LONDON: For Liverpool and their players, being champions of Europe is not enough. Their hunger for more success – the Premier League crown, the FIFA Club World Cup, another European title – was clear shortly before the final whistle concluded their 3-0 win at Burnley.
In the 85th minute manager Jurgen Klopp substituted Sadio Mane. The Senegal forward was not content to walk off and acknowledge the applause of Liverpool’s travelling fans. Quite the reverse. Instead Mane gestured angrily to the bench, to the pitch and continued complaining as he sat down with the other substitutes.
It was not clear whether his anger was directed at his manager for the substitution or at team-mate Mohamed Salah who had not passed him the ball in a goalscoring position minutes earlier. Either way, Mane’s refusal to be satisfied with another job well done spoke volumes about Liverpool’s continuing drive to improve.
Klopp was content to see Mane’s passion. He said: “It’s good, isn’t it? He was upset, it was obvious. Sadio cannot hide his emotions, I like that. But all sorted. We spoke about it and everything is fine. We are individuals, we are emotional. It was a situation in a game. What else could have happened? It was not a phone call.”
Liverpool extended their 100pc start to the season after taking the lead in the 33rd minute when Trent Alexander-Arnold’s cross was deflected into goal off back of Chris Wood. Burnley proved their own worst enemies again when a mistake by skipper Ben Mee provided Roberto Firmino with the chance to set up Mane for his fourth goal in all competitions in the new campaign. Firmino scored No3 after being set up by Salah.
This was Liverpool’s record 13th successive league victory and crowned an excellent week. The Reds were presented with a gentle start to their Champions League defence with a Group E draw against the comparatively modest opposition of Salzburg, Genk and Napoli while Virgil van Dijk was acclaimed as UEFA’s Men’s Player of the Year ahead of Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo.
Klopp was satisfied to see his team reach the first international break in such style.
He said: “Formation-wise, the boy were disciplined as hell. Burnley make it so difficult for opponents becaue are so good at getting in early crosses. I couldn’t believe how many times we had to head the ball away. We were a bit lucky with the first goal but we forced the situation.
“If we have set a record then I have to be happy. The players deserve it. This team want to write their own stories.”
Mane proved the point.
United held again
This is supposed to be the season which a reborn Manchester United offer positive signs that they have Manchester City and Liverpool back in their sights. Unfortunately for manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer there were no such signs in a 1-1 draw against Ralph Hassenhuttl’s disciplined and determined Southampton.
United have an outstanding record at St Mary’s and Solskjaer’s men looked on course for a first away win since their Champions League triumph at Paris Saint-Germain last March. But a fine goal from new Wales winger Daniel James proved insufficient. Saints struck back with a headed equaliser from Jan Vestergaard and then a resilient defensive display after Kevin Danso was sent off with 20 minutes remaining.
James is the one bright spot in United’s season so far. He cost an apparent bargain £15m from Swansea and has equalled Sanchez’s Manchester United Premier League goal tally after only four games. James has three goals while it took the Chilean 45 appearances to do the same. He has also scored with each of his first three shots on target in the league.
However, United have won only three of their last 16 games and are without a win in their last eight away matches, drawing three and losing five. This is their worst run since going nine without a win between April and November 2014. Their total of five points in their opening four Premier games is their worst since 1992-93.
Paul Pogba had another disappointing afternoon with Southampton pressing him with two or three players every time he was on the ball. England centre-forward Marcus Rashford looked unhappy in the orthodox centre-forward role, failing to hold the ball up while he awaited his team-mates’ support.
Solskjaer has conceded that the departure of Alexis Sanchez, following that of Romelu Lukaku, has left United “one man short” in attack. The lack of squad depth is not limited only to attack. The loan of centre back Chris Smalling to Roma means they cannot afford a run of injuries or poor form in defence either.
More defensive difficulties may be around the corner after reports that goalkeeper David de Gea is growing impatient at United’s trophy failures and may press for a move home in the January transfer window.
** Everton-Wolves later
** Pep Guardiola is anxiously awaiting a medical report on Aymeric Laporte. The French defender was carried off with a knee injury in the first half of Manchester City’s easy 4:0 win over promoted Brighton. Guardiola said: “It doesn’t look good. Hopefully not as bad as Leroy Sane but we will see. I am awaiting for the doctor to call me.”
Sane’s ligament injury absence has not affected City. Their last 59 games against non-top-sides have brought 51 wins and five draws and 158 point out of a possible 177.
Sergio Aguero scored twice and now has 99 goals at the Etihad Stadium. Only Wayne Rooney at Old Trafford (101) and Thierry Henry at Highbury (114) have scored more at a single venue in the Premier League era.
** Norwich dropped into the relegation zone after losing 2:0 at West Ham for whom ex-Frankfurt striker Sebastian Haller scored a third goal in two games. Manager Manuel Pellegrini described the Frenchman as “a complete player”.
Norwich manager Daniel Farke was unhappy with two VAR checks which went against his team. This was the Canaries’ third defeat in their first league four matches and they failed to score a league goal for the first time.
** Frank Lampard is still awaiting a first home win as Chelsea manager after his young team allowed promoted Sheffield United to recover from two goals down to earn a 2:2 draw at Stamford Bridge.