Big Debate – Fernandes’ Man Utd captaincy issue, Souness vs Neville
Erik ten Hag reacts to humiliating defeat to Liverpool
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Sunday afternoon saw one of the most extraordinary Premier League matches in recent history as Liverpool upset the odds to thump their bitter rivals Manchester United by the remarkable scoreline of 7-0.
It is a game that no one who was inside Anfield will ever forget as braces from Cody Gakpo, Darwin Nunez and Mohamed Salah along with a Roberto Firmino strike left the Red Devils shellshocked.
United boss Erik ten Hag will have plenty of soul searching to do, while Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp will now be confident of securing a top four finish for his side.
So was this a one-off result or something more significant? Can Lisandro Martinez recover from his humiliating afternoon? Should Bruno Fernandes be stripped of the captaincy after his shameful display? And could Liverpool end up finishing above United this season?
Express Sport’s writers answer all the burning questions…
Do you agree more with Gary Neville or Graeme Souness regarding their debate over the ‘freak’ result?
Andrew McLean: Graeme Souness. In the last two-and-a-half years United have conceded four to Brighton, Leicester, Brentford and Watford, six to Tottenham and Man City and have now lost 4-0, 5-0 and 7-0 to their biggest rivals.
Ten Hag deserves huge credit for the club’s improvement this season but when they lose it, they really lose it. If United players and supporters consider Sunday’s result to simply be a one-off ‘freak’ event, another abject embarrassment is coming in the near future.
Jack McEachen: I believe that based on United’s displays in recent months, Sunday’s game can be written off as a freak result. It will be determined by how United react to the rout and whether steps are taken to ensure cooler heads are kept in future when games aren’t going their way.
Joe Krishnan: Of course this was a freak result – no one expected Manchester United to go to Anfield and lose 7-0. It hadn’t been on the cards either, considering United’s impressive recent form, and I think it can be put down as a horrendous day in an otherwise decent campaign for United.
Charlie Parker-Turner: Given how well United have played up until the weekend, I think you have to rule the defeat as an unacceptable but ‘freak’ result. The Red Devils were bad – very bad – but tired minds and tired legs also took their toll on the team, and that couldn’t have happened at a worse stadium.
Has Lisandro Martinez’s impressive form in the Premier League been a false dawn after his Anfield horror show?
AM: I wouldn’t say so. The Argentine has shown impressive form at times this year through his passionate performances but he completely lost his head at Anfield. If he can more consistently channel his aggression in the right way, a long and successful career in the Premier League awaits.
JM: Martinez has been proven to be one of the most capable centre-backs in the Premier League over the past few months, and getting dazzled past by Salah can happen to anyone on their day. He has recovered from the early-season doubts and will likely do so again.
JK: One game for me does not determine form, it’s a standalone performance, so on that basis Martinez’s 20 good displays this season outweigh the two nightmare ones (Brentford and Liverpool). It does show some mental fragility in the United defence, though, and Martinez looked awful on Sunday – but Salah can do that to you.
CPT: Although he was taken for a dance by Salah, Martinez has been one of United’s most important players this season and the Liverpool loss should not take anything away from that. The Argentina international has provided an aura of assurance in defence and he is likely to be key behind the scenes over the coming days as well, demanding a reaction from his teammates.
Should Bruno Fernandes be stripped of the Man Utd captaincy following his antics?
AM: Yes. Fernandes’ antics at Anfield yesterday were some of the most embarrassing and pathetic that the Premier League has seen in some time. Casemiro is the team’s natural leader and is a ready-made replacement for the on-field captaincy.
JM: Ten Hag will be one of many connected to United that were disappointed with Fernandes’ behaviour in the defeat, but the Portuguese star has been at Old Trafford for three years and it will not have come as a total shock. Harry Maguire is still the club captain, while Ten Hag may have doubts over Fernandes he certainly can delay any decision until the end of the season when Maguire likely departs.
JK: I don’t think Fernandes is much of a captain. Moaning at your team-mates, constantly throwing up your arms when you don’t get the ball and surrounding the referee over decisions does not constitute leadership. Casemiro is a leader by example and as a proven winner, he should be the man Ten Hag looks to replace Fernandes with.
CPT: Yes. The fact that Fernandes was even made captain of United in the first place was questionable. Although a fantastic player, he has never truly led by example on the pitch and his behaviour against Liverpool hardly came as a surprise to anyone. The Portuguese international should be left out of the squad for the match against Real Betis, at least.
Could Liverpool still finish above Man Utd this season given their recent resurgence?
AM: Yes. United are still fighting on three fronts while Liverpool will soon only have the Premier League to focus on. It will be difficult to catch up but the seven points difference is not insurmountable and I expect it to be close come the end of the season.
JM: This season there has been more evidence that Sunday’s result was more of a shock for Liverpool, who despite putting seven past their fierce rivals still have plenty of issues in the squad. The result could be a catalyst for an upturn in momentum but to finish above United would be extremely difficult.
JK: Liverpool have won four out of their last five games and closed the gap to seven points, so anything is possible after that result. But I expect United to steady themselves and cling onto third in the final stages of the season, with Liverpool a few points adrift come May.
CPT: No. United could be a different animal following this defeat and it still feels like Liverpool are likely to slip up a few times, at least, before the end of the season.
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