3 takeaways from Liverpool's destruction of uninspiring United

Everybody saw it coming.

Liverpool's press dizzied and squeezed Manchester United into submission on Sunday, with a second-half brace from Xherdan Shaqiri belatedly putting the hosts out of sight.

The stats for Jose Mourinho's outfit are damning. Liverpool fired 36 shots, United attempted just six. Liverpool created 21 chances, United fashioned only five. A 3-1 scoreline doesn't adequately display the dominance Liverpool had over their great northwest rivals.

Sadio Mane made the breakthrough when he controlled and finished after a fine Fabinho pass, but United leveled against the run of play when Alisson spilled at the feet of a grateful Jesse Lingard. The attacking impetus from the visitors was non-existent, though, and Shaqiri put them to the sword with two deflected efforts from the bench.

Here are three takeaways from a result that sent Liverpool back to the top of the Premier League, and left United nine points adrift of fourth place:

Mourinho's backline is indefensibly bad

Peter Byrne - PA Images / PA Images / Getty

One thing you could always bank on from a Mourinho side was defensive organization. The previous two results the Portuguese had overseen at Anfield ended in 0-0; he delights in his team shutting down opponents, especially celebrated ensembles like Mane, Mohamed Salah, and Roberto Firmino.

But United were cowed by Liverpool's early onslaught, defending narrowly, untidily, and extremely deep. The backline's reluctance to step up granted the likes of Reds midfielder Fabinho the space to shoot through the congestion and, on 24 minutes, lift an offering to Mane which was tamed and stylishly steered past David De Gea.

More sympathetic viewers will cite Eric Bailly's late call into the lineup after Chris Smalling was injured in the warmup and Matteo Darmian starting in an unfamiliar central role as potentially unsettling Mourinho's side. That argument is swiftly punctured, however, by United now playing seven consecutive away matches without a clean sheet - their worst run since 2013 - and, most startlingly, conceding more goals through 17 games this season (29) than they did over the whole of last term (28). This wasn't a one-off.

And the extent of Mourinho's ambition was made clear by the substitution of Diogo Dalot at halftime - he was the likeliest link between the defense and attack - for another midfield bruiser in Marouane Fellaini.

Mourinho's squad is still built primarily to defend, but it's no longer good at it.

Shaqiri has given Liverpool a Plan B


Shaqiri was Stoke City's best player, but consistency was an issue and he had previously flopped at Bayern Munich and Inter. His summer arrival at Liverpool, then, was widely viewed as a gamble, even though he was brought in for a bargain £13-million fee.

Those who questioned the deal have been silenced by Shaqiri playing an influential role in the opening half of Liverpool's season. The most important element the 27-year-old has provided is variety. Rather than deploying a 4-3-3 in the majority of games like last season, Klopp has been able to shape 4-2-3-1 and 4-4-2 formations from the start of or during matches. Those systems regularly see Salah shifted more centrally, with Shaqiri often floating around behind him.

He's hard to detect, as United experienced in Sunday's clash. Yes, both of his goals were helped by deflections, but his movement was exemplary. For Shaqiri's first goal, his late arrival into the box was Frank Lampard-esque, and he put the result beyond doubt seven minutes later when he drifted behind Lingard before hacking at a loose ball that missed its intended target, Salah.

Daniel Sturridge's injury problems and poor comprehension of Klopp's tactics have always made him an unreliable deputy, and Divock Origi, despite his recent Merseyside derby heroics, lacks the quality to be a regular option. Signing Shaqiri has not only addressed that weakness in the squad, but it has freshened up an attack that was already one of the best in Europe.

Pogba will likely lose power struggle with Mourinho

Clive Brunskill / Getty Images Sport / Getty

If anyone in Mourinho's ranks fits the cliche "big-game player," it is World Cup winner Paul Pogba. He was an unused substitute at Anfield.

The Frenchman brings creativity, attacking nous, and leadership to the midfield - attributes clearly not high on Mourinho's priorities as he habitually turns to obedient cogs like Fellaini, Nemanja Matic, and Ander Herrera.

When Mourinho was asked post-match if he considered playing Pogba in Liverpool, he bluntly replied, "No."

The Mourinho-Pogba power struggle now looks to have a clear winner. There are too many comfortable people in the Manchester United boardroom, and Mourinho seems to have strengthened his position by aligning himself with them.

The owners are quite happy to pull a generous annual dividend out of the club, and have Ed Woodward - the man who help broker their controversial takeover of United - run it spectacularly badly. Profitability, not on-pitch performance, is the most important thing for the Glazer family, and Woodward is the man that made the Old Trafford cash grab possible.

So Woodward appears to be safe, and the patience he has afforded Mourinho suggests the manager is, too. Mourinho wouldn't bench and publicly denigrate Pogba if he didn't believe he was in a stronger position. Unless there is an impasse between Mourinho and Pogba soon, the latter must leave for somewhere where he is appreciated.

3 takeaways from Liverpool's destruction of uninspiring United
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