Mohamed Salah scored twice as runaway leaders Liverpool produced a second-half surge to seal a comprehensive 4-0 victory over Southampton at Anfield on Saturday.

Jurgen Klopp's world champions racked up a 16th consecutive Premier League triumph - and 24th from 25 top-flight games this season - with Salah striking twice in the last 18 minutes.

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain opened the scoring in the 47th minute against his former club, unleashing a low drive past Alex McCarthy, before Jordan Henderson doubled their lead on the hour mark.

Salah produced a sweet finish for his first in the 72nd minute and showed his composure again at the death to send the Reds 22 points clear of second-place Manchester City, who travel to Tottenham on Sunday.

 

Jurgen Klopp admitted Liverpool were short of their best in their 2-0 victory over West Ham, producing what he described as a "normal performance" at the London Stadium.

The Reds sauntered to three points as Mohamed Salah scored a first-half penalty before setting up Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain for his second Premier League goal of the season after the interval.

Manuel Lanzini missed clear chances for the Hammers in either half amid some sloppy Liverpool defending, though Klopp opted not to criticise his players and insisted the result was all that mattered.

"We could have done a lot of things better but there was only one team who deserved to win," the Liverpool boss told Sky Sports.

"We could have passed better, defended better. Who cares? These players played outstanding football so often, it was a normal performance.

"We never had 100 per cent rhythm, it is tough to play against such a defensive-orientated team."

Liverpool's players left the pitch to the sound of travelling supporters singing confidently about becoming Premier League champions, though Klopp is still refusing to get too carried away despite holding a 19-point lead at the summit.

"They can sing whatever they want," the German said. "Singing it doesn't mean you are it."

Defeat leaves West Ham still teetering above the relegation zone, with only their marginally superior goal difference keeping them above 18th-placed Bournemouth.

After the game, Hammers boss David Moyes discussed the arrival of Czech Republic midfielder Tomas Soucek on loan from Slavia Prague, describing the 24-year-old as "a big, athletic midfield player who has scored a lot of goals".

Moyes indicated that the club could yet make more additions before the January transfer window closes, adding: "I would like to bring in players who can help the team. If we can add, we will."

Mohamed Salah and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain scored the goals as Liverpool moved 19 points clear at the top of the Premier League with a 2-0 win at West Ham.

The Reds completed the full set of top-flight scalps – they have now beaten every team in the division this season – even though Jurgen Klopp's side were nowhere near their best at London Stadium on Wednesday.

While they dominated possession and frustrated their hosts for long periods, the Reds still allowed Manuel Lanzini chances in either half that a forward with more confidence may well have taken.

Still, all the swagger came from Liverpool, who took the lead when Salah lashed home a penalty in the 35th minute. They then put paid to West Ham's hopes of a second-half recovery when Oxlade-Chamberlain netted in a one-on-one situation with Lukasz Fabianski.

Manuel Lanzini fired wide with only Alisson to beat after 14 minutes and, though an offside flag was raised against the Argentina international, Liverpool looked momentarily rattled.

The visitors only began to threaten when Andrew Robertson beat Fabianski with a delicate chip, but his effort lacked accuracy and the hosts, working hard to stay on terms, cleared their lines.

However, West Ham's game plan faltered when Issa Diop was judged to have fouled Divock Origi in the six-yard box and Salah rammed the ensuing penalty into the net, sending the goalkeeper the wrong way.

Lanzini fluffed another golden chance to score early in the second half and his miss paved the way for Liverpool to double their lead. On a counter-attack from a West Ham corner, Salah's pass with the outside of his left boot put Oxlade-Chamberlain through on goal and the midfielder applied a cool low finish to beat Fabianski.

Declan Rice powered through the Liverpool defence and stung Alisson's palms with a fierce drive before Trent Alexander-Arnold inadvertently hit his own post from the rebound.

Salah shook the frame of the West Ham goal at the other end with a sweetly struck first-time shot in the closing stages but two goals were more than enough for Liverpool to continue their title charge.

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Mohamed Salah will face off in the second round of qualifying for World Cup 2022, with Gabon and Egypt drawn in the same group.

