The loss continued Liverpool’s early season woes and marked the first time that it has failed to win at least one of its opening three games during manager Jurgen Klopp’s tenure at the club.
“We have no issue,” Klopp said, according to the Guardian. “We are in a tricky situation, injury-wise, we got through the week with 14, 15 senior players available and now have to make sure they don’t get injured.
“We should have won this game, I know it sounds ridiculous, but that is how I saw it.”
The build-up to the match began under a cloud of protests and smoke flares organized by Manchester United fans against the Glazer family who have become increasingly unpopular owners over the last few years as the club’s fortunes have nosedived.
“There is a need for answers and a need of change in some way – the main one that all fans want and clearly focus is on results,” former Manchester United striker Louis Saha told CNN Sport’s Amanda Davies.
“If tomorrow you have all those kinds of results like [Monday] consistently, no one talks about the owners, no one. So it’s, it’s about how to make this club successful again, winning trophies.”
The Red Devils had started the weekend bottom of the table – following a humbling 4-0 defeat to Brentford and 2-1 loss at home to Brighton – increasing the pressure on a club beleaguered by years of failing to match expectations.
In response, manager Erik ten Hag – already under pressure after just three games in charge – dropped captain Harry Maguire and Cristiano Ronaldo ahead of the Liverpool clash.
“The impact… is like no one is guaranteed a place in Manchester United,” Saha added. “No one should think that, whatever has happened, whatever the status you have, you should be starting for sure.
“I really like the notion that to still be part of the side, you have to have a humility and saying, ‘Okay, today is not my day, but I will contribute whatever is like today in these games or maybe in a week’ because it’s a long season and anyone has to understand that the manager has to decide who is going to be performing today.”
Without Maguire and Ronaldo, United began brightly, playing at a fast tempo and engineering an opportunity after just four minutes as Marcus Rashford outstripped Virgil van Dijk but could not get his shot past the Liverpool defender.
Six minutes later, the Red Devils had another chance as Anthony Elanga’s shot ricocheted off the post, and the home crowd responded to its team with increasing enthusiasm.
Despite these early shocks, Liverpool still struggled to find any rhythm and was punished on 16 minutes as Jadon Sancho controlled the ball with a couple of cool touches in the box, foiling the Reds’ defense before firing it into the back of the net.
It continued Liverpool’s unfortunate habit of conceding first, as the club has now done for seven successive league games for the first time in the Premier League era.
“We give every team a goal start,” said Liverpool full-back Andy Robertson, according to the BBC. “We can’t give ourselves an uphill battle. That is what needs to change.
“In the warmup, it was the quietest I have heard this stadium and they wanted something to lift them and we gave them it.”
Nine minutes later, the decibel meter inside Old Trafford crept up again as Christian Eriksen almost curled the ball into the top right-hand corner of the goal from a free kick, stopped only by the outstretched fingertips of Liverpool goalkeeper Alisson Becker.
Liverpool at last began to string some phases and only some desperate United defense from Bruno Fernandes and Lisandro Martínez in the scrum after a corner prevented an equalizer before halftime.
‘All about attitude’
The Reds seemed buoyed after the break, but it was United who struck the first blow of the second half as Anthony Martial capitalized on a loose ball in midfield and found an open Rashford who streaked away to score his first goal in 997 minutes of play for United.
Another spectacular save by Alisson two minutes later staunched the tide somewhat, but Liverpool’s frustration was evident by the sight of Milner and Van Dijk shouting at each other throughout the half.
It was an utterly different side to the one that had labored against Brighton and Brentford in the first two games of the season.
“It’s all down to mindset… you have to have that ambition, the fighting spirit element is the base if you want to maintain this kind of quality through the season,” Saha said.
“It doesn’t matter how much talent you have or how much transfer market budget you have, the starting point is there and I think that’s what the difference was yesterday and it was brilliant to watch from the first minute to the last.”
With eight minutes remaining, the Reds finally pulled a goal back as Mo Salah headed in from close range after United had failed to clear a corner.
Salah’s goal set up a tense finish, but Manchester United held on to claim its first win of the season and the first of manager Erik ten Hag’s tenure.
“We can talk about technical, but it’s all about attitude. Now, you see we bring the attitude,” Ten Hag said afterwards, according to the Guardian.
“There was communication, there was a fighting spirit and, especially, there was a team, and you can see what they can achieve. Because they can f**king play good football.”
Liverpool, a team 15 minutes away from winning the Premier League last season, now sits 16th on the table with just two points from its opening three matches.
“Two points from nine is not the start we wanted,” Robertson added, according to the BBC. “We need to pick up our performances individually and collectively.”