Goals from Virgil van Dijk and Dominik Szoboszlai earned Jürgen Klopp’s side their first Premier League away victory since mid-September and kept them in touch with leaders Arsenal.

Having been announced as Paul Heckingbottom’s replacement on Tuesday, Chris Wilder’s second spell in the Blades dugout began with a defeat.

The energetic performance, though, was a considerable improvement on the dour showings in the recent 3-1 home loss to AFC Bournemouth and 5-0 reversal at Burnley.

Wilder, who oversaw promotions from League One and the Championship in his previous spell in charge of the club between May 2016 and March 2021, was given an unsurprisingly warm welcome by the home faithful just ahead of kick-off.

Performances, clearly, will need to turn into points soon if the bottom side, who currently sit five points from safety, are to give themselves a reasonable shot at survival. Brentford’s visit on Saturday would represent an ideal place to start.

For the Reds, their first win at the home of a newly-promoted side since October 2021 was one that saw them go four points ahead of champions Manchester City, who now sit fourth after a 1-0 defeat at Aston Villa saw them leapfrogged by Unai Emery’s team.

Victory at Crystal Palace on Saturday lunchtime will see them go top, for a few hours at least, ahead of the Gunners’ trip to Villa Park that evening.

  • Story of the match

Liverpool captain Virgil van Dijk scores his team's first goal in their 2-0 win over Sheffield United (Photo by Richard Sellers/Sportsphoto/Allstar via Getty Images)
Liverpool captain Virgil van Dijk scores his team's first goal in their 2-0 win over Sheffield United (Photo by Richard Sellers/Sportsphoto/Allstar via Getty Images)

Wilder, who switched to a 4-3-3 formation, made five changes to the side that lost heavily at Turf Moor on Saturday.

That saw Jayden Bogle, Vinícius Souza, James McAtee, Andre Brooks and William Osula come in for George Baldock, Ollie Norwood, John Fleck, Luke Thomas and the suspended Oli McBurnie.

Klopp, meanwhile, made four alterations to the team that started Sunday’s dramatic 4-3 Anfield victory over Fulham.

Joël Matip, who looks set for a lengthy spell on the sidelines after the Liverpool boss confirmed post-match that the centre-back suffered an anterior cruciate ligament rupture to his knee in that match, Kostas Tsimikas, Ryan Gravenberch and Darwin Núñez made way for Ibrahima Konaté, Joe Gomez, Wataru Endo and Cody Gakpo.

Within a predictably lively opening, which was punctuated by a lengthy stoppage to allow Alexis Mac Allister to receive treatment after he inadvertently had his knee trodden on by Souza, it was Manchester City loanee McAtee who had the clearest opening.

Cameron Archer’s pass crept beyond Trent Alexander-Arnold and through to McAtee after the forward had dispossessed Gomez following a Liverpool corner. The 21-year-old’s left-footed effort was kept out well by the left hand of Caoimhín Kelleher, though.

Archer had a chance of his own in the 18th minute as a superbly worked break saw the former Villa man burst into the box but Van Dijk, who’d originally stood off in order to block the passing lane inside to Osula, timed his intervention expertly and stepped in to make a big block as the No.10 pulled the trigger.

It was reflective of another serenely efficient showing from the 32-year-old.

Van Dijk and Konaté both brought sharp saves out of Wes Foderingham in the wake of corners in the following minutes, before the former coolly opened the scoring from another such situation after 37 minutes. 

Alexander-Arnold’s outswinging delivery – which made it four successive games with at least one goal involvement for the 25-year-old – was sidefooted home on the volley by the Netherlands and Liverpool skipper.

There were appeals for a foul in the build-up, after the Blades captain for the evening, Anel Ahmedhodžić, went down following contact between himself and Van Dijk in the box, but the goal stood.

Sheffield United manager Chris Wilder during side's 2-0 defeat to Liverpool (Photo by Daniel Chesterton/Offside/Offside via Getty Images)
Sheffield United manager Chris Wilder during side's 2-0 defeat to Liverpool (Photo by Daniel Chesterton/Offside/Offside via Getty Images)

Van Dijk headed another Alexander-Arnold corner over soon after and a stinging drive from range by Mac Allister, who was operating in a more advanced midfield position, with Endo occupying the ‘Number 6’ role, was palmed behind by Foderingham in added time prior to the interval.

The home goalkeeper then made a superb stop 10 minutes after the restart when he reacted sharply to push Mohamed Salah’s right-footed volley over, which again came from a corner.

The Egyptian forward will have to wait a little longer for his 200th Liverpool goal and 150th in the Premier League.

Mac Allister made way for Curtis Jones just before the hour mark, with the strapped wound from earlier seemingly still causing him some discomfort.

Archer should really have got a left-footed shot off when his well-timed run and McAtee’s wonderfully weighted pass got him in behind the visitors’ backline later in the half, but he was swiftly surrounded when he attempted to cut back onto his right foot.