Salah's Egypt and Aubameyang's Gabon will join Libya and Angola in Group F in the second phase of African qualifying for the finals in Qatar.

Group D pits Cameroon and Ivory Coast together along with Mozambique and Malawi, while Nigeria will face Cape Verde Islands, Central African Republic and Liberia in Group C.

Africa Cup of Nations holders Algeria will meet Burkina Faso, Niger and Djibouti in Group A, while 2019's beaten finalists Senegal were drawn with Congo, Namibia and Togo in Group H.

Group G sees Ghana and South Africa pitted against Zimbabwe and Ethiopia.

The group phase runs from March 2020 until October next year, with the 10 group winners drawn into five two-legged knockout ties to be played next November.

 

Groups in full:

Group A: Algeria, Burkina Faso, Niger, Djibouti
Group B: Tunisia, Zambia, Mauritania, Equatorial Guinea
Group C: Nigeria, Cape Verde Islands, Central African Republic, Liberia
Group D: Cameroon, Ivory Coast, Mozambique, Malawi
Group E: Mali, Uganda, Kenya, Rwanda
Group F: Egypt, Gabon, Libya, Angola
Group G: Ghana, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Ethiopia
Group H: Senegal, Congo, Namibia, Togo
Group I: Morocco, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Sudan
Group J: Congo DR, Benin, Madagascar, Tanzania.

 

Virgil van Dijk said the memory of losing the Premier League title race to Manchester City in 2018-19 is keeping Liverpool grounded after his side's 2-0 victory over Manchester United at Anfield.

The Netherlands international scored his side's opener after 14 minutes of a game that threatened to slip through their fingers when the visitors finished strongly, but Mohamed Salah doubled Liverpool's lead in second-half stoppage time to put the Reds 16 points clear at the top of the table.

Chants of "we're going to win the league" rang out around Anfield at the final whistle but Van Dijk insisted the team's focus would immediately be on a difficult trip to Wolves on Thursday.

"Everyone wants us to say something about it but we won't get carried away," Van Dijk told Sky Sports. "We in the squad cannot and we won't.

"I think what we experienced last year is something that made our mentality like this. We just want to go one game at a time, trying to stay fit and improve. Even after today, which was a well-deserved, fantastic win.

"We all know how difficult Wolves is, what good tactics they have, the players they have, the manager is fantastic there. What we try to do is prepare very well, make sure we all recover from this, be 100 per cent.

"We all expect it to be a very tough game. It makes it easy to prepare if you know it's going to be tough and you know there will be difficult moments."

Van Dijk disagreed with the VAR ruling that judged him to have fouled David de Gea in the 25th minute as Liverpool had a Roberto Firmino goal ruled out.

But the Reds, by Van Dijk's own admission, had enough opportunities to put the game out of United's reach before Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's men caused nervous moments as they probed for a late equaliser.

"I think I didn't jump with my hands up," said Van Dijk, explaining his challenge on De Gea.

"It's difficult to say but if the VAR gives it you just have to accept it and carry on. I thought it was no foul.

"We had plenty more opportunities to score goals today and make it look easy. We had two, three, maybe four clear cut chances to make it easy but you have to find a way and we did."

Mohamed Salah joked that Liverpool beat Manchester United 2-0 on Sunday because he was back from injury.

Egypt international Salah missed the 1-1 draw between the teams at Old Trafford – the only Premier League game Liverpool have failed to win this season – due to an ankle injury.

In the build-up to the return match at Anfield, the 27-year-old cheekily suggested Jurgen Klopp's side had failed to come out on top because of his absence.

Liverpool moved 16 points clear of nearest rivals Manchester City, while still possessing a game in hand, after Salah latched onto a long ball from Alisson following a corner in second-half stoppage time, adding to Virgil van Dijk's opener in the 14th minute.

"As you can see today I get back from the injury so we won the game, so I'm very happy for the team now," Salah joked to Sky Sports. "We enjoy the moment and hopefully we finish like that.

"I got a pass from Alisson, no one else could get me the ball, but I'm very happy for the result, that's the most important thing."

Liverpool missed out on the Premier League title by a single point to City in 2018-19, with a defeat to Pep Guardiola's side in January 2019 shortly followed by a run of four draws in six league games.

