Dimitar Berbatov: Liverpool paid the price for being too cautious

Pep Guardiola and Sergio Aguero - Man City
Pep Guardiola's side reaped the benefits of sticking to their usual gameplan, says Dimitar Berbatov

Betfair Ambassador Dimitar Berbatov assesses the fallout of the Man City v Liverpool clash and delivers his verdict on a newly invigorated Manchester United under Ole Gunnar Solsjkaer...

"If United keep performing like this until the end of the season - and especially if they can make the top four - it would be unbelievable if Ole doesn't get the job full-time."

Reds were too worried about City in the first half

The first thing to say about the match at the Etihad was that it was a great game. It was really intense and I thoroughly enjoyed it, but I was surprised at Liverpool's approach, in the opening 45 at least.

While Man City were playing in their usual style, Liverpool were quite defensive, sitting back with a solid midfield three and hoping that Mo Salah and Sadio Mane could do something on the counter.

In the only situation where they played football as we know that can, they created a one-on-one situation for Mane with some lovely one-touch football and almost scored later in the move when John Stones whacked the ball against Ederson.

Given how well Jurgen Klopp's team have been playing, they shouldn't have been worried about the other team - even one as good as Man City.

The Reds were better in the second half, especially when Fabinho came on, but it was again surprising to see their approach in the last few minutes with loads of long balls into the box. With so much attacking talent, you expect them to focus on playing football.

But that's not to take anything away from City, who played very well (and ran their boll**ks off!).

Title race is very much on

Everybody apart from Liverpool fans is probably happy with the result as with the gap now just four points, the title race has become very interesting again.

Is it better to have points in the bag or be the chasers? I have been in both situations with Manchester United and the most important aspect from either side is to be mentally strong and don't start overthinking things; you can sabotage yourself. Will Liverpool now start getting nervy? It's something Klopp and his coaching team will be working hard to avoid.

Of course we can't forget the other teams in the league, and Spurs are back in with an outside chance, now six points behind the leaders. But the Wolves defeat over Christmas was a killer blow, and highlighted why they most probably won't win it - if you want to win Championships, you need to get over the line in games like that, especially from 1-0 up.

Tottenham are still in all four competitions and haven't got great depth in their squad so it will be interesting to see if they go into the market this month. If they want a player to help immediately, it will probably have to be one from another Premier League side as they are much easier to integrate.

An 'unbelievable' start for Solsjkaer

What an unbelievable start for Ole! You can see, all of a sudden, that Manchester United look like a completely different team - because every new manager comes with different ideas and his own philosophy about how the game should be played.

The central defenders are now carrying the ball out, the full-backs are pushed up - Ashley Young was in the box a few times against Bournemouth - and, of course, Paul Pogba is playing with far more freedom and has been much more effective as a result.

The forwards are now playing one-touch football, with imagination and creativity - it's something I'd pay to watch, and that hasn't always been the case this season.

Of course, the fixtures have been kind so far - and Ole faces his first real test next weekend when United travel to Spurs - but the good thing is they have been winning with style.

If United keep performing like this until the end of the season - and especially if they can make the top four - it would be unbelievable if Ole doesn't get the job full-time. He's young, with the right ideas and a good team around him including Mike Phelan and Michael Carrick, and it's a chance he deserves.


United don't need to enter the market

I have said in this column before that United need a new ball-playing centre-back, but the likes of Lindelof and Jones are now showing that they are more than capable of bringing the ball out so they don't need anyone else.

Ole instead needs to focus on bringing the best out of the players already on the books and there have been some good signs there already, with Marcus Rashford looking very sharp and even Alexis Sanchez joining the party at Newcastle with an excellent assist.

The FA Cup match against Reading will be a good chance for the likes of Sanchez and Romelu Lukaku to show the new manager that they deserve starting positions against Spurs.

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