No need for Liverpool to panic, says Danny Murphy

Match of the Day 2 analysis

Liverpool's approach in their defeat by Manchester United on Saturday has been criticised because of their lack of attacking threat.

Whether you call it a 4-2-3-1 or 4-5-1 formation, there were question marks over the tactics that Reds boss Brendan Rodgers went with at Old Trafford because they left Christian Benteke so isolated up front.

It is easy to say in hindsight that they should have tried something different, but I would suggest that being without the suspended Philippe Coutinho was the biggest reason they offered so little going forward.

You cannot keep making excuses for Liverpool, and some people might respond by saying they just have to be able to adapt when some players are unavailable, no matter who they are.

The fans want to see results now, but there are a few reasons why I don't think it is time to panic - it is extremely early days for a start.

This is a big season for Liverpool and for Rodgers and you certainly cannot judge this team and their prospects of making the top four after only five games, because they have got plenty of time to improve.

An attack that will frighten anyone

I actually feel positive about how Liverpool look in terms of going forward and creating chances, something which was a huge problem for them last season.

They only scored 52 goals in 38 Premier League games, compared to 101 in 2013-14.

When I look at all the attacking players that Rodgers has now got, I think that come the end of the season their goals tally will be fine.

Philippe Coutinho
Liverpool badly missed Coutinho at Old Trafford. He has scored seven Premier League goals in 2015.

Creativity was an issue at Old Trafford, but Coutinho's absence was a big factor because when he is in the side, they always look a threat.

You could say the fact they missed him so badly means there is a problem with a lack of depth in the squad, but some players are just so good they cannot be easily replaced.

Also, you have to remember they were playing a United team that does not charge forward in the way they did when Sir Alex Ferguson was manager.

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Daniel Sturridge looks best for 18 months - Rodgers

Instead, under Louis van Gaal, United look to keep the ball. They are very well organised and their focus is keeping their back four solid and intact.

To go to Old Trafford and open them up and create chances, you need your best players and Rodgers did not have them on Saturday. And there were too many poor performances.

It is not all doom and gloom, though. Daniel Sturridge is close to returning, with Rodgers saying he is the 'fittest he has been in 18 months'. When he plays up front with Benteke, Liverpool's attack will look very different.

If Coutinho is behind them at the tip of a midfield diamond, or cutting in from the left with Sturridge coming in from the right as part of a front three then they will frighten any team.

Stopping goals is more of an issue

It is actually defensively where I have more concerns about this Liverpool team, because that is where they could come unstuck.

It was only down to a loss of concentration that Liverpool went a goal down at Old Trafford, but I would still describe it as a terrible goal to concede.

It was such an easy thing to spot, I think everyone could see what was going on when the United players charged into the box for the free-kick and left Daley Blind in space, but no-one took responsibility out there on the pitch.

Ultimately I think it is whether they can defend well enough for long enough to compete that will decide whether they will get into the top four.

I am still not convinced by Simon Mignolet in goal, and I think he spreads nervousness around the back four.

Marouane Fellaini (L) and Dejan Lovren (R)
Lovren cost £20m when he joined Liverpool from Southampton in June 2014

At centre-half, Dejan Lovren started the season reasonably well but has looked shaky again in the last couple of games, which will be a worry for Brendan.

And of course in front of them in the midfield area you are looking for someone to help your defenders out a little bit.

On Saturday, Lucas Leiva played that role but for me he is probably past his best. If Lucas is playing then it is important to have Jordan Henderson in the team for his athleticism and his ability to break up play, but he was injured.

I do not know how far Henderson is off returning, but Liverpool will be much stronger when he does.

Then they could have a midfield three of James Milner, Henderson and Emre Can, who are all very solid and have good legs.

Time for Liverpool to step up

Christian Benteke
Benteke joined Liverpool for £32.5m from Aston Villa in July

Benteke is not firing on all cylinders yet but he has still got two goals in five games so he is still contributing, and there is definitely more to come from him.

He will be full of confidence now after his wonder-goal against United but probably the most positive aspect of Liverpool's start to the season has been that a couple of Rodgers' other new signings have done really well.

Nathaniel Clyne has been terrific at right-back, and he had Memphis Depay in his pocket on Saturday.

And Joe Gomez looks a real talent too. He is not a left-back but his performances have been impeccable, other than the penalty he gave away at Old Trafford.

That defeat is all that their fans will be talking about at the moment, though. I've lost to United as a Liverpool player and there is always a big reaction.

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Liverpool need a lot of work - Rodgers

Your pride is hurt, and so is that of the fans. Everybody feels the pain because those games are the biggest in the club's season.

Saturday's result came off the back of a bad result against West Ham, and two defeats in a row when you are going for the top four is damaging for confidence and morale.

The fixture list has not been kind to Rodgers with trips to Emirates Stadium and Old Trafford in Liverpool's first five games but now they have two home games against Norwich and Aston Villa.

Let's not beat around the bush - Liverpool have to be winning those games if they want to get back into the Champions League. I would imagine Rodgers and the players will tell you exactly the same thing, and all the fans will expect it.

It is never quite as easy as it looks on paper, but two home games is exactly what Liverpool need and I think they will go for the jugular against Norwich - look to dominate and score goals.

If they do win that game comfortably and beat Villa too, then they will have 13 points from seven games and their start to the season looks a lot healthier.

The United game would not be forgotten, but it would be put to bed.

Danny Murphy was speaking to BBC Sport's Chris Bevan.