Having missed out by such a narrow margin last term, Salah urged his team-mates not to take their foot off the gas. 

"I think we just need to focus on each game, we don't have to think now we've won the Premier League," Salah added.

"We have to keep it game by game, that's the only way we can win the Premier League. We struggled last season at the same time, so we have to keep calm and focus on each game."

Jordan Henderson, who saw a second-half shot tipped onto the post by David de Gea, felt Liverpool were good value for their 2-0 victory but also implored his team-mates not to get ahead of themselves.

"When it's 1-0 it's dangerous, we know that from the Spurs game. I feel as though we should've killed the game off earlier with the chances we had, but we kept going, defended well and managed to get the second in the end, which we deserved I think," said Henderson.

"We're not really thinking about the end again. Why should we change now? Why think about the end of the season? There's still a lot of games left.

"We've taken it by each game for a long time now and it's put us in good stead, so there's no need to change. For us as players it's the next game, the next challenge. United played well at times today but I felt as though we deserved the three points.

"At Liverpool there's always expectation to win and be successful and that hopefully won't change for a very long time."

Liverpool moved 16 points clear at the Premier League summit after Virgil van Dijk and Mohamed Salah secured a deserved 2-0 victory over rivals Manchester United at Anfield.

Second-place Manchester City drew 2-2 with Crystal Palace on Saturday and Liverpool, who still possess a game in hand, took full advantage to tighten their grip at the top and boost their chances of a first league title since 1990.

United are the only team to take points off Jurgen Klopp's men this season and deployed a three-man defence – including Luke Shaw at centre-back – as they did when the teams drew 1-1 at Old Trafford in October.

But Liverpool took just 14 minutes to take the lead through Van Dijk and, despite an improvement from the visitors in the second half, Salah raced away on the break to clinch the three points in second-half stoppage time.

After Fred and Brandon Williams let Van Dijk get loose in the area Harry Maguire was United's last hope, but the Netherlands international leapt above the man who took his tag as the world's most expensive defender to nod in the opener.

Liverpool had what they thought was a second ruled out by VAR in the 25th minute.

David de Gea spilled a high ball under pressure from Van Dijk but referee Craig Pawson did not blow his whistle after putting it to his mouth. Play continued and Roberto Firmino curled home a fine finish, only for the challenge on the United goalkeeper – who received a yellow card for his protests – to be deemed a foul upon review.

Andreas Pereira failed to convert a rare United chance against the run of play from inside the six-yard box, before De Gea managed to keep out Sadio Mane on the stroke of half-time.

Liverpool came flying out of the blocks in the second half, with Salah scuffing a glorious opportunity wide and De Gea brilliantly tipping a venomous drive from Jordan Henderson onto the post.

Anthony Martial showed a lack of composure when he hacked high and wide after a brilliant one-two with Pereira before the hour mark, while Mane passed up an opening after a swift break from the hosts.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer switched to a back four for the final 15 minutes but, as United pushed for an equaliser, Salah punished the visitors by surging clear from a corner and holding off Daniel James to seal the win with a cool finish.
 

What does it mean? United need attacking reinforcements

Solskjaer said pre-game Marcus Rashford was facing "weeks" out with a back injury, though reports subsequently emerged claiming he could be facing up to three months out.

With James and Martial doing little up top, United would be wise to look to the transfer market to bolster their options. Failing to secure the signature of Erling Haaland, who scored a hat-trick after coming off the bench on his Borussia Dortmund debut on Saturday, now looks like even more of a blow.

Van Dijk a colossus

Not only did he score the first goal, Van Dijk was immovable at the heart of Liverpool's defence and comfortably dealt with United's limp attack. His exemplary distribution from the back helped keep Solskjaer's men on the back foot for much of the game.

The Pereira conundrum

Having made a marginal impact as a winger at Valencia, Pereira fared little better when deployed in a deep-lying midfield role last season. He played as a number 10 at Anfield and missed United's best chance while creating just one chance for Martial.

What's next?

Liverpool travel to Molineux to face Wolves on Thursday, with United at home to Burnley a day prior.

Jurgen Klopp said it was "a catastrophe" for Liverpool to learn next year's Africa Cup of Nations has been moved to start in January.

