Ian Rush: Mohamed Salah in with a Shout for the Ballon d'Or

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Ian Rush: Mohamed Salah in with a Shout for the Ballon d'Or

I was expecting Liverpool to go to Old Trafford and get a result on Sunday, but not for a minute did I think it would come in the manner of a 5-0 win.

To be fair, if Liverpool hadn’t taken their foot off the gas in the second-half it could have been more, but like most Reds I was more than satisfied with five goals and a clean sheet.

Liverpool were magnificent but what Manchester United lacked, particularly in the first-half, was leaders on the pitch. When you’re 2-0 down in such a big game you can’t wait until half-time to talk it through, you need leaders on the pitch to pull yourselves together, otherwise you go in 4-0 down at the break as United did.

When I was playing for Liverpool, there was a few times we went 2-0 down early on and the likes of Graeme Souness and Kenny Dalglish would have demanded myself and Ronnie Whelan to come deep and defend for the next 15 minutes to steady things up and get to half-time, then we’d change tactics.

Manchester United didn’t seem to have that in their locker on Sunday, they waited until half-time and it was already too late. They needed that leader to order a regroup after 20 minutes but no one stepped up, they continued to play the same and it was always going to be very difficult to recover from four down.

They lost their discipline in the end but I thought the referee, Anthony Taylor, done well to manage the situation to be fair to him. When you look back at the Cristiano Ronaldo incident on television it’s easy to say he should have been sent off but I think the referee was aware that it was just frustration and since we were so close to half-time I think he let him off the hook.

Had Ronaldo done that after 30 minutes or so I think it might have been different, the timing of the petulance probably saved Ronaldo from getting a red. But I think the referee was quite sensible and I’m glad he didn’t get sent off because Paul Pogba was eventually red carded and if Liverpool had won 5-0 against nine men it would have taken a bit of shine off the result.

Will Solskjaer Survive LFC Mauling?

I like Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, he’s a good guy, but sometimes good people don’t make the best managers. I think he deserves a little more time because you shouldn’t sack a manager unless you have a replacement lined up, and I’m not sure United have the ideal candidate in place.

I think they’ll stick with Ole for now but the next few games will decide his future so we’ll just have to wait and see what happens. They’ve got Tottenham and Atalanta away and then Manchester City at home so it’s a tough run of games.

I’m looking at the visit of City to Old Trafford on November 6 as a key fixture as it’s another local derby. Can Solskjaer survive another scalp against a local rival? I think it could come down to who’s available to replace him and whether they’re right for the club.

We’ll find out in the next few games if the players are playing for the manager or not, even if he goes sooner rather than later. If there’s an upturn in how the players perform we’ll know that they weren’t playing for Ole.

Learn Football Betting

Rodgers in the Frame

I see the top football betting sites are offering short odds on Brendan Rodgers being the next manager of Manchester United, which is interesting. I think Rodgers is an excellent manager but all indications are that he’s happy at Leicester and he’s building something really strong there.

Obviously, he’s a former Liverpool manager and some supporters might not like it if he went to Old Trafford, but then most of us Reds didn’t mind Rafa Benitez going to Everton.

It might be that the job is too big for Rodgers to turn down – United are a huge club – but having already been Liverpool manager I think he’ll know the scale of the rivalry between the two clubs and that could play a factor in any decision if he gets offered the job. He appears happy where he is though so it’ll be interesting to see what happens if United do come calling.

Salah a Ballon d'Or Contender

Salah Hattrick vs Man Utd

Mohamed Salah seems to be getting better by the week and after his hat-trick at Old Trafford I see him as a strong candidate for this year’s Ballon d'Or

For me, he’s a stand-out candidate because he’s tearing it up in the hardest league in the world. There is no one playing better football than him at this moment in time – he’s playing fantastic stuff so he’s got to be in with a great shout for the Ballon d'Or.

I know Lionel Messi is the bookies’ favourite for the Ballon d’Or, but I personally think it should be between Salah and Robert Lewandowski, who was really unfortunate not to get it last year when FIFA cancelled the award due to Covid.

For me, they are the two top forwards in world football right now, but Salah is doing it in a tougher league and he’s making it look easy, so he gets my vote.

