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Liverpool: Steve Nicol claims Reds defense can no longer cover for Trent Alexander-Arnold

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Liverpool legend Steve Nicol admitted the Reds’ surprise 2-1 defeat to bitter rivals Manchester United on Monday left them worried about their top-two chances this season.

Jadon Sancho gave Erik ten Hag the lead in the 16th minute, after which Marcus Rashford doubled the lead early in the second half.

Mohamed Salah got a goal back for Klopp in the 81st minute, but Liverpool couldn’t save a point and dropped to 16th place in the Premier League by just two points.

Liverpool legend Steve Nicol admitted the Reds’ 2-1 defeat to Man United is ‘relevant’

Jadon Sancho found the bottom corner to give Manchester United the lead in the 16th minute

Jadon Sancho found the bottom corner to give Manchester United the lead in the 16th minute

Marcus Rashford just stayed onside as he broke away from the Red's defense to give United 2-0

Marcus Rashford just stayed onside as he broke away from the Red’s defense to give United 2-0

It is the worst start to a Premier League season for the Reds in 10 years and last season’s runner-up is already five points behind reigning champions Manchester City.

Former Red Nicol, however, insisted that Liverpool cannot write off a top four finish, but admitted that the squad’s poor performance on Monday is ‘concerned’ for their title push.

“You can’t turn around and say they’re not going to make the top four,” Nicol said after the game against ESPN FC.

However, when asked if he believed a top two place was still within Liverpool’s reach, he admitted he had his doubts when he replied: “It’s a little worrying.

Mohamed Salah clawed one back for Liverpool as Jürgen Klopp's side tried to save the loss

Mohamed Salah clawed one back for Liverpool as Jürgen Klopp’s side tried to save the loss

Steve Nicol admitted Monday's poor performance 'worried' for the Reds' title push

Steve Nicol admitted Monday’s poor performance ‘worried’ for the Reds’ title push

“It’s one thing to lose a match by being unhappy, it’s another to lose a match and have a lot of the basics so bad.

“The things I’m talking about, especially defensively. Can you imagine Haaland chasing that backline? Holy smokes. Talk about worrying.

‘But once they get the basics right, they can’t argue with that talent. So they have to get the basics in order quickly.’

Roberto Firmino started as number 9 in the absence of suspended Darwin Nunez after the Reds lost Sadio Mane to Bayern Munich this summer.

The Senegalese star has scored three goals in three Bundesliga wins, while his former side have three more points to go in their stuttering start to the season.

The former Reds insisted that Klopp side with former star striker Sadio Mane .  didn't miss

The former Reds insisted that Klopp side with former star striker Sadio Mane . didn’t miss

Nicol insisted, however, that Mane’s departure from Anfield is not the cause of the Reds’ woes.

When asked if he would admit Liverpool missed Mane, Nicol replied: ‘Because it’s a bad start, is it because of Mane?

Mane didn’t play centrally, did he? Or right back? Or middle middle? If Mané was playing today, he wouldn’t have seen the ball either. He wouldn’t have gotten kicked either.’

But fellow pundit Don Hutchison disagreed, claiming United would have been terrified if Mane had been at Old Trafford.

He said: ‘I think it’s one of them where if Mane is there tonight, and it was Diaz, Mane as number 9, Salah who would have scared the lives of Man United.

The Senegalese star left Anfield to join Bundesliga champions Bayern Munich this summer

The Senegalese star left Anfield to join Bundesliga champions Bayern Munich this summer

“The fact that Firmino played there could push them a little higher up the field. They wouldn’t have been so high up the field if Mane came running after it.

“It’s one of those moments when Liverpool lose, ‘Oh, they should have kept Mane’, if they win 6-0, ‘don’t need Mane’.”

Nicol believed Liverpool’s defeat was not due to the absence of a former Red, but rather to the defensive woes of a current player.

He rejected Trent Alexander-Arnold’s ‘attempt’ to defend Sancho ahead of United’s opening game, claiming Liverpool’s backline can no longer cover the right-back.

“We don’t tell Klopp that he doesn’t know,” he began. “But what Klopp is doing is he’s basically saying to himself ‘you know what we’re going to get from this kid in the future so much that we have to pick up the chin what he doesn’t have defensively’.

Nicol beat Trent Alexander-Arnold's poor defensive skills into defeat

Nicol claimed manager Klopp overlooked the right-back's defensive problems

Nicol claimed Liverpool manager Klopp (right) took Trent Alexander-Arnold’s defensive woes on the chin as the right-back offers ‘so much’ for the squad moving forward

“And that was okay when the other three were at their best. They made it up to him. But it’s every game now, there are problems on that side and they find it hard to cover him now. No one has been able to cover him. He can’t.

“I mean, you saw his attempt to deal with a one-two punch, there was no obligation whatsoever in it. He ran back to the center of the park. If he had sprinted into the penalty area now, he might have been given a challenge on Sancho, but he didn’t, he ran.

Defense is not his forte. We know, Klopp knows, but Klopp is willing to accept the negative because of what he will get in the future.”

The Reds host newly promoted Bournemouth at Anfield next weekend as their quest for their first win of the season continues.

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