With week 30 of the Premier League season, we mark the final stretch of games, that in past years has been home to some of the most fiercely contested title races ever. Races such as Blackburn Rovers beating out Manchester United by a point in 1995, and United capitalizing on an imploding Liverpool in 2009.
This year is a bit different, with Manchester City just a few more games away from lifting their first title since 2014. Because of this, the remaining weeks of the season don’t seem to have the same glamour attached to them as previous seasons have, but you have to hand it to Manchester City for bulldozing any team in their path (apart from Liverpool).
Because of the lack of a title race, the real excitement has unfurled one position below in the fight for second place, where Manchester United this week took a stronghold of the position by beating Liverpool 2-1.
Pundits often throw around the “tactical masterclass” analogy when talking about the top six clubs, but in this game Jose Mourinho got everything right. From kick off he had Liverpool’s front three of Salah, Firmino and Mane covered and Liverpool simply found no way through for the entire game.
The one goal that Liverpool did score came from a poor Eric Bailly clearance as he dispatched on in to his own net, making the final 30 minutes a lot tenser than the first 60.
Marcus Rashford proved doubters wrong in scoring both United goals and also helped Mourinho after the manager came in for some criticism for apparently not playing Marcus Rashford enough. Statistics apparently went out of the window when those claims were made, as Rashford has played more games under Jose Mourinho than any other player at Manchester United, with 93 games under his belt.
David De Gea is second to Rashford with 81.
Both Rashford goals were relatively “route one football” but Rashford showed incredible composure for a youngster, especially after coming off a few weeks of poor performances that had cost him his place in the starting lineup.
Mourinho exploited Liverpool’s young right-back Trent Alexander-Arnold by pushing the speedy Rashford on him at all times, and eventually the defender received a yellow card and was later replaced after having a poor game.
Scott McTominay was another young player that excelled in the Manchester United midfield, retaining possession whenever he was required to and taking the sting out of the game when it looked like Liverpool were trying to get back in to it.
It’s hard to believe that this season is McTominay’s first senior season with Manchester United, with the youngster making 19 appearances so far and looking quite comfortable in every single one. It could solve the problem arising at United with a couple contract expiring in the summer (notably Marouane Fellaini), and some deadweight presumably being shipped off. Players such as Phil Jones, Chris Smalling and Matteo Darmian have been discussed by some journalists as being surplus to requirements at the club once replacements have been lined up.
Liverpool probably won’t have too many complaints about the game, despite some online and on football phone-ins claiming that the refereeing was not up to the standard of a derby game like that.
Put simply, Jurgen Klopp and his team were beaten before they even stepped on to the pitch, and they had no answers to the game that Mourinho and United played. Of course, it’s never easy to go to Old Trafford and get any kind of result, but Liverpool will mostly likely be quickly putting this one behind them and moving forward, seeing this as nothing more than a blip on the radar in their fight for Champions League qualification.
Manchester United have a big game in the FA Cup quarter finals at the weekend against Brighton after crashing out of the Champions League during the week, followed by games against Swansea, Manchester City and West Brom as they look to secure the 2nd spot in the Premier League.
Liverpool will face Watford, Crystal Palace and Everton in their next three games as they now find themselves five points behind United. They also have to play Chelsea in their run in to the end of the season, so will have to quickly return to top form if they’re going to catch United up.
Week 31 of the Premier League is a bit of a weird one, with only four games being contested over the course of the weekend. This is of course because of the FA Cup quarter finals, but for the teams that are no longer included (including Liverpool), they’ll get a chance to play their 31st league game of the season, leaving others to catch up after the international break.
Week 32 will return on March 31st for a full weekend of action, but we’ll be back next week to discuss a short Week 31.
Ryan Oldham is a Manchester native and a lifelong supporter of Manchester United. He knows far more about English Premier League football than you do, and therefore was selected to write a weekly update on the most popular professional sports league in the world. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org
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