Premier League hits and misses: Manchester United players should fear Erik ten Hag’s response | Football News
All-time great Anfield win for Liverpool
Much of this season has been spent lamenting what Liverpool have lost, a slightly sad search to rekindle the spark in Jurgen Klopp’s team. For one afternoon, they surpassed even their own heady highs, delivering a beatdown for the ages, a drubbing nobody will forget.
This was not Bournemouth, the bottom club that they put nine past in August, this was history. Their biggest ever win over Manchester United, the heaviest defeat that their great rivals have suffered at the hands of any opponent since before the Second World War.
Something strange seems to happen at Anfield when the momentum is with them. For much of the first half this confident United team were able to manage that with shrewd delaying tactics, a bit of devil and some undoubted quality on the counter-attack.
But with the game gone, they succumbed. As their level had dipped, we saw what a swaggering Liverpool can do, what Cody Gakpo and Darwin Nunez can do with belief finally coursing through their veins and a joyous crowd urging them on for more.
Klopp pointedly stressed that he was happier with the performance than the result, the hope being that it will be the catalyst for the return of his flying squad. He will want this to be more than a moment in time and he will not be alone. But what a moment it was.
The impossible result made possible
It was a result so ridiculous that you couldn’t even have dreamt it if you were a Liverpool fan.
Manchester United, being talked up in parts for a quadruple on the back of a win at Wembley, were in town.
Winning by two clear goals would’ve sounded farfetched: any win would have done.
By three? Maybe.
Four? No chance.
Five? Stop it.
Six? Go home, you’re drunk.
It was a scoreline so out of sync with reality that Sky Bet didn’t even offer odds on a 7-0 Liverpool win.
From the 11,896 Premier League games ever played, just 22 have been won by a seven or more scoreline. That’s 0.1 per cent of games. And the teams on the end of such thrashings aren’t exactly world-renowned footballing institutions when compared to what Manchester United have built over the years.
Their collapse was freakish – the biggest outlier of a result perhaps in the history of football. Win a major trophy, then lose 7-0 to your bitter rivals.
Sometimes things are just unexplainable. That’s the Premier League for you.
Players should fear what Ten Hag learned
Erik ten Hag’s chief frustration appeared to be the defending for the second and third of the seven goals that went in against his team at Anfield. They were the ones that ended Manchester United’s hopes of claiming any points from the game.
But even the rational mind of Ten Hag, trying to remain logical amid the fuss and the frenzy, will have learned plenty from what followed. As he stood motionless on the touchline, he would have been quietly assessing the individual and collective reactions to adversity.
Asked specifically what was going through his mind in those moments, he said: “How is their character, their mentality, how they deal with setbacks, I look at their body language.” He added: “They did not cope with it. They did not fulfil their jobs.”
He will be reluctant to forget all that has come before, the obvious progress that is being made. One cup has been won, two more are plausible targets before the season is through. Perhaps this will prove to be a freak result, a misstep on the path back to the top.
But if the images of the self-pitying Bruno Fernandes and others linger in the minds of frustrated supporters, they will have been clocked by Ten Hag too.
“If you react in the right way, you can learn from it.” These players should consider what their manager learned.
Dyche’s Everton establish a new platform to build upon
Everton took the lead twice against Nottingham Forest at the City Ground on Super Sunday – matching their goals scored tally from the last five games combined – yet twice they were pegged back on the way to an eventual 2-2 draw.
For the most part, it was an engaging, end-to-end encounter, with the points probably deservedly shared equally. That said, for two teams in the relegation conversation, a point against a direct rival may not always be seen as enough. Toffees boss Sean Dyche didn’t see it that way, though.
Asked if a point at the City Ground gave the Everton something to build on after defeats to Aston Villa and Arsenal, Dyche said: “Yes, absolutely.
“You’ve got to be reality-bound,” he added. “We’re a work in progress, we’re continuing the good work on the training pitch, we’re taking it into performances. I’ve been encouraged since I got to the club with the way the players have responded, the way they are taking on the challenge.”
In spite of his optimism, this is still a worrying time for Everton. Had Brennan Johnson not scored the late equaliser, Dyche’s men would have been out of the bottom three for the first time since February 18. Instead, they remain there, level on points with 17th-placed Leeds, who have played a game fewer.
The fixture list doesn’t get much kinder over the next few weeks, either. Next up? Brentford, Chelsea, Spurs, Manchester United and Fulham.
But Dyche has guided Everton to seven points from his first six games in charge and clearly lifted spirits. While he remains positive and his side remain within touching distance of safety, there is every reason to believe him when he says his troops can establish a new platform and build upwards from it.
Johnson to the rescue as Forest show character
The game appeared to be drifting away from Nottingham Forest in the second half. Everton were comfortable and the feisty nature of the contest suited Sean Dyche’s side as the numerous stoppages halted what little momentum Forest had.
That was until Johnson’s moment of brilliance 13 minutes from time.
“It’s a class finish,” Sky Sports’ Graeme Souness said on Super Sunday. “Johnson knows exactly what he’s going to do with it. He doesn’t try to smash it. He places it, blindsiding the goalkeeper as he plays it around the Everton defender. That’s the mark of a real cool finisher.”
Andy Hinchcliffe, who was on commentary duty at the City Ground for Sky Sports, was also effusive in his praise for Johnson. “He really showcased his talents today. He can dribble, he can cross, he can score goals. His second goal today, with the composure and intelligence of his positioning, was outstanding.”
Johnson dragged his side to what could be a crucial point as they look to stay in the Premier League. The result keeps them four points above the relegation places and also four points above Everton. It also extends their unbeaten run at the City Ground to nine matches, continuing to build momentum which could be crucial as we reach the run-in to the season.
You only have to ask Everton how important home form can be when trying to retain your Premier League status. That and the bright spark that is Johnson could be Forest’s saving grace come May.