Manchester United lost 7-0 to Liverpool on Sunday — this is what happened next

Manchester United lost 7-0 to Liverpool on Sunday — this is what happened next
Video manchester united lose to liverpool

It has been just over three days since Manchester United’s 7-0 thrashing by Liverpool at Anfield, but the reverberations of that historic defeat are still being felt at Old Trafford.

Erik ten Hag’s side return to action tonight in the Europa League against Real Betis, hoping there will be no long-lasting effects from that afternoon on Merseyside. The past 72 hours have, however, been an ordeal for all connected to the club.

The weekend had started so positively. Several players had been following Arsenal’s match against Bournemouth on Saturday from their homes and sent each other encouraging messages as Mikel Arteta’s team went 2-0 down, speculating that a shock defeat for the north Londoners could create an opening for United to re-enter the title race.

Arsenal, of course, turned their game around and won courtesy of a dramatic goal deep into injury time, meaning United had already been dealt a psychological blow before they even travelled to Liverpool.

United players knew they had to beat Jurgen Klopp’s side to stand any chance of maintaining hopes of an unlikely title challenge and sources close to the club — speaking to The Athletic on condition of anonymity to protect their relationships — have theorised that the emotional tumult of the previous day contributed to the second-half collapse at Anfield. The hope that had flared on Saturday at around 4pm had certainly been snuffed out just over 24 hours later.

After the final whistle, the United dressing room was silent, so much so the celebrations of Liverpool’s players could be heard booming through the walls.

The next morning, United players reported to Carrington at 9am and Ten Hag led a full and frank video session to go through all the mistakes. Everybody was entitled to air their views in an attempt to ensure the same faults do not happen again.

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Ten Hag, his staff and the players — who trained in a snowy Manchester yesterday ahead of the Betis game – were furious at Sunday’s events, which the Dutchman had branded “unprofessional”, but they do not want to let that emotion derail their season.

There will, however, have been concern at how anxiety levels seemed to rise when Liverpool went 2-0 up shortly into the second half. The way Ten Hag’s players gifted the rest of the goals smacked of a team struggling to come to terms with a defeat that was fatal to title aspirations, just as the momentum of positive results had begun to inspire belief.

Ten Hag said he saw “11 individuals losing their heads” in the immediate aftermath of the humiliation and on Wednesday, before United’s Europa League tie, he expanded on that point.

“They reflected well, we know in a season setbacks will always be there,” he said. “This was a huge setback, that’s clear, but you had a run, 23 games with one loss, this was the second. Of course, there were a lot of lessons in it and that can help us in the future, that’s the positive.

“We were really below average, especially mentally wise. We want to be a big team, we want to win trophies, then you have to act differently. On Sunday we got a big lesson, we take that and now we have to move on and look forward. That’s the way we treated it, now all the energy, all the focus, has to be on the next game.”

An inference from Ten Hag’s words is that United’s players believed they were ready to push for the Premier League but fractured under the pressure.

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A source close to the players, also speaking to The Athletic on condition of anonymity, felt fundamental truths showed themselves at Anfield. “We got bullied, every 50-50 they won,” they said. “It was useful in some respects, people think we’re the finished article — we’re not.”

Marcus Rashford, for his part, rejected the accusation United players had given up and said instead that, spurred by the faith of a comeback, too many did their own thing.

“We didn’t give up, that’s nonsense,” Rashford said. “We were unorganised, communication was bad, that’s why we conceded the goals. But it comes down to the fact I believe everyone was trying to get back into the game so much that we came away from the team’s principles in and out of possession.

“I felt like the forwards were trying to press as just the forward unit, we weren’t connected with the midfield, then the same with the midfield and the defence. We were trying to get a grip of the game when it was 2-0 and 3-0, we were talking but I don’t think we were really in agreement on what to do.”

One factor which did not seem to help on Sunday was a lack of experience with what it is like to be a Manchester United player cast into the Anfield cauldron.

Wout Weghorst, signed on loan as a short-term answer to a long-term problem at centre-forward but who has started all 14 games since joining, was making his first appearance at the stadium on Sunday. His touching of the famous ‘This is Anfield’ sign that hangs over the tunnel provoked a backlash from angry United fans on social media and possibly smacked of naivety — he later insisted he had been attempting to rile his international colleague Virgil van Dijk, who makes a habit of touching the sign before every game.

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Weghorst was not alone in being an Anfield rookie. Antony, Lisandro Martinez and even Casemiro had all played once before at the ground but made their appearances during the pandemic when supporters were not permitted. Sunday’s febrile atmosphere will have come as a shock.

It means there were precious few players who could draw on knowledge of how to guide the team through the particular environment of an enlivened Anfield crowd and a Klopp team whirring with conviction.

Even Bruno Fernandes had only played once before at the stadium in front of a full capacity, the 4-0 defeat in April 2022. The experience of history repeating itself appeared to trigger a sharp frustration in United’s captain, whose display has been widely criticised in the aftermath. Ten Hag reaffirmed his commitment to keeping Fernandes as his team captain on Wednesday.

United have at least responded effectively to bad defeats this season. After losing 4-0 to Brentford, they won four games in a row. After being hit for six by Manchester City, they went undefeated for the next nine, winning seven. After being beaten 3-1 at Aston Villa, they won nine on the bounce. The 3-2 loss at Arsenal triggered a sequence of nine wins from 11, including progress past Barcelona and the Carabao Cup success.

Rashford thinks the Real Betis game offers an immediate remedy to the Liverpool trauma. “Listen, it’s happened, the only thing we can do is can learn from it and move on,” he said. “I’m happy and grateful we have another game so quickly because we have an opportunity to take a step forward.”

(Top photos: Getty Images)