Cristiano Ronaldo has covered the cracks for Manchester United so many times this season, it’s a miracle he doesn’t consider becoming a decorator when he retires.
But there is a glaring fact that even the petulant Portuguese cannot dress up.
In the ranking of the greatest players in the world, he is now, like everyone else, at a certain distance from the incredible Mohamed Salah.
The Liverpool forward hasn’t even had his best game here. Ronaldo, however, got to see up close the kind of devastating finish that was once his own trademark and earned the Egyptian the Reds first hat trick at Old Trafford in 85 years.
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Salah extended his club record by scoring in a 10th consecutive game and overtook Didier Drogba to become the Premier League’s most scoring African player by rising to 107 goals, his total for Liverpool in all competitions now 140 in 215 matches.
This season alone, he has 15 in 12 games, including two contenders for the goal of the season. And it was the first hat-trick for a visiting player at Old Trafford since the first Ronaldo scored three times for Real Madrid in 2003.
Second Ronaldo, meanwhile, had a strike marked by huge cheers from the outside, having been fortunate enough not to be sacked for a childish kick to Curtis Jones.
The Ronaldo era is now over. It is the time of Salah on the throne.
Now, about this new contract …
Keita deserves better
And then there were three.
If last season sparked a lament from the center-back, this time around Liverpool are at risk of running out of midfielders.
The only real negative point of this memorable afternoon was the loss of James Milner and, even more worryingly, of Naby Keita to an injury, the latter leaving on a stretcher just past the hour with arguably his best. performance at Liverpool interrupted by Paul Pogba’s raw challenge.
Milner lasted less than half that time after securing a fifth straight start for Liverpool for the first time in three years in the absence of injured Fabinho.
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With Thiago Alcantara and Harvey Elliott already sidelined, the triumvirate that ended the game – Jordan Henderson, Curtis Jones and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain – are currently the only senior midfielder available for Jurgen Klopp.
Keita in particular deserved better, showing immense strength of character to respond to his half-time crash at Atletico Madrid midweek with a display of pressure, balance and threat.
And Henderson will have boosted confidence with an improved display in the defensive midfielder role, which culminated in passing with the outside of his right foot to free Salah for his hat-trick that prompted comparisons with the famous ball. of Steven Gerrard for Daniel Sturridge to score at Fulham in 2014.
Yes, it was good.
Konaté keeps his cool
Ibrahima Konate would have been forgiven for feeling a little nervous as he stood in the Old Trafford tunnel before kickoff.
The center-back didn’t have the best memories of his previous trip last season, on the wrong side of a 5-0 hammering with RB Leipzig. He also scored an own goal in the second leg.
And with this just his third appearance for Liverpool after his £ 36million summer move – preferred to Joe Gomez for rotating Joel Matip – facing Ronaldo and his company might have seemed a worrying task.
For just £ 2.50 you will receive the ‘Salah – Our Egyptian King’ edition as well as a free glossy poster.
It is available in most supermarkets and newsagents in Merseyside and North Wales – or online by clicking here.
Not for Konaté. Within minutes, he had offended Ronaldo in an initial declaration of intent for a performance that made it clear why the Reds saw him as a future all-wheel drive of the defense.
With Virgil van Dijk a reassuring presence by his side, the Frenchman was aerial dominant and confident in his distribution, rarely troubled during United’s only sustained pressure before the break.
“We saw a few things where we thought it would be a good game for Ibou,” Klopp said when asked why Konate – who still has a 100% shutout record – was given the green light.
Not for the only time on Sunday, the Reds boss is absolutely right.