The tournament in Cameroon had been due to be played in June and July, during the off-season for many European leagues, and Liverpool had been planning accordingly.

However, concerns over weather conditions at that time of year meant it was decided to move it on the calendar, which also means there will be no clash with an expanded Club World Cup in China.

While the Africa Cup of Nations will go ahead in cooler temperatures, there was no disguising Klopp's heated response to the decision.

"[It's] for us a catastrophe in that moment losing three players," Klopp said.

"We have absolutely no power. If we say we don't let him go, the player is suspended. How is that possible that the company who pays the player cannot decide if the player has to stay or not?"

He could lose the likes of Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and Naby Keita for weeks on end, putting a major dent in plans for what could be a season where Liverpool, this term's runaway leaders, are defending the Premier League title.

Klopp admitted his transfer plans could also be affected by the Confederation of African Football's (CAF) decision, saying it was a move that did African players no favours.

The tournament will run from January 9 to February 6, CAF said.

"Do we really want to open this book now?" Klopp asked, when the subject was raised in a news conference on Friday.

"I couldn't respect the African Cup of Nations more than I do. I like the competition and I've watched it a lot in the past. It's an obvious problem that you play a tournament in the middle of the season.

"I get it that it makes more sense for Africa to play it maybe in our winter, their winter as well, so when the weather is better for them.

"A couple of things which are not OK – one thing is, FIFA plans a tournament [the Club World Cup] in the summer of 2021, a week later or so than the actual Africa Cup of Nations will have started [under the previous plans], I think, or maybe two weeks later, another tournament for a lot of world-class players.

"I mentioned that in the past. I'm not sure if that was part of the decision, when they thought it makes no sense to play it after that tournament so let's play it again in the winter, I don't know.

"Or was the weather the real [reason]? It means another tournament. It's too many tournaments, still.

"The other thing is, it doesn't help African players. We will not sell Sadio, Mo or Naby now because they have a tournament in January or February, but if we have to make a decision about bringing in a player, it's a massive one.

"These decisions are made without asking players, without asking managers, without asking anybody, it's just a decision. FIFA doesn't look like being involved. They're happy having their 24-team [Club] World Cup, offering a lot of money for all the clubs involved. We forget these tournaments are played by players - they don't have a break."

Liverpool are 21 matches into their Premier League title bid and, remarkably, have failed to win just once.

Jurgen Klopp's side look unstoppable as they charge towards a first top-flight championship since 1989-90, building a 14-point lead – with a game in hand – heading into this weekend's fixtures.

But the one team to halt Liverpool this term, holding the Reds to a 1-1 draw at Old Trafford on October 20, were bitter rivals Manchester United.

Only a late Adam Lallana equaliser to cancel out Marcus Rashford's opener maintained the leaders' unbeaten league campaign.

United face Liverpool again on Sunday, visiting Anfield, so we take a look at what went right for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's men last time and what they must do to earn a result again on Merseyside.

 

MIDFIELD BATTLE KEY

The supposed weakness of this Liverpool team is said to be in their midfield, and while that often does not bear true, it did in the reverse fixture.

The Reds boasted 68 per cent of possession but captain Jordan Henderson endured a rare tough afternoon, completing just 23 passes as he was first shifted out wide and then replaced by Lallana.

Andreas Pereira was key for United in leading the sort of harrying often associated with Klopp's early Liverpool teams, not allowing the visitors to settle and winning possession on 11 occasions. The Brazilian (11.89km), compatriot Fred (11.92km) and Scott McTominay (11.93km) also each covered more ground than any other player.

But if the centre of the pitch is where Liverpool can be got at, it is also where United are now short. Pereira's form has been ordinary, Fred is inconsistent, and both McTominay and Paul Pogba are injured.

 

WING-BACKS A WINNER

As well as pressing the Liverpool midfield back, Solskjaer crafted a plan to combat the dual threats of right-back Trent Alexander-Arnold and left-back Andy Robertson in October.

A five-man defence allowed Aaron Wan-Bissaka (two tackles, two clearances, two interceptions) and Ashley Young (three clearances, two interceptions, two fouls won) to aggressively match up against their opposite numbers, limiting the effectiveness of two of the division's chief creators.

