Only Ole Gunnar Solskjaer knows what gave him the most relief when Liverpool replaced Roberto Firmino in the 76th minute of Manchester United’s 5-0 win.
Was the beleaguered Norwegian glad to see the rear of Liverpool No. 9 because his masterful display of incisive running, skillful passing and intricate positioning had turned United’s defense to rubble?
Or was Solskjaer just glad that as Firmino left the field, traveling Liverpool fans gave the United manager a brief respite from his ‘Ole’s at the wheel’ taunts to applaud the Brazilian, who is looking again at his best? moment? Only he knows, and right now he has much more important things to think about than his pride.
Roberto Firmino celebrates with Mohamed Salah after Liverpool beat Man United 5-0
Firmino left the pitch in the 76th minute after a display that tormented United
Firmino celebrates Liverpool’s first goal after his clever play left room for Naby Keita to score
Meanwhile, Jurgen Klopp has never needed a second chance to praise his No. 9 and, amid a long line of applause he had to dish out in his post-match remarks, it was the comments about Firmino that stood out the most.
“Bobby, for people with football knowledge, I’m pretty sure that when I’m done playing, people will write books about how he interpreted the false position nine,” Klopp smiled. ‘I’m not saying that he invented it or that we invented it, but with the way he touches it, from time to time it looks like this!
There are different things to do on the field, some of them defensively, and what he did in that department tonight was insane. Offensively, he is a good liaison player and he also shoots from time to time. ”
His bonding game was vital to Liverpool’s opener – he fooled Harry Maguire by sinking deep into the space between United’s defense and his Fred and Scott McTominay midfield axis to receive a pass from Diogo Jota.
Maguire rushed over to Firmino, leaving a gap for Mohamed Salah to stumble upon where he was duly found by the Brazilian. Naby Keita saw room for his own overlapping run and when Salah passed it, it was a routine opportunity and he broke the deadlock after just five minutes.
Firmino (in possession) fell deeply between United defense and midfield, knocking Harry Maguire off the baseline and making room for Salah and Keita to lunge forward.
Firmino’s tough yards on and off possession helped set the stage for a famous victory.
Firmino joins the celebrations after Mohamed Salah got his first and third from Liverpool of the day
For Liverpool’s third, Firmino and Salah connected sumptuously with a one-two at the edge of United’s box. Salah’s opening shot was blocked, but the Egyptian reached the end of the ball that continued to be drilled into the six-yard box by Keita.
Firmino was also involved in the fourth, albeit with less purpose than the previous two, as he controlled a high pass on the edge of United’s box. Maguire and Fred got the ball out of him, but the ball fell into the hands of Andrew Robertson, who made the most of the space around Maguire and Salah eventually hit the plate for the fourth.
But it was in the fifth, Salah’s triplet, where Firmino’s graft was most evident. He had practically dropped into midfield to tackle half-time substitute Paul Pogba and roll the ball down the Frenchman’s legs to the feet of Jordan Henderson, who made a sublime pass with the outside of the boot to Salah to complete his hat-trick. But no Firmino, no goal at that moment.
‘He is a connector; the best offensive defender I have ever seen. A very important player for us, ”Klopp said afterwards.
“He’s a ball catcher, incredibly tactically smart and capable of playing in the smallest of spaces; to make good decisions in a really fast time.
“And on top of that, he can score goals, which is why we are so happy when he rewards himself from time to time, like the hat-trick he got at Watford.”
It’s everything United need but don’t have at the moment. Gary Neville has made the same point a few times about how players like Darren Fletcher, Ji-Sung Park and Owen Hargreaves were vital to the successes United enjoyed with Sir Alex Ferguson and how they helped Ronaldo reach the heights he reached in his first spell.
“Ronaldo needs players who can work really hard defensively,” Neville said on his Sky Sports podcast in early October. By the way, that was the same in 2008. Ji-Sung Park, Darren Fletcher, Owen Hargreaves, Wayne Rooney and Carlos Tevez all worked as Trojans to compensate Cristiano in terms of what he was doing.
“The best players do not make the best team. That’s why I had a career at Manchester United, that’s why Darren Fletcher, Nicky Butt, Ji-Sung Park, Owen Hargreaves and players like that all had careers because you need soldiers along with the generals you have.
“Manchester United have a lot of generals, but unless they start working hard, they are not going to win anything.”
Gary Neville has long said that United need workhorses to bring out the best in the team.
Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp has always praised Firmino’s ability at Anfield
Firmino has six goals in nine games for Liverpool so far this season and while his job at the team is to do much more than score, it was an obvious area for improvement from last season, where he scored just nine times. throughout the campaign. in 48 appearances.
Something of a curve ball was the arrival of Diogo Jota, who made a perfect transition to life at Liverpool and was immediately breathing down Firmino’s neck for a spot in the starting lineup.
Klopp still seems to turn to Firmino before Jota for big games: The Brazilian started against Chelsea in the second game of the season and also against Atlético Madrid midweek, where he made his 300th appearance for Liverpool.
Firmino made his 300th appearance for Liverpool in a 3-2 win over Atlético de Madrid
Firmino and Diogo Jota came together strongly as Liverpool rampaged at Old Trafford on Sunday
Sunday’s beating of United also shows how there is room for both in Klopp’s starting lineup; It seems almost strange to suggest it considering how things turned out, but Sadio Mane’s omission raised his eyebrows before the start. Fabinho’s absence also felt a major blow, while the inclusion of Ibrahima Konate ahead of Joel Matip came as a surprise.
But with Firmino in his current form, he’s as successful a starter as Salah. The two shared a moment of celebration alone on the Old Trafford pitch after applauding Liverpool fans and it was a moment they both deserved.
Salah’s hat-trick showed precisely why he is labeled the best player in the world right now and with Firmino laying the groundwork that he does so, there can be no one else he would rather play with.
Ronaldo could be forgiven for thinking the same.