Ten Hag hails Man United’s ‘fighting spirit’ after crucial win over Liverpool

Manchester United’s season finally got up and running after they sealed a deserved 2-1 win over Liverpool at Old Trafford tonight.

The Old Trafford faithful expected a reaction to the dreadful opening defeats to Brighton and Brentford, and the Red Devils certainly didn’t disappoint, delivering an early performance full of intensity.

That early start was almost rewarded, but academy graduate Anthony Elanga fired against the post when he only had Alisson to beat.

On 18 minutes United would take a deserved lead through winger Jadon Sancho. It started with Elanga and Christian Eriksen playing a one-two down the left and when Sancho received the ball near the penalty spot he showed great composure to turn and slip the ball in to the bottom corner.

Marcus Rashford started through the middle and not long after taking the lead the 23-year-old had Alisson at full stretch to deny him from making it 2-0.

Liverpool had looked shellshocked for much of the opening period, although they did eventually get a foothold and started to dominate possession. Five minutes before the end and Jurgen Klopp’s side came within a whisker off equaliser but Lisandro Martinez managed to scramble the ball off the line and save Bruno Fernandes the embarrassment of scoring an own goal.

United manager Erik Ten Hag decided to bring Anthony Martial on at half-time and switch Rashford out to the left and after eight minutes of the second half it would look like a masterstroke.

Martial won a second ball in the centre of the park and slipped the ball in behind Liverpool’s high line for Rashford to race on to and coolly slotted past Alisson.

Liverpool continued to have the majority of the ball but struggled to get in behind a well-marshalled United back line. However, with 10 minutes left the Anfield outfit looked to have set up a grandstand finish when Mo Salah headed in off the post after a succession of corners.

Everyone expected Liverpool to throw the kitchen sink at United, although despite plenty of nerves inside Old Trafford it never really materialised and Ten Hag’s side saw the came out in relative comfort.

Speaking afterwards United manager Erik Ten Hag was delighted with his side’s effort and application after such a difficult start to the season.

“We can talk about tactical but it is all about attitude. There was communication and a fighting spirit,” Ten Hag told Sky Sports.

“I wanted a different approach and a different attitude and that is what they brought on the pitch. It is only a start. We can play with much more composure and much more danger. Be a team and have a good spirit – and that is what we saw today.

“It is not always about what I said. I said we have to act and not to talk a lot and make sure you are a team and battle and be brave and give each other options.

“It makes me happy that Rashford and Sancho got the goals. Fernandes took the responsibility and the captaincy encouraged him. He showed leadership with Varane. They made a huge difference. It is not just them; we need more leaders. When you want to win you need leaders and the spirit we showed today.

“I am happy with the performance but we have to bring it every game. Don’t just bring it against Liverpool. Every Premier League game is difficult, we need to bring it to every game. It starts, once again, with the spirit.

“I have a squad and we have to use the squad. We play 50-60 games, from game-to-game we will see what team we will pick. I don’t have to mention Maguire and Ronaldo – they are amazing players and they will play a role in the future and the short-term future as well.

“We have the right players, I am convinced of that. The window is not closed and you need numbers and also quality.”

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