Liverpool mustered just seven crosses from open play in the first half, while only four of the 19 deliveries Alexander-Arnold and Robertson attempted between them by full-time found a team-mate.

Unfortunately for United, the lax marking of their central defensive three saw Lallana left free to convert when Robertson did hit the mark late in an improved second half. The Red Devils cannot afford similar such lapses this time.

 

SALAH STAYING SILENT

If the midfield is stifled and Alexander-Arnold and Robertson are kept in check, Liverpool will be left hoping for a moment of magic from a key attacking star like Mohamed Salah.

But Salah, who missed out with injury at Old Trafford, has not scored or assisted a single goal in four Premier League appearances against United.

That might sound like a run destined to be broken soon enough, but the same could be said of Raheem Sterling's unlikely drought. The Manchester City forward is now scoreless in 18 meetings with his club's city rivals in all competitions.

Salah's continued struggles in a fixture that brings plenty of pressure would represent a big boost as United look for all the help they can get at fortress Anfield.

 

MAN FOR THE BIG OCCASION

That Old Trafford stalemate provided yet more evidence that Solskjaer can get his team to turn up in the big matches.

United have won away at Tottenham, Arsenal, Chelsea (twice), Paris Saint-Germain and Manchester City since Solskjaer took charge 13 months ago, while Liverpool have now been held twice at Old Trafford.

Indeed, Solskjaer is the only manager Klopp has faced more than once in the Premier League and failed to beat.

But after back-to-back victories against Spurs and City last month lifted the United boss, his side lost to Arsenal and Pep Guardiola's men in the New Year. With a modest record against lesser opposition, Solskjaer must again prove his worth in these contests.

This Sunday sees Premier League leaders Liverpool host Manchester United, rivals who sit 27 points below them in the table.

There has been a clear gulf in class between Jurgen Klopp's side, who have accrued a whopping 61 points from a possible 63 across 21 fixtures, and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's men, who have suffered defeats at Watford, Bournemouth and Newcastle United already this term.

Yet one bright spark for United has been the form of Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial, an attacking duo who have combined for more goals than Liverpool pair Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane.

Rashford faces a battle to be fit for the game having come off against Wolves in Wednesday's FA Cup replay due to a back injury, but just how do the quartet compare when fully fit, and how have they evolved in 2019-20? We crunched the numbers to find out.

 

RASHFORD AND MARTIAL: FROM PROFLIGATE TO POTENT

Salah (10) and Mane (11) have combined for 21 league goals (42 per cent of Liverpool's 50 goals), while Rashford (14) and Martial (8) have scored 22 (61 per cent of United's 36 goals).

The United duo's success in front of goal has come thanks to their ability to convert big chances. Excluding penalties, Rashford has scored eight of his 15 big chances, converting 53.8 per cent compared to 23.8 per cent last season.

Martial, with five goals from nine big chances, is even more efficient (55.6 per cent) and both United forwards have better big-chance conversion rates than Salah (50 per cent) and Mane (30 per cent).

Mane has had more big chances than the rest of the quartet, but having scored 15 of his 26 big chances in the 2018-19 league campaign he has netted only six of 20 this time around.

 

RASHFORD'S LEAP FORWARD

It is not just in front of goal where Rashford has shown an improvement and become a greater focus of United's attack.

The England international is averaging more touches per game this season (43.68 to 37.18), more touches in the opposition box per game (5.45 to 4.81) and has taken more shots (74) than any of Salah (66), Mane (49) or Martial (40).

Rashford switched between central and wide berths last term but is now firmly established on the left side of United's attack with a clear purpose.

The one statistic that perhaps outlines that most is that Rashford has attempted an astonishing 57 more dribbles than Salah this season.

 

ALEXANDER-ARNOLD ALTERS SALAH'S ROLE?

Last season only four players - Eden Hazard, Wilfried Zaha, Nathan Redmond and Raheem Sterling - completed more dribbles than Salah's 81, but in this campaign it's a different story.

The Reds forward has attempted just 49 - far fewer than Mane (67) - while he has completed fewer dribbles (23) than team-mates Mane, Georginio Wijnaldum and Roberto Firmino.

