Manchester United earned a deserved 2-1 victory over Liverpool at Old Trafford to kickstart the Erik ten Hag era and leave their rivals winless after three Premier League games.
Ten Hag elected to drop Cristiano Ronaldo and Harry Maguire following successive losses to begin the campaign, a decision that was rewarded by a much-improved display.
An incisive move culminated in Sancho calmly slotting past Alisson after 16 minutes as Liverpool conceded first in a club-record seventh consecutive Premier League game.
Marcus Rashford’s goal early in the second half gave United breathing space prior to Mohamed Salah’s header nine minutes from time, which proved a mere consolation.
The hosts’ first-half display was in complete contrast to their 4-0 loss at Brentford, with Anthony Elanga – preferred to Ronaldo – striking the post early on with just Alisson to beat.
United were ahead soon after when Sancho collected Elanga’s pass, fooled James Milner and Alisson with a dummy and found the bottom-left corner from the first shot on target.
Liverpool struggled to get going but nearly levelled before half-time in bizarre circumstances as Bruno Fernandes miscued a clearance against Lisandro Martinez on the goal-line.
With Old Trafford rocking, despite threats of a walk out in protest at the club’s owners, half-time substitute Anthony Martial played in Rashford on the counter for United’s second.
Rashford was denied another by a good Alisson save, while David de Gea kept out Luis Diaz and Roberto Firmino before Salah nodded in after United failed to deal with a corner.
Despite some late pressure from Liverpool, the home side – perhaps fortunate not to see Fernandes sent off following a kerfuffle after Salah’s goal – held on for a massive victory.
What does it mean? Lift-off for United as Reds stay winless
Liverpool would have enjoyed nothing more than inflicting a third successive league defeat on United at the start of the season for just the fourth time in their history, but come the end of Monday’s contest it was the Reds who were now the crisis club of choice.
The Reds underwhelmed in attack – even if Salah did set up a nervier-than-anticipated conclusion to the match – and were plagued by a number of sloppy errors in midfield and defence.
Yet credit must also go to United for exploiting those weaknesses, leaving Liverpool with two points from a possible nine after failing to win any of their first three matches in a Premier League campaign for the first time since 2012-13.
Rashford steps up in Ronaldo absence
Benching Ronaldo for the second time in three matches this season was a big call from Ten Hag, whose decision was fully justified by the end of the 95 minutes thanks to goals from Sancho and Rashford.
Rashford in particular was a huge threat throughout and attempted a game-high five shots, including the well-taken strike for his goal to end a run of 997 minutes without netting in all competitions for United.
Liverpool frustrations boil over
Salah’s goal was his 10th against United in all competitions for Liverpool – six of those at Old Trafford – making him the first Reds player to reach double-figures in this fixture.
But that strike could not paper over what was a poor display from the visitors, particularly in defence and midfield, with Milner and Virgil van Dijk exchanging some strong words on multiple occasions.
United will look to build on this win when they travel to Southampton on their return to action on Saturday, the same day that winless Liverpool host Bournemouth at Anfield.