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Manchester United 2-1 Liverpool ratings: Marcus Rashford and Lisandro Martinez impress while Trent Alexander-Arnold struggles

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Well, who saw that result coming? Manchester United got their Premier League campaign up and running with a 2-1 win over rivals Liverpool, who really underperformed at Old Trafford.

Jadon Sancho’s early opener was backed up by Marcus Rashford’s cool finish when one-on-one and while Mohamed Salah made Old Trafford nervous with a late consolation, Erik ten Hag got his first competitive win as United manager to see his side leapfrog the Reds in the Premier League table.
With United now off the mark and questions being pointed at Jurgen Klopp and Liverpool, Sky Sports football journalist Sam Blitz runs the rule over the players who took to the field in Monday Night Football.

MAN UNITED
David de Gea – 6
The Spanish goalkeeper may as well have sat with the supporters for the first hour – he had barely anything to do! De Gea got down well to deny substitute Fabinho and also to deny Martinez an own goal but could do little to stop Salah’s consolation.

Diogo Dalot – 6
The Portuguese full-back occasionally showed lapses in concentration but did enough to keep Luis Diaz and Co at bay. Did well not to get attracted into slide tackles while on a booking, but right-back could still be an area Ten Hag looks to improve on in the final days of the window.

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Raphael Varane – 7
The centre-back did not have the sharpest Liverpool attack to deal with, but did cover well for Dalot when Luis Diaz ventured towards the penalty area. Made some sharp tackles in the first half and remained confident while on a yellow card for most of this game. His partnership with Lisandro Martinez worked well and Harry Maguire is expected to watch on from the bench for a little longer.

Lisandro Martinez – 9
What a difference a week makes. Martinez was outfought by Brentford’s attack last week but looked a completely different player at centre-back this Monday. By fouling and shoving him, the Argentine told Mohamed Salah in the first minute that he was not one to mess with, before stopping James Milner with a crucial tackle later in the half. His clearance off line the line from Bruno Fernandes’ near-own goal was more fortunate – but showed his capability of being in the right place at the right time.

Tyrell Malacia – 8
What a game for the young full-back to make for his full United debut, but he did not look out of place as he helped keep Salah of all people quiet, nipping the ball away from his toes very smartly at times. Tough in the tackle and putting in some tricky set pieces, Malacia made it two United defensive summer signings to finally announce themselves at Old Trafford on the night.

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Scott McTominay – 8
A solid performance from the Scot – who must have been under some pressure with £70m recruit Casemiro watching from the stands. McTominay showed both a calmness in the tackle and a willingness to get forward, the highlight being a a gorgeous ball for Bruno Fernandes when Anthony Elanga hit the post. The midfielder just needs a good final ball and he can take his game to a good all-round level.

Bruno Fernandes – 7
A real captain’s performance. The Portuguese midfielder was the metronome in United’s midfield and played every pass right in the first half an hour of the game. Fernandes was thankful for Martinez being on the line to deny them an own goal, and his second-half booking simulation made it only two blots in a very fruitful night.

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Christian Eriksen – 7
The Danish midfielder looked really cool and composed alongside Fernandes – the way he kept calm and didn’t panic in the build-up to Sancho’s goal epitomised exactly that. Eriksen was also unlucky not to score from a free-kick in the first half. Moved up front late on and his influence waned but a reminder that the Dane can still play at the top level.

Jadon Sancho – 8
His best performance in a United shirt so far? Sancho popped up everywhere in the United attack and unpredictably took up multiple areas in the same way he did at Borussia Dortmund. Sancho took his goal excellently and now it’s a case of replicating these performances more consistently.

Anthony Elanga – 6
The Swedish youngster should have put United in front but only hit the post when put through on goal. Set up Sancho brilliantly for the opener and was always a problem for Alexander-Arnold – his half-time withdrawal for tactical reasons was slightly harsh.