Salah led the Premier League for touches in the box in 2018-19 (322), and only Sterling is ahead of him this time, but he has had far fewer touches overall than Mane (764 to 1,000) having led the Senegalese (1,820 to 1,807) in the previous campaign.

That might have something to do with right-back Trent Alexander-Arnold's ascent. Alexander-Arnold leads the league in touches (2,137) and is second in assists, showing that he, and not Salah, is now the focus of attacks down the Liverpool right.

A 27-POINT GAP, BUT SIMILAR ATTACKING STATISTICS

One glance at the table suggests there are few similarities between Klopp's runaway leaders and Solskjaer's Jekyll and Hyde outfit.

However, a more in-depth dive into the numbers shows there has actually been little to separate the two in many attacking senses.

Liverpool have created 258 chances to United's 241, and have only conjured up five more from open play and 10 from set-pieces.

The common theory is that United are far more effective on the counter attack, yet both teams have scored four times from fast breaks, with Solskjaer's men having 20 fast breaks to Liverpool's 18.

A big difference between the two is the quality of opportunities created, Liverpool accumulating 56 big chances to United's 34, which points to a clear lack of creativity in Solskjaer's ranks. Couple that with their defensive fragility (United's four clean sheets to Liverpool's eight) and it becomes more obvious just why the two are miles apart in the table.

Liverpool are racing clear at the top of the table and it will surely take a miracle for the Reds not to win their first Premier League title.

Jurgen Klopp's side face old rivals Manchester United on Sunday at Anfield, with the Red Devils the only team to have taken points off Liverpool so far this season.

Unbeaten in 38 Premier League matches, Liverpool are overwhelming favourites, though Ole Gunnar Solskjaer oversaw a 4-0 win over struggling Norwich City on Saturday.

Can United stall Liverpool's procession, or will Klopp's men continue their stroll towards Premier League glory?

Sadio Mane has beaten Liverpool team-mate Mohamed Salah and Manchester City's Riyad Mahrez to the CAF African Player of the Year award for 2019.

Mane was a standout player as Liverpool went all the way in the 2018-19 Champions League, while he has also enjoyed a strong start to the 2019-20 Premier League campaign.

The Senegal international placed in the top three in each of the previous three years, finishing runner-up to Salah in 2017 and 2018, and third in 2016, when Mahrez came first.

But this time Mane claimed the prize, ahead of Liverpool team-mate Salah and Mahrez, who won a domestic treble with City and captained Algeria to glory at the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations.

It is the first time since 2002 that a Senegalese player has claimed the award, with El Hadji Diouf winning it shortly after switching Lens for Liverpool.

While Liverpool's Champions League success undoubtedly helped Mane's chances, he also enjoyed a wonderful year individually.

In 36 Premier League outings in 2019, Mane scored 24 times and got six assists to leave Salah (18 goals and five assists from 34 matches) and Mahrez (seven goals and seven assists from 24 games) trailing in his wake.

Mane, Salah and Mahrez also formed part of CAF's star-studded Team of the Year.

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang was selected to lead the line, with Hakim Ziyech and Idrissa Gueye chosen in midfield, while Andre Onana takes the place in goal.

Kalidou Koulibaly, Joel Matip, Serge Aurier and Achraf Hakimi – who won the Young Player of the Year award – were the back four and Algeria's Djamel Belmadi was crowned Men's African Coach of the Year.

Jurgen Klopp described Liverpool's accomplishment of going a year without defeat in the Premier League as "exceptional" following the Reds' 2-0 win over Sheffield United on Thursday.

Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane got the goals for the Reds, who were dominant throughout at Anfield having opened the scoring in the fourth minute.

The victory means Liverpool will have passed a year unbeaten in the top flight by the time they are next in action on January 11, with their last defeat being a 2-1 loss to Manchester City on January 3, 2019.

Only two Premier League sides have ever enjoyed longer unbeaten runs in the league and Liverpool appear destined to claim their first top-flight crown in 30 years this term.

"It says a lot of positive things. I have not enough words for it, it is exceptional," he told BT Sport.

"We did not think about one year, 365 days or whatever, tonight. We thought about winning this game, that was the target and how it always was.

