How Liverpool’s 25-pass wondergoal unfolded
The momentum for Salah’s first began with Luis Diaz just after the 20th minute, controlling and turning with such swiftness United did not get close to his shadow, let alone think about chasing it.
Fabinho followed the Colombian to receive a short backwards pass, moving it onwards instantly to the game’s puppet master Thiago Alcantara. Such was Thaigo’s choreography, Matthew Bourne would have watched this game in envy.
In a rare retreat, the playmaker was forced to use his goalkeeper after exchanging passes with Andy Robertson, the Scot in his familiar left wing-back role. Those closest to offer a challenge – including Aaron Wan-Bissaka – already looked bedraggled, but Marcus Rashford succeeded in doing what most in a United shirt could dream of. He got within a yard of Thaigo, prompting a 20-yard pass back to Alisson Becker.
So Liverpool began again, Alisson linking with Joel Matip as Liverpool probed down the opposite wing with Trent Alexander-Arnold invited to the party.
Fabinho, so often the spare man in midfield, is never static. United’s midfield, in contrast, looked like admiring spectators as the Brazilian advanced down the right to receive Alexander-Arnold’s pass across the touchline from where he introduced Salah to the perfect move he would later complete.
United, dragged around the pitch, now chased Jordan Henderson, whose switch back to Robertson created a valley in United’s centre. Here the pace quickened further as Thiago, sensing United’s imbalance, seized the day. Thiago’s 20-yard diagonal to Salah on the right took out four United midfielders. Salah’s touch was exquisite, but Henderson had made a clever run beyond the Egyptian, occupying a space beyond United’s wing-backs and where the confused centre-halves were reluctant to follow.
Like every Liverpool player, Alexander-Arnold had not stood back to applaud his initial pass, creating a fresh angle for Henderson. Within the space of 60 seconds, United’s formation was so misshapen – nine of their players occupying a central zone within 25 yards of each other – they could have been hit with a congestion charge.
Matip first exposed the critical damage when his cute, forward pass into Diaz – who had drifted into the No 9e position, dragging two United defenders and Nemanja Matic with him – allowed Salah to identify the space beyond what was now a ragged backline.
Diaz returned it to Matip who played another cunning first-time pass to Mane, who delivered the kind of killer pass which of itself might have been worth a eulogy. Victor Lindelof was woefully short as the Senegalese’s skill and vision curled the first-time assist beyond Harry Maguire and Diogo Dalot.
Salah’s strength, pace, touch and precision finish did the rest (watch video below). United were disrobed, the gulf in class never so obvious.