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Sports

Liverpool sideline Manchester United to regain lead of Premier League

media Jurgen Klopp steered Liverpool to their first win over Manchester United for four years. Reuters/Jason Cairnduff

Ask any of his former players and they'll all recount Alex Ferguson's way with words. When the former Manchester United manager first saw a 13-year-old Ryan Giggs playing, he said: "He floated over the ground like a cocker spaniel chasing a piece of silver paper in the wind."

Giggs went on to become the most trophied players in the history of English football before he retired in 2014. On the nailbiting race for the 2003 title, he said: "It's getting tickly now – squeaky-bum time, I call it."

And before a match against one of the notoriously flaky Tottenham Hotspur sides of the 1990s, Ferguson's team talk was: "Lad's it's Tottenham."

Fast forward a couple of decades and, following United's 3-1 defeat at Liverpool on Sunday, Ferguson's views on Tottenham could be applied to the United of today.

Manchester United had not lost to Liverpool in the Premier League for eight games and over four years before the setback at Anfield. But after five defeats and five draws, United are 19 points behind the Merseysiders who returned to the summit of the Premier League, one point ahead of Manchester City.

Liverpool ascendance

United, who were dominated throughout the match, appeared on the verge of salvaging a draw from the encounter after Jesse Lindgard had cancelled out Sadio Mané's opener for Liverpool.

But Switzerland international Xherdan Shaqiri struck twice in the last 17 minutes to seal United's fate. Feasting such pre-Christmas cheer, the home faithful sang: "Don't sack Mourinho".

After conceding the title 17 games into the season, something inconceivable during Ferguson's pomp, United boss Jose Mourinho targeted a finish in the top four even though they are 11 points adrift of Chelsea who occupy that slot.

"Not one of the United midfielders can pass a football," said former United captain Gary Neville on Sky Sports. "Not one of them. I find it staggering. United were awful."

"If you came down from the moon and knew nothing about football you'd say United are an average Premier League side," said another former United captain Roy Keane. "They are Manchester United of the 1980s, they can be a decent cup team."

Despite the defeat, Mourinho refused to blame his men. "The players gave everything and when they give everything I'm never upset with them," he said. "I have a good feeling towards them. They play in relation to their qualities, the same way the opponent played in relation to their qualities.

"Liverpool are fast, intense, aggressive, physical, they play 200 miles per hour with the ball and without the ball," he added.

While both sides are poles apart in the Premier League, they are level in the Uefa Champions League where both will be in Monday's draw for the last 16. Liverpool progressed to the knockout stages of European football's most prestigious club competition behind Paris Saint-Germain from Group C. Manchester United were runners-up in Group F.

 

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