Manchester United 0 - 0 Liverpool: "Manchester United Suffered A Succession Of Injuries But Still Earned A Point As Liverpool Limped Back To The Top Of The Table

Manchester United Vs Liverpool


only time will tell if this turns out to be a point gained or two lost for Liverpool, but on a slightly surreal afternoon when Manchester United were decimated by injuries and the game suffered for it, this felt very much like a missed opportunity for Jurgen Klopp’s side.
Liverpool are back on top of the Premier League, a point ahead of Manchester City, but they have now dropped six points in their past four matches and the momentum at this stage seems to be firmly with the reigning champions.

Of course, it could have been much worse for Liverpool on the day. Klopp’s heart must certainly have been in his mouth when Romelu Lukaku whipped over a fine inswinging cross that narrowly eluded Chris Smalling a few yards out with just seconds left. But the concern for Klopp is that his team again looked nervy and unsure of themselves and his much-lauded attack, Mohamed Salah in particular, again disappointed, unable to take advantage of a glut of United injuries that should have really left them there for the taking.

As well as United defended, as admirably as ring rusty stand-ins like Scott McTominay and Andreas Pereira performed, and as much as this was another feather in the cap of their caretaker manager, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, who was forced to think on his feet, it is hard to believe City would not have found a way through. Or at least asked a lot more questions of United. Liverpool managed just one shot on target, and even that was a speculative effort from distance by Daniel Sturridge that was easily smothered by David de Gea, who was virtually redundant throughout.

It was inevitable that the loss of so many players, starting with Nemanja Matic in training on Saturday and continuing with Ander Herrera, Juan Mata and then Mata’s replacement, Jesse Lingard, who all departed in the first half, would disrupt United. Marcus Rashford also spent all bar the first six minutes hobbling around after taking a whack to the ankle from Jordan Henderson and leaving United with what Solskjaer described as “10½ men”.

What was less anticipated was the impact it would have on Liverpool’s own rhythm. In fact, they seemed more thrown by all the changes and interruptions than the home team and the sight of Salah being replaced by Divock Origi in the 79th minute, after not getting so much as a sniff against the outstanding Luke Shaw and Victor Lindelof, summed up Liverpool’s day.

Klopp was overheard by the television cameras telling Solskjaer it was a “s--- game” as he shook his United counterpart’s hand at the final whistle and this was very much a day for defenders and destroyers over the two teams’ creative talents. Both defences excelled where both attacks come up short. Salah was anonymous, Sadio Mane not much better and Roberto Firmino was substituted with an ankle injury after half an hour. Rashford was inhibited by injury, if not desire. United claimed only their second clean sheet at Old Trafford in the league this season and, in trying circumstances, Solskjaer could count himself much the happier of the two managers.

Liverpool dominated possession but did precious little with it. By contrast, United produced the better chances, notably late in the first half when Alisson was out quickly to deny Lingard after the best move of a match otherwise starved of slick football. Paul Pogba, who grew in influence after initially struggling to escape the close attentions of Henderson, rolled the ball across the D to Lukaku. With Liverpool expecting Lukaku to shoot, the Belgium striker slipped a delicious through ball in behind Virgil van Dijk for Lingard, who was thwarted by Alisson as he tried to round the Liverpool goalkeeper. Lingard was already struggling with his hamstring before then and that would be his last contribution.

United had already lost Herrera and Mata by that point to hamstring injuries and, in that respect, United did well to remain as organised as they did. It helped, naturally, that Liverpool were far from their imaginative best but it was hard to believe this was McTominay’s first league start since Dec 1. He allayed pre-match concerns about his involvement in Matic’s absence to produce a very mature display in midfield, as did Pereira, who stood in ably for Herrera and produced one vital block to cut out a Henderson cross early in the second half that was greeted with a full bloodied fist pump.

United were forced deeper after the interval, and Rashford grew more isolated, but Liverpool could not find a way through the mass of red shirts. Shaw especially, Lindelof, Smalling and Ashley Young were superb, while United seemed intent on trying to nick a goal from a set-piece. Pogba headed at Alisson from Young’s free-kick but was offside, as was Alexis Sanchez moments later at another opening. United did have the ball in the net in the 74th minute, when Joel Matip turned in Smalling’s cross from Shaw’s free-kick, but Smalling had strayed just offside with Liverpool again holding their line well. Then came that late opportunity for Smalling from Lukaku’s cross.
With an in-form Watford up next before a trip to Goodison Park to face Everton, Liverpool need to rediscover their mojo.

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