Marcus Rashford – 9
Barging Alexander-Arnold out the way in the opening minutes of the game set the tone for an impressive display by Rashford – who led from the line impressively in the centre forward role. The Manchester United striker got himself in good areas both up front and out wide and finally put a period of poor confidence behind him by slotting home after half-time. A late mazy run in the second half – which nearly resulted in a wonder goal – shows morale is the highest it has been for a while.

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Anthony Martial (on for Elanga h/t) – 8
The Frenchman’s link-up play with Rashford and Sancho was a highlight in United’s pre-season and it was seen once again for the game’s second goal. How the striker has been missed in the opening weeks of this season and now Ten Hag has multiple options instead of Ronaldo up front.

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Fred (on for Sancho, 71) – 6
Was brought on to shore things up in midfield and Liverpool then got a foothold in the game. The Brazilian looks like he will be the one to suffer in terms of game time when Casemiro gets up to speed.

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Ronaldo (on for Rashford 86) – n/a
A late introduction – but most had forgotten he was part of the squad by the time he came on. A testament to how well his team-mates played.

Van de Beek (on for Eriksen, 86) – n/a
Didn’t do much after coming on, but the Dutchman looks very much behind the pecking order.

LIVERPOOL
Alisson Becker – 6
Absolutely not to blame for his side’s performance, even though he was outfoxed by Sancho for United’s opener and was surprisingly beaten in a one-on-one by Rashford. Made up for it by denying Eriksen and Rashford with smart saves – his defence has to do much, much better to compliment his shot stopping skills.

Trent Alexander-Arnold – 4
Not for the first time in his career – and at Old Trafford against United – Alexander-Arnold’s defensive capabilities were really questioned. The right-back could not handle both Marcus Rashford and Anthony Elanga down the left and was rightly booked for a trip on the latter. Took up decent areas in attack but kept over-hitting his passes. A night to forget.

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Alexander-Arnold really struggled on the Liverpool right
Image:
Trent Alexander-Arnold really struggled on the Liverpool right
Joe Gomez – 4
Another victim of United’s left hand side – and Gomez never really looked settled at all in this match. Repeated Nat Phillips’ mistake against Wilfried Zaha and Crystal Palace last week by playing Rashford onside for United’s second. Liverpool’s search for Virgil van Dijk’s perfect centre-back partner continues.

Virgil van Dijk – 4
It looked as if it would be another vintage Van Dijk display when he denied Rashford with a last-ditch one-on-one challenge early on – but then came United’s opener. Just what was the Dutchman doing in not closing down Sancho, who had enough time and space to slot home in the first half? Van Dijk was then nowhere to be seen for United’s second, his partnership with Gomez looked disjointed.

Andy Robertson – 5
Manchester United's Raphael Varane challenges for the ball with Liverpool's Andrew Robertson
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Manchester United’s Raphael Varane challenges for the ball with Liverpool’s Andrew Robertson
Like Alexander-Arnold, was inaccurate when he got forward and struggled to deal with Sancho, especially in the first half. HIs flank really struggled at Old Trafford and while Klopp’s use of a high line is partly to blame, the Scot did not do enough going forwards to justify it and was rightly taken off yet again late on.

Jordan Henderson – 4
The England international did not look settled in the number six role – a position he himself has claimed is not his favourite. Henderson did have more influence when he moved further forward, but it left Liverpool exposed on the counter attack. Could not get in the game so was rightly hauled off for Fabinho, who should have started.

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James Milner – 4
The midfielder spent more time bickering with Van Dijk than actually making an impact on the game. United’s midfield three danced around him at times and with almost three 90-minute displays at the start of the season, questions must surely be asked if the 36-year-old can sustain his levels at this high a level. Rightly taken off for Fabio Carvalho.

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Milner struggled against Manchester United's midfield three
Image:
James Milner struggled against Manchester United’s midfield three
Harvey Elliott – 5
The youngster took up some good areas but was another player who could not deal with United’s midfield three. Elliott had a couple of half chances at best but his inexperience showed.

