Reds overcome United mental block

Liverpool's first league win over Manchester United since 2013 outlines a huge improvement in their mentality this season
Dan Thomas  |  18th December 2018

Enjoy it, Reds. It has been the best part of five years since we triumphed over Manchester United in the Premier League.

Our 3-1 victory was critical to our season for not just the obvious reason of going back to the top of the table, but because we now know that we can beat our rivals down the East Lancashire Road.

In that painful four and a half years, we’ve had only the crumb of comfort of a thumping 2-0 win in the first leg of a Europa League round of 16 tie. In fact, since a Steven Gerrard inspired Liverpool won 3-0 at Old Trafford in 2014, we’ve gone 9 games on the spin against United without a win in domestic competitions. That is a long run in a tie we have traditionally fared well in.

Xherdan Shaqiri to score & Liverpool to win (v Wolves) – 3.75*

It isn’t just United where the struggles lie, their manager has historically been very good at upsetting our rhythm. In years gone by, Jose Mourinho’s bus has parked on the edge of our 18 yard line and we have struggled to get around it.

But you got that feeling on Sunday that no matter what Mourinho tried, it wasn’t going to be enough to stop us on this occasion.

For the past two seasons, we’ve had the pants bored off us by a United team set up to stop us playing and nothing else. It has been an endurance and very, very frustrating to watch.

This is a different Liverpool, a Liverpool that is multifunctional. A Liverpool that knows how to win games in different ways and a Liverpool that can play within itself in order to stifle a match as well as blow the opposition away with a flurry of goals.

With a squad built to match the alternative approaches we can now take to win a game, we were ready for Mourinho’s masterplan of playing as many holding midfielders as possible.

We started with Keita, who played well but faded as the game went on. When his batteries had drained, we summoned Xherdan Shaqiri who would of course go on to make the vital contributions. We have different weapons in our arsenal now, and it has played a huge part in us making the leap and finally getting over this mental block we’ve had against our visitors.

Liverpool to win & BTTS (vs Wolves) – 3.60*

All too often in recent years, we have turned up at Old Trafford, or the opposite fixture, and failed to live up to the expectations we’ve set for ourselves. The result last season, when we were in fine form both before and after a 2-1 loss at Castle Greyskull, is a perfect example of the mental block.

We had all the tools to win that game against an organised but unspectacular United team but we were poor and needed a pretty hilarious own goal to get back into the match after a first half Marcus Rashford double. It was not a half time scoreline we ever looked like overturning.

Even in the game yesterday, we showed how different we are these days as we brushed aside their poxy goal to win the game. In years gone by, we would have been badly affected by Alisson’s poor error that gifted an undeserved equaliser to Jesse Lingard. It was deeply frustrating but as good teams do, we responded well to the goal and kept to our principles. In years gone by, we’d have drawn the game or even found a way to go on and lose it.

The mess that United are currently in isn’t our problem, but it makes the juxtaposition of both teams all the more stark. Liverpool are a team with players and a manager on an upward trend with a solid recruitment and scouting strategy all moving in the same direction. The direct opposite then of what is happening down the M62.

And now we have finally gotten around to proving this on the pitch.

There is no reason to fear anything that Manchester United can currently throw at us.

Their manager refuses to go toe to toe with us because they can’t match us. To his credit, that was something that Mourinho ceded after the game with almost suspicious amounts of grace.

Liverpool to win next 3 PL matches (Wolves, Newcastle, Arsenal) – 3.25*

There is so much more that we need to do in order to go on and win the big trophies we crave, but getting over this mental block of Mourinho and United is a huge moment in what is proving so far to be a huge season.

*Odds are subject to change.

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