Liverpool smash United in friendly

 Liverpool players celebrating one of their goals against United on Saturday

Liverpool players celebrating one of their goals against United on Saturday

This will sting, be absolutely clear. Jose Mourinho might have said this game meant “nothing” but his subsequent behaviour and comments suggested differently.

Having cut such a surly figure on what has been such a charmless tour of the United States, Mourinho had no answers as Liverpool ran all over Manchester United, thrashing their bitter rivals 4-1 in front of a remarkable 101,254 crowd at the second biggest sports stadium in the world.

Liverpool, whose preparations for the new campaign have been so smooth, ran amok in the second half, inflicting the kind of ‘beautiful defeat’ Mourinho had been anticipating, with Daniel Sturridge and new signing Xherdan Shaqiri particularly instrumental.

Both of those men scored — Shaqiri’s was a glorious overhead kick — while Sadio Mane (in the first half) and Sheyi Ojo converted penalties. Mourinho, a waspish figure on the touchline, saw Andreas Pereira crash in a terrific free-kick but had nothing else to enjoy.

Mourinho, as is his way, dropped one of those little hand grenades before the game. Asked what he expected, the Portuguese replied that it was “Liverpool’s first team to beat Manchester United’s kids; for the last two years they have not been able to beat us.”

Everything Mourinho says is for a reason and the reference to the youth of the side with which he started was another indication that he is not happy with the depth of his squad, 11 days before the transfer window closes.

Those ‘kids’, though, made a bright start. This might have been a friendly but the early tackles were firm and there was certainly an edge, particularly when Andreas Pereira became involved in a shoving match with James Milner. Juan Mata, meanwhile, showed glimpses of his undisputed class.

Liverpool, however, were consistently the better side. The most dangerous moments came when Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane were working quickly in tandem, playing the kind of passes that United’s defenders turning hastily on their heels.

“We are just trying to play these matches the best we can, and I think the boys did very well until the gasoline went,’ Mourinho argued. ‘When it went, it was goodbye. Liverpool had the majority of their players, and they rotated their players. So what did this game give me? Nothing at all.”

In a five-minute flurry, Salah’s back header forced Lee Grant to make a superb fingertip save, Virgil Van Dijk’s header was cleared off the line by Pereira and Salah (again) had a header that Grant comfortably gathered, following good work by Adam Lallana and Mane.

It came as no surprise, then, that Liverpool broke the deadlock. Referee Ismail Elfath had no doubt that a clumsy push from young left-back Demetri Mitchell was responsible for halting Salah’s progress. Mane, as had been the case against Manchester City, fired in the resulting penalty.

“The referees they came by mistake,” said Mourinho, who greeted the decision by theatrically waving his hands. ‘They were called by the baseball federation and thought it was a baseball game; they arrived here and it was soccer!”

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