Messi and Ronaldo have dominated the award for the past decade and rightly so, but Salah and Lewandowski are making a real go of it this year and I think we’ll see a new name on the award. My preference would be Salah, of course.

Keita Showing What He Can Do

In last week’s column I challenged Naby Keita to learn from his Atletico Madrid performance and I was pleased with how he reacted at Old Trafford.

He was having a fantastic game before Pogba hacked him down and sometimes in football you’ve really got to grasp your chances because you only get so many. If you don’t grab them and prove yourself then you’ll be moved on pretty quick.

It was interesting to see him start after being brought off at half-time against Atletico but I was impressed with his attitude from the start. Until he went off injured, I thought he was the best player on the pitch along with Salah.

It’s great to see him scoring and creating goals, it’s just unfortunate his game ended with injury. Reports suggest the injury is not as bad as first feared, which is good because he needs a run of games to build on his momentum.

He seems to have rediscovered his ability to score goals but the defensive side of his game is what he needs to work on, although he did defend pretty well against United when he had to. He’s still learning, so I just hope he can recover quickly and get a run of seven or eight games on the bounce.

Brighton at Anfield Next

Next up for Liverpool it’s a visit from Brighton who are riding high in the table in fifth place. I’m expecting a tough game but I’m also expecting Liverpool to win, although I think asking for another 5-0 is a bit much.

Brighton play really good football but in a way it might actually suit Liverpool if they play their usual game, but I wouldn’t expect the Seagulls to make the same mistakes Man United did.

United tried to go toe-to-toe with Liverpool and they got knocked out big time, but I’m looking forward to seeing how Brighton approach the game because we know they do like to play a bit of football. I don’t think they’ll take as many risks and they may look to exploit Liverpool on the counter-attack instead.

Konate Stakes His Claim

Konate Liverpool

I was surprised to see Ibrahima Konate start against United but after his performance I could see why Jurgen Klopp went with him. He looked a giant of a man and barely gave Ronaldo a kick. He’s obviously been making progress in training for him to start out of the blue like that and then to put in the performance that he did.

But as impressive as he was, it’s not a given that he will start against Brighton. Jurgen Klopp will look at the opposition and analyse their threat before deciding what personnel at the back suits the Brighton attack best.

It could be Konate, but it could just as easily be Joel Matip or even Joe Gomez – Klopp will have his own idea of who’s best to partner Virgil van Dijk in this game. If you play well you expect to start the next game, but Jurgen doesn’t think like that, he will pick what he feels is the best team to suit the opposition.

It’s one of the reasons why Liverpool have such a good team spirit – it’s because everyone knows they belong to a squad and the likes of Sadio Mane or Joel Matip won’t get the hump if they’re left out of the starting eleven now and again. Everyone will get a chance to prove themselves and I’m curious to see who starts at the back at Anfield on Saturday.

Klopp is really good at bedding players in and taking the pressure off them in the early stages of their Liverpool career. We saw it with Fabinho when he first came to the club – it seemed as though he was out in the cold but Klopp brought him in only when he felt he was ready to contribute to the machine and the Brazilian hasn’t looked back.

Could we see something similar with Konate? Time will tell. It’s how Klopp works, but the players who come in to that situation deserve credit for their patience.

Newcastle Playing A Risky Game

Finally, a word on Newcastle, one of my old clubs. I never really understand why clubs sack a manager if they don’t know who they’re going to get in as a replacement and Newcastle have to be very cautious about how they go about replacing Steve Bruce.

They’re in a very dangerous position in the Premier League and they are by no means immune from relegation. The January transfer window is just around the corner but history tells us it’s not the best window to do business in, the best time to bring in new players is in the summer, so that would be a concern for me.

But if they get someone in with a lot of experience then they might be able to attract the names they want in January. I’m thinking someone like Roberto Mancini or Antonio Conte, if they’re as ambitious as we’re told they’re going to be.

Both men have the experience of winning the Premier League but Newcastle must pick the right manager otherwise they could easily slip into a relegation battle. I personally feel as though Bruce could have guided them to safety this season and then maybe they could have looked to replace him next summer when there’s more time to rebuild.

But the fans and the club want a bit more than that and they want it now. I think the club needs to be careful what it wishes for and needs to take it one step at a time.

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