with that and will work with that."
Jurgen Klopp warned Liverpool supporters this week that they "don't have to be worried" ahead of the new season - and further perspective is needed following this result.
The German boss started a second-string side before making 10 changes after 30 minutes. Some will say the mass substitutions could have been a reaction to going 2-0 behind, but it was likely to have been the plan all along. How Liverpool failed to score over the 90 minutes having had 18 shots is a mystery.
Liverpool's big-hitters, Fabinho, Darwin Nunez, Andy Robertson, Thiago, Mohamed Salah, Virgil van Dijk and Trent Alexander-Arnold were all introduced with 30 minutes to play. They improved during that spell as Salah hit a post and Nunez missed a sitter, but they conceded a disappointing fourth in which Eric Bailly was allowed to surge unchallenged through midfield.
Nunez brought a presence up front and is willing to run in behind which is different to what Firmino brings, who prefers to drop deeper and let the wingers run in behind. The early signs were promising.
It was clear Liverpool viewed this game as little more than a fitness exercise to benefit their whole squad. Losing to your rivals by this scoreline always hurts, but Klopp and his side won't dwell on it for long.
United will now head to Australia ahead of their next pre-season match against Melbourne Victory on Friday.
Liverpool travel to Singapore to take on Premier League side Crystal Palace in the second leg of their schedule on Friday.