That demonstrated the extent to which the contest remained in the balance, though.

Both bosses made changes in an attempt to tip it in their favour. Brooks and Osula made way for Fleck and Benie Traore for the Blades, with a little over 15 minutes of the 90 remaining, while Norwood and Max Lowe replaced Souza and Auston Trusty as stoppage time approached.

Klopp, meanwhile, introduced Harvey Elliott and Núñez for Salah and Luis Díaz midway through the half, before Gakpo was withdrawn for Gravenberch late on.

Núñez perhaps should have put it beyond the hosts when Alexander-Arnold slid him through with typical precision in the 77th minute, but Foderingham raced out to make another excellent save.

There were appeals for a penalty 10 minutes later when McAtee went down in the box under pressure from Konaté, with replays showing the centre-back had pushed the No.28, but perhaps with insufficient force to bring a foul. Still, it was a bit of a risk to take.

This wasn’t always the easiest of evenings for the French defender, who had some sloppy moments – including one mis-control which led to a booking – which perhaps reflected his relatively limited game time so far this term.

His minutes are likely to increase in the coming months due to Matip’s injury, though, and he still contributed sizeably here.

The Frenchman became the first player to win 20 or more duels in a Premier League match in the last three seasons, while he won 14 out of 14 aerial duels – making him the first player to win more than 12 such challenges and maintain a 100% success rate since the start of the 2015/16 season.

Those numbers, in themselves, ought to bode well for Liverpool and Konaté.

It did look like Núñez – himself now on a booking for kicking the ball away – had passed up another opening in the fourth minute of stoppage time when, rather than squaring to teammates, he was dispossessed by Bogle.

The Uruguayan forward responded proactively though, and regained possession from the defender with a sliding challenge.

He then drilled a superb pass into the path of Szoboszlai in the box and the Hungary captain – by now playing on the left of the front-three – controlled expertly before finding the top-left corner with an emphatic finish to make the three points that bit safer.

<strong><a  data-cke-saved-href='https://www.vavel.com/en/football/2023/11/12/premier-league/1162773-four-things-we-learnt-from-liverpools-3-0-victory-over-brentford.html' href='https://www.vavel.com/en/football/2023/11/12/premier-league/1162773-four-things-we-learnt-from-liverpools-3-0-victory-over-brentford.html'>Dominik Szoboszlai</a></strong> of Liverpool beats Sheffield United goalkeeper Wes Foderingham to score his side's second goal in their 2-0 <strong><a  data-cke-saved-href='https://www.vavel.com/en/football/2023/12/07/premier-league/1165410-four-thingswe-learnt-from-brightons-dominant-2-1-win-over-brentford.html' href='https://www.vavel.com/en/football/2023/12/07/premier-league/1165410-four-thingswe-learnt-from-brightons-dominant-2-1-win-over-brentford.html'>Premier League</a></strong> victory (Photo by Daniel Chesterton/Offside/Offside via Getty Images)
Dominik Szoboszlai of Liverpool beats Sheffield United goalkeeper Wes Foderingham to score his side's second goal in their 2-0 Premier League victory (Photo by Daniel Chesterton/Offside/Offside via Getty Images)

Núñez clearly went for and won the ball, but Bogle was arguably unlucky not to be awarded a free-kick – and perhaps fortunate to avoid injury – given the contact both of Núñez’s legs made with him.

Wilder’s palpable disappointment with that decision after the game was certainly understandable.

It was also clear, however, how encouraged he was by the display that the players had produced after just a single training session with him.

Both teams had at least some reason for satisfaction come the final whistle.

  • PLAYER OF THE MATCH: VIRGIL VAN DIJK

Liverpool captain Virgil van Dijk during his side's 2-0 <strong><a  data-cke-saved-href='https://www.vavel.com/en/football/2023/12/07/premier-league/1165410-four-thingswe-learnt-from-brightons-dominant-2-1-win-over-brentford.html' href='https://www.vavel.com/en/football/2023/12/07/premier-league/1165410-four-thingswe-learnt-from-brightons-dominant-2-1-win-over-brentford.html'>Premier League</a></strong> win over Sheffield United (Photo by Andrew Powell/Liverpool FC via Getty Images)
Liverpool captain Virgil van Dijk during his side's 2-0 Premier League win over Sheffield United (Photo by Andrew Powell/Liverpool FC via Getty Images)

The Liverpool skipper led the way in several senses here.

A source of calm in an intense atmosphere, the clarity with which he operated was demonstrated by the superb timing of that key first-half block from Archer.

He won two of his three ground duels, four of his five in the air and completed 83 of 89 passes (93%), including four of six long balls.

The technical excellence that makes him such an asset in terms of distribution was on show in how assuredly he volleyed home the opener, which ensured the visitors went in at half-time in the box seat.

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