It was a night to forget for Manchester United as they were outclassed during the 2-0 defeat to Liverpool in the first-leg of their Europa League last-16 tie. Daniel Sturridge converted from the penalty spot on 20 minutes, and the hosts would have doubled their lead if it wasn’t for David De Gea, who produced some magnificent saves.
United failed to ignite in the second half as Roberto Firmino scored a decisive second on 73 minutes to put Liverpool in control of the tie.
United looked to put their surprise defeat to West Bromwich Albion last Sunday behind them, as they searched for a result to take back to Old Trafford next Thursday.
The Red Devils may well have gone ahead inside 30 seconds, a ball into the box was missed by Alberto Moreno, but Marcus Rashford failed to take advantage as he missed the target completely.
Intense pressure was being put on a United side, that looked like they were set up to sit off from their opposition, and Liverpool were unlucky not to go ahead in the opening 20 minutes.
However, the pressure finally took its toll and Sturridge put the home side ahead from the spot after Memphis Depay put his arm on Nathaniel Clyne’s shoulder inside the area.
The forward made no mistake with the penalty, putting it just out of the reach of De Gea, who went on to keep his side in the game.
Philipe Coutinho found himself in a perfect position to slide Sturridge’s cross home first time soon after, but De Gea produced a magnificent save to scoop the effort away from danger.
Chris Smalling’s blushes were spared by the Spaniard on 31 minutes when the defender slipped and De Gea saved well from Sturridge’s strike.
Adam Lallana was added to the list of players to have been denied by De Gea in the game as another immense save was produced from point-blank range to keep the hosts at bay.
The home side will have felt unlucky not to be ahead by more at the break and Michael Carrick replaced Rashford as van Gaal changed their formation around completely.
An excellent spell of possession saw United have their first shot on target in the game on 51 minutes, but Morgan Schneiderlin struck straight at Simon Mignolet.
De Gea leapt to deny Coutinho, who tried his luck from range, before the visitors produced their best move of the match, but a neat ball from Memphis to Martial wasn’t controlled and the danger was cleared.
Clyne thumped an effort at goal, which was parried away from the keeper, but United’s luck ran out on 73 minutes as the hosts lead was doubled.
Lallana was on hand to scoop up a poor attempt by Carrick to clear the danger, and the midfielder kept his composure and found Firmino, who fired first time past a helpless De Gea.
Louis van Gaal’s side were getting bodies forward in the closing 15 minutes, but they lacked the killer pass in the final third.
Marouane Fellani headed wide of the post from Bastian Schweinsteiger’s cross and Daley Blind couldn’t escape his marker as he looked to turn his marker.
United have it all to do going into the second-leg next week, and if it wasn’t for De Gea, things may have been embarrassing on the night.