"The boys were 100 per cent focused, that's the important stuff. Keep this game unspectacular, that was the plan.

"Our New Year starts at the end of May, so we have season resolutions, not New Year resolutions."

The result restored Liverpool's lead at the top to 13 points and opposing manager Chris Wilder spoke of his admiration for them after the match, while also suggesting goalkeeper Dean Henderson was the only Blades player who did not under-perform.

"I wish Jurgen all best. I love everything about them. The physical and mental part of it is amazing," he said, before turning his attentions back to United.

"It was really below par performance, apart from the goalkeeper, he made two or three great saves and kept us in it.

"We had one or two chances but it was a really below-par performance. When you come into the Premier League you do expect one of these performances, so for it to be in our 20th or 21st game and it be the first time it has happened, I can take a little bit of comfort from that."

Liverpool will become only the third Premier League side to go unbeaten for more than a year after Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane inspired Thursday's 2-0 win over Sheffield United at Anfield.

The Reds last suffered defeat on January 3 last year in a 2-1 loss to Manchester City and, on the day before the first anniversary of that reverse, they had little difficulty dispatching the Blades to ensure they pass that marker.

Jurgen Klopp was forced into a pre-match change when Naby Keita suffered a groin injury, though it seemingly had little impact as Liverpool were ahead by the fourth minute thanks to Salah.

The solid performance of Manchester United-owned goalkeeper Dean Henderson – who was also aided by the post in the second half – helped keep the score down, but Mane wrapped the win up in the 64th minute at the end of a blistering move to restore Liverpool's 13-point lead at the Premier League summit.

The Reds were kept at bay for just four minutes, as George Baldock's slip allowed Andy Robertson to retrieve Virgil van Dijk's long ball and the left-back found Salah to convert.

Dean Henderson showed his quality soon after, however, producing a remarkable save to deny Salah a second as he turned Jordan Henderson's cross towards goal.

The left-hand post was the next object in Salah's way, as his teasing cross in the 61st minute missed everyone and came back off the upright – Dean Henderson grabbing it before it could then cross the line, though there was no stopping the Reds soon after.

Alisson quickly rolled the ball out to Robertson and he fed the ball up the line for Mane, who offloaded to Salah and received an incisive return pass into the box, before finishing past the goalkeeper at the second time of asking.

United should have pulled one back late on, but Oli McBurnie could not get enough on Jack O'Connell's cross and Alisson stopped it just before it could cross the line.

 

What does it mean? Reds' run roars on

Although Liverpool last lost on January 3, 2019, their unbeaten run technically began nine days later with a 1-0 victory over Brighton and Hove Albion.

With their next Premier League outing not until January 11, they have only one more match standing in the way of their streak surpassing a full year.

Salah simply super

Liverpool's Egyptian star did very little wrong on Thursday. Were it not for Dean Henderson's excellence, he would have almost certainly got a hat-trick, while he also provided the pass that teed up Mane.

Baldock's bad day at the office

The match started poorly for Baldock, as his slip allowed Robertson to set up Salah for the opener in the fourth minute. He never really recovered, struggling with the Scotland international and Mane throughout.

What's next?

Liverpool host Everton in the FA Cup third round on Sunday, when the Blades host non-League Fylde in the same competition. Both sides return to Premier League action the following weekend – the Reds going to Tottenham, while United welcome West Ham.

Mohamed Salah faces competition from Liverpool team-mate Sadio Mane and Manchester City's Riyad Mahrez in his bid to be named African Player of the Year for the third time in a row.

The Premier League stars have been named as the final three contenders for the award, which has belonged to Egypt international Salah for the past two years.

Algeria winger Mahrez won it while still at Leicester City in 2016 but Mane looks to be Salah's closest competitor after twice finishing as runner-up to his fellow Anfield favourite.

Mane has scored freely throughout 2019 and helped Senegal reached the Africa Cup of Nations final, which they lost to Algeria.

Cameroon's Ajara Nchout, Nigeria and Barcelona forward Asisat Oshoala, and last year's winner Thembi Kgatlana of South Africa are shortlisted for the African Women's Player of the Year award.

The winners will be announced at a ceremony in Hurghada, Egypt on January 7.

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