By Andrew Embling
- Rooney missed the game after feeling his hamstring in training on Friday
- De Gea return after signing his new contract on Friday
- Martial announced himself to the Old Trafford faithful
Venue: Old Trafford Attendance: 75,347
Manchester United made it three wins out of three against there North-West with a 3-1 win at Old Trafford.
Anthony Martial had a debut to remember as he helped Manchester United to a 3-1 win over Liverpool. Second half goals from Daley Blind, Ander Herrera and Martial proved enough to help United back to winning ways, despite Christian Benteke’s acrobatic volley for the visitors.
Louis Van Gaal recalled star goalkeeper David de Gea for the first time this season, but was without captain Wayne Rooney, who was unavailable with a hamstring injury. It meant the United boss was forced to use Marouane Fellaini as a makeshift centre forward as new boy Martial made the bench.
In what was a poor first half, Liverpool almost gifted United an opener as Mignolet’s attempted pass was intercepted by Mata, but Fellaini could only fire high over the bar. Brendan Rodgers defence was all over the place, giving the ball away near goal and allowing United onto the front foot.
United were enjoying the lion’s share of possession, but chances were at a premium as neither side could find a cutting edge. Only once did United get behind the Liverpool back line when Carrick fed Darmian down the right, but nobody in red was able to find a finishing touch to his centre.
At the other end Liverpool had absolutely nothing to offer in attack, with Clyne’s wayward effort the only attempt of note from the away side. It highlighted the dull nature of the game that Emre Can’s poorly directed back pass, which left Mignolet hurrying back towards his goal, was one of the most exciting moments in a tepid and slow first 45 minutes.
The second half surely couldn’t be as bad as the opening stanza and it duly delivered. Van Gaal replaced Memphis with Young at the break and the England man made an immediate impact as he forced Clyne into a foul on the left of the Liverpool penalty area.
Liverpool were sleeping as Mata picked out Blind at the back of the box, the Dutchman fired unerringly into the top corner to give United the lead. Suddenly United were awake, Skrtel desperately stretching to turn away Mata’s attempt to find Herrera beyond the Liverpool defence.
United were playing with far more urgency following the goal, but sloppy play by the home side almost let Liverpool in, but for the presence of mind of Chris Smalling. Liverpool were finally finding a threat and De Gea did well to turn away a mis-hit volley from Ings.
Rodgers side should have levelled as Skrtel’s header hit Ings close in only for Blind to clear brilliantly off the line, whilst Firmino was unable to turn the loose ball in at the far post. Martial came on for his debut, but it was Ander Herrera who made the next headline with 20 minutes to go as he was felled by Gomez in the box.
The Spaniard picked himself up to dispatch an emphatic penalty into the roof of the net to give United a two goal advantage. Benteke summed up Liverpool’s disjointed performance in attack as he headed well off target as United continued to control proceedings.
Ibe cut inside Shaw to curl an effort towards goal only to see De Gea turn it away with a strong hand, but the United keeper could do nothing about Benteke’s acrobatic volley with six minutes remaining as Liverpool gave themselves a lifeline.
Then came Martial’s moment as he collected Young’s pass and turned knots in the Liverpool defence, weaving his way into the box before finding the far corner of the net. It was a brilliant way to introduce himself to the Old Trafford faithful as he put the result beyond doubt.
United move up to second in the table and can now focus on the return of the Champions League proper on Tuesday night.
Manchester United: De Gea, Darmian, Smalling, Blind, Shaw, Carrick (Schneiderlin 71), Schweinsteiger, Mata (Martial 65), Herrera, Memphis (Young 46), Fellaini
Our Man of The Match: Blind