Manchester United’s embarrassing 7-0 mauling by Liverpool was a brutal reality check for Erik ten Hag’s improving side but the manager has urged his men to bounce back this week.
Just a week after winning their first silverware for six years, United were put to the sword by Jurgen Klopp’s revitalised side on Sunday, collapsing as Liverpool smashed in six goals in the second half at Anfield.
Ten Hag’s men had travelled to the home of their biggest rivals with a spring in their step after just one defeat in 22 games and still on a high after beating Newcastle to win the League Cup at Wembley.
Their impressive run also included a landmark win against Barcelona in the Europa League as they chased success on four fronts.
But they came away from Anfield with their tails between their legs after the joint-heaviest defeat in the storied history of the 20-time English champions.
The humiliation ends fanciful talk of a potential quadruple, leaving third-placed United 14 points behind leaders Arsenal and well adrift of second-placed Manchester City.
Ten Hag was scathing in his assessment of his team, accusing the players of an “unprofessional” and “unacceptable” performance.
The wretched display shows how much work the Dutchman still has to do to rebuild a club that have not won the Premier League since 2013, despite unmistakeable signs of progress this season.
United had already endured an embarrassing 6-3 defeat at Manchester City this season, as well as a 4-0 loss at Brentford.
The debacle at Anfield was a new low but Ten Hag urged his team to use it as motivation for the rest of the season, starting in Thursday’s Europa League last-16 first leg at home to Real Betis.
“We have seen in the past we can bounce back — after Brentford, after Manchester City,” he told the BBC.
“This is definitely a strong setback and is unacceptable. I’m really disappointed and angry about it.
“It is a reality check. We have to take this strong.”