Martial prowess from set pieces help Man Utd past Liverpool
Manchester United climbed up to second in the Premier League table thanks to a debut goal from £36m deadline day signing Anthony Martial, who rounded off a 3-1 win over bitter Northwest rivals Liverpool.
Daley Blind benefited from a clever Red Devils training ground free-kick routine early in the second half after a dismal first 45 to open the scoring. Ander Herrera then won and scored a penalty with 20 minutes to go following Joe Gomez’s naive foul to double the home team’s lead.
Christian Benteke’s brilliant overhead kick then appeared to set up a grandstand finish, but talented teenager Martial’s sublime and skillful footwork saw him make the impact Louis van Gaal hoped for from the bench.
With the David de Gea transfer saga now over and his future committed to United, Louis van Gaal restored him between the sticks with Sergio Romero dropping to the bench.
There were two other Man Utd changes with Michael Carrick replacing Morgan Schneiderlin in front of the back four, while Marouane Fellaini got the nod over new boy Martial to lead the attack in Wayne Rooney’s absence.
A heavy and humbling home loss to West Ham last time out, where Philippe Coutinho was sent off, forced Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers, meanwhile, into a change of personnel. Danny Ings made his full debut for the Merseysiders with Roberto Firmino operating alongside him and Benteke.
United could not capitalise on mistakes from Simon Mingnolet and the visiting back four early on, with that defensive unit looking anything but assured in possession. Matteo Darmian’s dangerous cross up from right back after Carrick found him brought the only really dangerous moment of a lacklustre first-half.
Offside flags thwarted Liverpool attacks with Ings never getting close enough to Benteke. There was simply no tempo to a traditionally tempestuous and frantic fixture, with slow approach play and all-round caginess making for an eyesore of a football match.
Man Utd improved after the break with Juan Mata pulling deep to Blind from a dead-ball that Liverpool fell asleep to, and the Dutch utilty man fired home from just inside the box.
De Gea’s poor clearance then could’ve gifted the Merseysiders a way back into the game at Old Trafford, but the Red Devils stopper was spared blushes. The Spaniard then tipped over a miss-hit Ings effort when set in behind the home defence by Dejan Lovren’s header.
Blind had to be on hand to clear off the line from Ings, poorly used by Rodgers on the left wing instead of up top alongside Benteke, as a goalmouth scramble ensured from a Liverpool corner.
Travelling teenage defender Gomez then went through the back of Herrera inside the box, leaving referee Michael Oliver no option but to award the hosts a penalty. The Basque midfielder picked himself up and hammered home into the roof of the net from the spot.
Benteke’s near post header sailed harmlessly wide from a James Milner cross, with the England midfielder earlier cautioned for a poor tackle on Ashley Young. Substitute Jordan Ibe forced De Gea to tip over late on, but he could do nothing when the big Belgian striker netted acrobatically.
Not to be outdone by his fellow big money summer signing, Martial ensured his Man Utd bow was memorable with some wonderful footwork, amid a slaloming run, and consummate finish when fed by fellow Red Devils sub Ashley Young sealed victory.
Joining Arsenal on 10 points and five behind their neighbours and early pace-setters Manchester City, United are now now 11/1 joint third favourites for the Premier League title.