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Forwards misfire as fatigue hits – 5 talking points from Man United 4-3 Liverpool

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Liverpool saw their FA Cup – and therefore, quadruple – hopes ended by a last-gasp 4-3 defeat after extra time at Old Trafford.

Man United 4-3 Liverpool (AET)

FA Cup Quarter Final, Old Trafford
March 17, 2024

Goals: Mac Allister 44′, Salah 45+4′, Elliott 105′; McTominay 10′, Antony 87′, Rashford 112′, Diallo 120′


Reds get what they deserve

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - Sunday, March 17, 2024: Manchester United's Marcus Rashford celebrates with team-mates after the FA Cup Quarter-Final match between Manchester United FC and Liverpool FC at Old Trafford. Man Utd won 4-3 in extra-time. (Photo by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Even the most optimistic of Liverpool fans would struggle to paint today’s defeat at Old Trafford as anything other than deserved.

The Reds came into this game 17 points ahead of their bitter rivals in the Premier League table, and yet completely failed to underline the gulf between their sides with their performance.

The visitors were outshot (28-25), beaten on expected goals (3.36-2.06) and also carved out fewer big chances (4-1) against an opponent that currently sits sixth in the league with a goal difference of zero.

For that reason, even losing in the last minute of extra-time hardly felt cruel when Jurgen Klopp‘s side had been nowhere near good enough across the 120 minutes.

 

Response all that matters

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - Sunday, March 17, 2024: Liverpool's manager Jürgen Klopp waves to the supporters after the FA Cup Quarter-Final match between Manchester United FC and Liverpool FC at Old Trafford. (Photo by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Of course, once a rare defeat has been suffered, the only thing that matters is how you respond, and Klopp has two weeks to work on that aspect.

Losing in the dying seconds against your fiercest rival can have a negative mental impact if you allow it to, but the alternative is using it the disappointment to fuel a winning run to the end of the season.

And should the Reds go with the latter, then perhaps it could even prove a blessing in disguise to avoid the possibility of two draining trips to Wembley.

Unfortunately, with the international break about to start, we must wait until an Anfield clash with Brighton on March 31 to find out how Klopp’s side will react.

The response, though, must include victory at the same stadium on April 7.

 

Fatigue finally catches up

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - Sunday, March 17, 2024: Liverpool's goalkeeper Caoimhin Kelleher looks dejected as Manchester United score the winning fourth goal, in extra-time, during the FA Cup Quarter-Final match between Manchester United FC and Liverpool FC at Old Trafford. Man Utd won 4-3 after extra-time. (Photo by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

It felt telling that United, fresh from a clear midweek, became stronger and stronger as extra-time progressed at Old Trafford.

By contrast, Liverpool had put out a surprisingly strong team in thrashing Sparta Prague on Thursday, a game that bookended a remarkably intense period.

That the Reds have kept the wins rolling in despite their squad being shrunk by a host of injuries is a feat well worthy of major praise.

But the consequences of exhaustion can only be staved off for so long, and perhaps they were felt in this heartbreaking defeat.

 

Rare off day for forwards

Still, for all that Liverpool tired late on, the reality is that they could have had this game wrapped up before extra time was required.

As Klopp put it post-match: “So many chances where we had to kill the game off, (the) last pass not right. The decision making doesn’t get better.”

That is borne out by an xG total of 2.06, which does not show Liverpool’s general dominance by virtue of the fact that they general failed to turn it into high-quality shooting chances.

Admittedly, it is hard to be overly critical given how prolific the Reds’ attack has been this season, but in this game there is no doubt it played a major role in defeat.

 

Liverpool will be stronger

The good news for Liverpool as they look to quickly overcome this setback is that reinforcements are finally on the way.

For starters, Ryan Gravenberch returned to the squad at Old Trafford, while Curtis Jones is set be back in the fold for the aforementioned meeting with Brighton.

And Diogo Jota, Trent Alexander-Arnold and Alisson Becker are all not too far behind in their recovery from injury.

That is potentially crucial as the Reds head into a run-in that will decide their fate, and features a rematch with Manchester United at the same venue.