Liverpool's convincing win vs. Man United will whet their appetites
ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Three quick thoughts on the whitsle from Liverpool's 4-1 International Champions Cup win over Manchester United at Michigan Stadium on Saturday.
1. Win over United whets Liverpool appetites
A lot of the time, preseason friendlies are uneventful, bland, fitness-building exercises. Liverpool's victory over rivals Man United on Saturday at the second-largest stadium in the world was not one of these occasions.
It was a warm-up match that whets the appetite for the start of the season proper in less than two weeks' time. Stunning goals, fierce tackles and mind games -- this highlight International Champions Cup fixture was a taste of what's to come in 2018-19.
Xherdan Shaqiri's incredible bicycle kick on his Liverpool debut helped Jurgen Klopp record his first victory over Jose Mourinho's United side. Sadio Mane, Daniel Sturridge and Sheyi Ojo scored Liverpool's others.
The tone of the entertaining encounter was set when the referee had to give James Milner and Andreas Pereira a talking-to following a squabble in the opening seconds. Fabinho's yellow card for the hacking down of Alexis Sanchez was the pick of the full-blooded challenges on Saturday.
Mourinho then went on to the pitch during the one-minute water break in the first half to dispute the spot kick Liverpool were awarded. This was meant to be a friendly.
There are attempts from Mourinho before every encounter with Liverpool to draw Klopp into a war of words. Just because this was a friendly on the other side of the world didn't make the routine any different.
Moments before kickoff, Mourinho was up to his old tricks.
"It's Liverpool first team vs. Manchester United kids," he said. "For the last two years, they have not been able to beat us; today they will think they have a chance."
Five of United's starters on Saturday were over the age of 28.
As Mourinho predicted, Liverpool were well on top for large parts of the game. United had the ball in the back of the net three times in the first half only to see the linesman raise his flag for offside on two of those occasions.
Mane's converted penalty, after Mohamed Salah was brought down by Demetri Mitchell in the 28th minute, was cancelled out by Pereira's perfectly placed, 25-yard free kick three minutes later.
The second half saw Fred and Shaqiri make their debuts for their new clubs. But it was the latter who made the biggest impression on his new supporters.
The £13 million signing provided the assist for Sturridge's calm finish, with Ojo adding Liverpool's third from the penalty spot.
His moment of magic then arrived eight minutes before time. Any doubts Liverpool fans have about signing of the attacker from relegated Stoke City will be put on hold. Ben Woodburn's cross was acrobatically met by the left foot of Shaqiri to devastating effect.
Only preseason, yes, but a win over your fiercest rivals and a stunner from a new signing has Liverpool fans counting down the days till the West Ham United opener on Aug. 12.
2. Mane proving he deserves No. 10 shirt
Mane will be sporting a new shirt number this season, more reflective of his role and importance to Liverpool in 2018-19. He succeeds Philippe Coutinho as Liverpool's No. 10 and is beginning to operate in the position in which the Brazilian once dazzled before his departure to Barcelona.
It was evident toward the end of the last campaign that Mane's role was changing. It's now in plain sight that there is an expectation on the Senegalese to be another -- potentially the most important -- creative spark within this Liverpool team.
Dropping deep from the left-hand side in the ninth minute, Mane lofted a through-ball with pinpoint accuracy onto Salah's head that forced Lee Grant into a good save. The encouraging link-up play between Mane and Salah was evident during Wednesday's win over Manchester City in New Jersey -- the pair's first action in the preseason.
Mane still poses as a huge threat in the final third with his lightning pace and directness. He was Liverpool's star player in 2016-17 before Salah stole the spotlight the following year. Mane, however, looks set to play a crucial role for Liverpool in the upcoming season.
3. United's shaky defence gets weaker
The situation surrounding United's defence is only going to make Mourinho even grumpier. Three of the four defenders -- Antonio Valencia, Luke Shaw and Chris Smalling -- he said would start the season missed the Liverpool game with injury.
Valencia has returned to Carrington with a suspected torn calf, while Shaw was an unexpected absentee on Saturday.
The last injury concern cropped up minutes before kickoff. Eric Bailly wasn't even listed in the matchday squad initially before he lined up ready to start the game. Smalling had dropped, United say, as a precaution due to a minor injury.
It's a back four that doesn't inspire United fans with much confidence anyway. But the realistic possibility of youngsters filling in or starting World Cup returnees not at 100 percent against Leicester City on Aug. 8 is another headache Mourinho could do without.
United will hope there will have been progress in the pursuit of Leicester's Harry Maguire and Toby Alderweireld of Tottenham Hotspur before then. If not, there will be some concerned faces around Old Trafford in early August -- not just in the dugout.