Liverpool analysis – Mohamed Salah sends message as Manchester United teach cynical lesson – Liverpool Echo

Salah sends message

For a very brief period, Mohamed Salah encapsulated everything that has been going wrong for Liverpool.

In the opening minutes, the Reds forward wasn’t even looking when Trent Alexander-Arnold played a pass towards him down the right flank and moments later was too easily dispossessed by Luke Shaw inside his own half to send Manchester United on a dangerous attack.

But when the chance came to end Liverpool’s goal drought, there was evidence the Egyptian’s composure and finishing remain very much intact.

Such was the manner in which Salah dispatched the opening offered by Roberto Firmino, dinking deliciously over the onrushing Dean Henderson for Liverpool’s first goal against grown-ups in almost a month.

That it was Firmino who provided the inch-perfect assist was apt given such a combination has provided more goals than any other pairing during the Jurgen Klopp era.

And that number was moved on to 18 in the second half when the Brazilian, aided by a James Milner dummy, rolled the ball across for Salah to drag Liverpool level again. Only two smart stops from United goalkeeper Henderson denied the Egyptian a hat-trick.

Forget the recent distracting debate over his future. This was Salah – 19 goals in 28 appearances this season – showing why he remains such a key figure for the Premier League champions.

Jones shows promise again

Social media can be a vile, toxic place.

Witness the reaction to a poser from yours truly earlier in the week pondering whether Liverpool’s lamentable firepower had coincided with Curtis Jones being largely rested to the bench.

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“What about Diogo Jota? Naby Keita? Anyone but the local lad?” was the gist of many replies, in between the rampant pottymouthery and tiresome accusations of favouritism.

Jota and Keita, though, are injured. Jones is not. And, recalled here, the teenager posted a welcome reminder of why Jurgen Klopp is so enthused by his potential.

Having flitted in and out of the game when on the left of the front three, Jones truly found his feet in the closing half-hour when in the more central position his talents demands.

His energy and willingness to run at opposing players – drawing a booking from Paul Pogba late on – helped force United on to the back foot during a spell in which Liverpool dominated.

Not everything Jones did came off although, at 19, that is to be expected. He was, as Klopp had demanded of his squad last week, prepared to fail.

Manchester United vs Liverpool FA Cup

The midfielder did enough to strengthen his claims for further opportunities in the coming weeks. Liverpool will need his enthusiasm.

Reds must copy United

While the league table might suggest otherwise, there isn’t a lot Liverpool can learn from Manchester United.

But there is one aspect of the game where the Reds are once more trailing those down the other end of the East Lancs Road.

Yes, it’s those dark arts again, shown by the manner in which Edinson Cavani coaxed a challenge out of Fabinho from which the game’s decisive moment emerged.

The savvy Marcus Rashford admitted has been drilled into United’s players was evident elsewhere, such as Donny van de Beek’s ambitious penalty shout and Victor Lindelof’s cynical tug on Divock Origi to halt a late Liverpool break.

Liverpool star Mohamed Salah

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It’s a myth to suggest the Reds are saints – James Milner isn’t soft and Fabinho isn’t averse to the odd tactical foul – but without Virgil van Dijk and Jordan Henderson, they are missing the edge that is sometimes required when in the kind of tough position they are in now.

Rest assured, Jose Mourinho and Tottenham Hotspur won’t mind getting dirty on Thursday. The Reds need to get gritty again.