Mohamed Salah – 7
Completely anonymous in a first half that rarely saw him appear on the ball. The Egyptian created a good opportunity for Henderson which the Liverpool captain wasted but then ballooned over a decent effort from a corner after the break. His goal late on was his only influential part of the game, but the Liverpool winger knows he can do so much better.

Liverpool's Mohamed Salah celebrates after scoring against Manchester United
Image:
Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah celebrates after scoring against Manchester United
Roberto Firmino – 5
The Brazilian struggled to get into the game and looked rushed back to full fitness. His air-kick in the penalty area after half-time summed up his night. Liverpool and Klopp will be wanting Darwin Nunez back as quickly as possible, as he serves his three-game ban.

Luis Diaz – 6
The Colombian showed some elegant touches and the fact he got both Dalot and Varane booked in the first half showed how dangerous he was. Diaz was well dealt with by the United defence, but the winger needs to do more to take games by the scruff of the neck if he is to replace big-game supremo Sadio Mane.

SUBS
Fabinho (on for Henderson 59) – 6
Should have scored from a corner but saw his header saved by De Gea. Liverpool did look more composed when he came on, which begs the question: why didn’t he start?

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Fabio Carvalho (on for Milner, 73) – 6
Another good addition off the bench for Klopp’s Liverpool and played a role in Salah’s goal. Carvalho did not look out of place at Old Trafford.

Tsimikas (on for Robertson, 85) – n/a
Didn’t have enough time to make an impact.

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Osimhen, Lookman snubbed for Serie A awards

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Super Eagles duo Victor Osimhen and Ademola Lookman have been snubbed for the end-of-the-season awards as neither of the two players was shortlisted by Italy’s football federation for the division’s annual MVP honours.

The Lega Serie A on Wednesday officially revealed the list of players for the end of the season awards but surprisingly, no Nigerian made the shortlists.

The current Serie A awards format which is in its sixth season has different categories which include the equivalent awards for goalkeepers, defenders, midfielders and attackers, as well as the league’s overall MVP, which will be announced directly, without a shortlist, on May 24.

For the best striker’s award, AC Milan’s Rafael Leao, Paulo Dybala of Roma and Juventus leading goalscorer Dusan Vlahovic were the three players shortlisted meaning there was no space for last season winner Osimhen.

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Last year, the Striker of the Year prize was handed to the division’s top goalscorer Osimhen, who was pipped to the overall MVP award by his teammate Khvicha Kvaratskhelia.

While he was not as prolific as he was last term when he finished as the Serie A top scorer with 26 goals, Osimhen still boasts of decent numbers considering how much Napoli have struggled.

He has 15 goals and three assists in 24 appearances in the Italian league and ended the season as Napoli’s best player.

Despite having his best season ever, Lookman was overlooked as Atalanta playmaker-in-chief Teun Koopmeiners, Scudetto winner Hakan Calhanoglu and Milan wide-man Christian Pulisic were listed for the best midfielder award.

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The former Leicester City forward has 15 goal contributions in 29 league games while also guiding Atalanta to the finals of the Italian Cup and Europa League.

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The Lega Serie A three-man shortlist for the Defender of the Year prize includes Inter Milan’s Alessandro Bastoni, as well as Juventus and Bologna centre-backs Gleison Bremer and Riccardo Calafiori.

Juventus stopper Wojciech Szczesny, Monza’s Michele Di Gregorio and Marco Carnesecchi of Atalanta will all vie for the best goalkeeper award.

Frosinone’s Juventus loanee Matias Soule, Torino wing-back Raoul Bellanova and Bologna leading goalscorer Joshua Zirkzee are the players listed for the Young Player of the Year prize.

According to Serie A, the awards are based on several different metrics, including stats recorded from tracking data and the ‘scientifically validated’ player rating system, which measures players’ in-game impact, movement and decision-making.

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BREAKING: Liverpool name Arne Slot new coach

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Liverpool Football Club has announced that Arne Slot has agreed to become the club’s new head coach.

