Liverpool versus Manchester United again failed to live up to the hype as Jose Mourinho’s safety-first policy saw him once more frustrate the hosts at Anfield.
United goalkeeper David de Gea made one brilliant reaction save from Joel Matip in the first half but Jurgen Klopp’s side failed to break down well-organised opponents.
It is a criticism which has been regularly levelled at the Reds this season but was perhaps excusable on this occasion considering the rivalry and the quality – United began the day joint top – they faced.
It might have been the 199th meeting between these two giants of British football and the inauguration of a stand in honour of one of Anfield’s favorite boys Kenny ‘the King’ Daglish, but both teams served up a match that would be best left in the dusty and forgotten corners of history.
Before this match, Mourinho had served to downplay the hype – and post his words, his actions helped ensure this occurred. United may have been a lethal attack all season, but today was about a toothless attack and an attempt at shutting up shop. Ingredients that left us with a fairly damp goalless draw.
Liverpool flourished as a sea port early in the 20th century, but even with a United defense all at sea, the incompetence of the Kop ‘sailors’ left the away ocean calm and undisturbed. Klopp has watched his worldclass attacking line scupper golden chance after chance, and today after 19 shots, he was left fuming as usual.
The main culprit was the Egyptian golden boy Salah. He was perfect in getting into the right areas but understanding where the net was became a whole different equation that he failed to solve. A United defense bereft of Eric Baily and featuring an uncertain Mattheo Darmian was always going to be tested, but besides some excellent communication in trapping the Liverpool attack in offside areas – they were far too error prone to have gotten away with a clean sheet.
Obviously one moment of the day stood out as United again got caught out by Coutinho, who managed to slip it to Matip just inches from the net – only to see De Gea proving superhuman once again with an outstretched boot. That Salah couldn’t capitalize on the rebound falling to him served as a larger statement of Liverpool’s hapless attack.
Wave after wave followed, only broken once towards the end of the first half when Lukaku, formerly forlorn and lonely enough to sarcastically call out De Gea on a misplaced long shot, managed to weave through the suspect Liverpool defense, only to hit it straight into the path of Mignolet. That and a Matic out of the box shot were the only ones United managed in their attempt to change the scoreline. Given Liverpool’s previous mishaps, the respect shown to them by a side shipping four a game was curious and frustrating for the away fans.
Not that the home fans would have been any less. 156 shots and 13 goals this premier league season would not have been the return the Kop would be too fond of – and besides a scattered defense, finishing is something that needs to be on Klopp’s agenda if he wants to keep a Champions League place at the end of the season. For Mourinho, missing both Pogba and Fellaini, he would be relieved with a third successive league draw against Klopp but knows that against more clinical opposition, such performances will lead to more fatal outcomes.
And with City looking ominous and the hold on top spot precarious, United have to find a better form of strategy to combat top opponents in the days ahead.
xG map for Liverpool – Man United. The usual narrative after a Mourinho team takes an away draw is, "Jose done it again." This was not that. pic.twitter.com/iAPHjkKUXH
— Caley Graphics (@Caley_graphics) October 14, 2017
Man of the Match: Joe Gomez. The fullback was supposed to be served on a plate for a Martial masterclass but not only did he do exceptionally well in defense and shut out first Martial and then Rashford – he provided beautiful attacking runs that sadly petered out with much vaunted Liverpool frontline failing to finish. Having turned 20 this May, this sort of mature performance will ensure he remains a valued asset to Klopp as the manager tries to plug in the leaks in his shaky defense.