Liverpool 0, Manchester United 1
Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal insists his team could still snatch the Premier League title after they pilfered an unlikely three points at Liverpool on Sunday.
A 78th-minute volley from striker Wayne Rooney – United’s only shot on target – earned Van Gaal’s third victory in four matches since the turn of the year, having gone winless in eight at the end of 2015.
It lifted them back above West Ham into fifth place, seven points behind leaders Arsenal, and sufficiently emboldened the under-pressure Dutchman to entertain talk of reviving their flagging title challenge.
“We started 2016 very good with a lot of wins and I think this game will give a big boost to the players and the fans, and everyone in the environment of Manchester United,” said Van Gaal.
“To beat Liverpool for the second time in a row is it marvellous, it gives a big boost for the players and the fans so I hope it shall continue with winning. That is why we are here, to win our games and at end of the season to be in the first three positions of the league.”
Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp did not hide his frustration after his side failed to turn long spells of dominance and 16 attempts on the United goal into a first win in three league games.
“It’s really bad,” said Klopp, whose side remain ninth. “It’s a derby and in a derby you only have one job to do: you have to win it. That’s the only possibility to be satisfied after the game.
“United will be happy. Their performance wasn’t that good but they won. We played better but feel frustrated because there were many things that were good, but our finishing was not good.”
Both teams came into the fixture following 3-3 draws in midweek but there was scant goalmouth action in the first 45 minutes, and when there was Liverpool failed to stretch United goalkeeper David de Gea.
Forward Roberto Firmino shot wide from the edge of the penalty area after De Gea had charged out to deny Adam Lallana, while midfielder Jordan Henderson dragged an effort across goal and narrowly off target.
De Gea was called into action just after the break when he diverted Emre Can’s shot wide with his leg, and the Spaniard was well placed to hold Henderson’s side-footed drive shortly afterwards.
The United stopper summoned his best to parry Can’s 20-yard shot and then paw away Firmino’s attempt to tease the ball back into the six-yard box as Liverpool piled forward.
But the hosts fell victim to a smash-and-grab defeat 12 minutes from time when Rooney lashed into the roof of the net after midfielder Marouane Fellaini’s header ricocheted kindly to him off the crossbar. The goal saw him overtake Thierry Henry as the player with the most goals for a single club – 176 – in the Premier League era.