The club disclosed that Slot will resume duty on January 1 after a work permit.

This was disclosed in a statement on the club’s website on Monday.

“Liverpool Football Club can announce Arne Slot has agreed a deal to become the club’s new head coach, formally taking up the position on June 1, 2024, subject to a work permit.

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“The 45-year-old will join the Reds from Feyenoord ahead of the 2024-25 season after a deal was reached with the Eredivisie club for his services,” it read.

Slot will replace Jürgen Klopp at the helm following his decision to step down from the post at the end of the current campaign.

Klopp had announced his decision to leave in January.

“The Netherlands-born coach will arrive after three highly successful seasons with Feyenoord, during which he led them to the league title in 2023 and was named Eredivisie Manager of the Year on two occasions.

“More recently, he helped the Rotterdam club to victory in the KNVB Cup in April after they defeated NEC Nijmegen 1-0 in the final.

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“Before moving to Feyenoord, Slot held the position of AZ Alkmaar head coach, and he had led them to second place in the table, trailing leaders Ajax only on goal difference, when the Dutch season was cancelled due to COVID-19 in 2019-20.

“During his playing career, he operated primarily as a midfielder, turning out for FC Zwolle, NAC Breda, Sparta Rotterdam and PEC Zwolle before hanging up his boots in 2013,” it further read.

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He will now soon become the first head coach of Liverpool FC from the Netherlands – with his first pre-season in charge of the squad set to get underway in July.

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NFF promises Eagles coach Finidi house, car after unveiling

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President of the Nigeria Football Federation, Ibrahim Gusau, has assured that newly appointed Super Eagles coach, Finidi George, will be provided with a house in the area of his choice and a driver to ensure smooth operation of his job, Theheute reports.

Gusau made these promises during the official unveiling of Finidi as Eagles coach on Monday where his assistants were also revealed.

After serving as an assistant to Portuguese coach, Jose Peseiro, Finidi was appointed as the substantive coach of the Eagles last month, beating the likes of Emmanuel Amuneke, U.S. men’s U-19 coach Michael Nsien, among other candidates to the job.

The 56-year-old will work with ex-international Daniel Amokachi and Benjamin James as assistants, Olatunji Baruwa as goalkeepers’ trainer, while Chima Onyeike will serve as fitness trainer and Turk Mehmet Ozturk as match analyst.

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Speaking at the brief ceremony in Abuja, Gusau said Finidi would be provided with a house and a driver while assuring that his salaries would be paid regularly.

“We want to avoid any issues of having conflicts in the area of paying coaches, for the coach we are going to arrange how we will be paying on a monthly basis but for every other assistant, we are engaging them on an invitational basis,” he said.

“We are going to engage them on an invitational basis, once we invite them for a match, qualifiers, or tournament; we give them whatever they are entitled to, including other allowances that the team is entitled to. Whatever the team is entitled to at any point in time, that is what the assistant coaches are entitled to and we will also agree on certain amounts that we are going to agree on to pay them whenever they come for matches or tournaments. We just want to avoid issues of having a crisis in the payment of salaries.

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“I want to assure Nigerians that we will do our best to make sure we support Finidi and give him whatever he needs to work and his salary will not be a problem because we will do our best to support him.

“Right now, as part of his contract, we must get him a comfortable house where he will stay in Nigeria which is in process and we will give him the privilege to agree on where he wants it, we will provide him transportation, he has a car already and we will provide him a driver. We just want Nigerians to support us in prayer.”

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The first task ahead of the former Ajax man is the World Cup qualifiers against South Africa and Benin Republic next month.

With his first real test less than a month away, the ex-international says his target is to qualify the Eagles for the 2026 World Cup.

“If you get to see my contract, it’s boldly written there what the NFF wants. But personally, my first target is to reach the 2026 World Cup and AFCON qualifiers will be coming up soon. But the major one are these two games we have which are against South Africa and Benin Republic. From there we will set the tone and take it from there,” Finidi said.

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