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Marcus Rashford earns perfect 10, Ashley Young 9/10 in win over Liverpool

Manchester United went five points clear of Liverpool in the Premier League with a 2-1 win, characterised first by bold attacking and then very resilient -- perhaps excessively conservative -- defence. They were probably lucky to evade the award of a second-half penalty, but their greater enterprise in the first half meant that they were good value for their win. A superb victory, which was also something of a statement.

Positives

Where to start? Where to finish? Marcus Rashford provided two excellent finishes to decide the game, Romelu Lukaku was a decisive force in the final third, Eric Bailly was magnificent despite scoring an unfortunate own goal, and Nemanja Matic and Scott McTominay were very effective in midfield. Juan Mata was everywhere. And Ashley Young was immense at left-back.

Negatives

Alexis Sanchez again worked extremely hard but again seemed out of sync with his colleagues in attack. United sat deep perhaps a little too early in the game, yet that was a gamble that paid off.

Manager rating out of 10

9 -- Jose Mourinho went into the game without Paul Pogba and Anthony Martial, two of his most gifted attackers, and produced a team that was perfectly balanced for this fixture -- full of hard running, attacking invention, and defensive discipline. He was richly rewarded with this result, one of his best coaching efforts of the season.

Player ratings (1-10; 10 = best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)

GK David De Gea, 8 -- After a slightly sluggish start, he was assertive when coming off his line to punch away a seemingly endless number of crosses. Got comfortably behind every effort sent in his direction.

DF Antonio Valencia, 8 -- Defensively excellent again and showed a keen eye for getting forward, with one wonderful crossfield ball almost ending in a goal for Juan Mata.

DF Chris Smalling, 9 -- A game where he made several previous poor performances look puzzling. Smalling was quietly supreme here against one of the best attacks in Europe.

DF Eric Bailly, 9 -- Probably only deducted a point due to his unlucky own goal, Bailly was absolutely outstanding here, even dribbling past Mohamed Salah at one stage, such was his confidence. It was perhaps fitting that he scored the own goal, since the only player who looked good enough to beat him today was himself.

DF Ashley Young, 9 -- Showed why Mourinho has so much faith in him in these games, coping brilliantly with Salah's threat and still charging forwards well into injury time. It is remarkable that he has reinvented himself into a full-back good enough to start ahead of Luke Shaw.

MF Nemanja Matic, 8 -- After a couple of loose long passes early on, he found his positioning and his rhythm and subdued Liverpool in the middle of the pitch. Made up for lack of pace with movement and closed the game out wonderfully.

Marcus Rashford scores for Manchester United in their Premier League game against Liverpool.
Marcus Rashford made the most of his first league start since December, scoring both goals in a brilliant performance.

MF Scott McTominay, 8 -- Perhaps his finest overall performance yet in a United shirt. Kept his game simple, which was very wise in a match of this intensity, and his passing and screening of his defence were of a very high level. It says a great deal for his play that Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, in fine form of late, was withdrawn so early.

MF Juan Mata, 8 -- The only blemish on his game was that he failed to score with a spectacular volley at the end of the first half. Mata worked as hard in this match as anyone, even occupying the right-back slot for several minutes. Prompted and pressed intelligently and never gave up.

MF Alexis Sanchez, 7 -- Deserves credit for the prodigious amount of defensive work he did in both halves, regularly in the left-back and even defensive midfield positions -- yet this is of course not what he is signed for, and once the euphoria of this win clears he will have to have a further think about his role.

MF Marcus Rashford, 10 -- Extraordinary. He left the field to a standing ovation on 70 minutes, following his first start in months, and during which he had reduced Liverpool's right flank to rubble. Both goals were terrific but the first, where he cut inside and lashed home a right-footed drive, will live long in the memory. Pressed high up the pitch throughout, and was a constant threat till withdrawn. Magnificent.

FW Romelu Lukaku, 9 -- Did a tremendous amount with very little, turning up on both wings throughout the game, holding the ball up with patience and intelligence. Produced as robust a physical showing as he has in a United shirt, something that despite his size is not always a part of his game. Got an assist for one goal and was prominently involved in another.

Substitutes

MF Marouane Fellaini, 7 (for Rashford, 70) -- Provided a surprising amount of intensity when he came on, and occupied Liverpool well in the final third with his aerial presence.

MF Jesse Lingard, NR (for Mata, 89) -- His high-energy pressing in defence helped United to close out this game.

MF Matteo Darmian, NR (for Sanchez, 90+6) -- Barely had stepped onto the pitch when the referee blew for the final whistle.

Musa Okwonga is one of ESPN FC's Manchester United bloggers. Follow on Twitter: @Okwonga.

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