It’s more than fair to say that last night’s Northwest Derby between Liverpool and Manchester United was nothing like the game it was billed to be. It was a drab affair that finished 0-0, with the teams only mustering up a few chances between them. Jürgen Klopp seemed the least satisfied of the two managers after the game which begs the question, was this a Mourinho masterclass or just another uninspiring performance by Man United?
It was clear from the off that the visitors were not prepared to give Liverpool any space and time on the ball. The wide men of Rashford and Young were keeping the two fullbacks at bay; Clyne in particular has been threatening going forward this season, the manager had clearly done his homework on the opposition. The midfield three for United was incredibly compact without the ball. Summer signing Paul Pogba played as the further forward of the three and succeeded in not allowing Jordan Henderson to dictate the game from deep. The back four for Mourinho’s side were solid throughout, totally numbing the threat of Daniel Sturridge upfront, and David De Gea made two outstanding second half saves to keep it goalless.
However, with this defensive stubbornness came a lack of options going forward. The two widemen were pinned so far back by Milner and Clyne that there was often no out ball for United and Ibrahimović struggled when isolated up front. Their only real goal scoring chance fell to the Swedish striker on 54 minutes; a wonderful shimmy and deep cross by Pogba found him at the back post but he couldn’t get any power or direction on the header, a poor effort in truth. With Anthony Martial ruled out with a minor groin injury, attacking options were at a minimum on the bench and it was only Wayne Rooney who came on for compatriot Marcus Rashford with the latter looking tired from his defensive cover work.
Klopp’s Liverpool were uncharacteristically disappointing in attack, there was a real lack of creativity particularly in the first half. Things got brighter following the introduction of Adam Lallana but there was still no way through. This very nearly didn’t matter when Coutinho let rip from 30 yards with twenty minutes to go, forcing to De Gea into a trademark stunning save, top class performances versus Liverpool are becoming something of a habit for the Spaniard.
Man United fans may be slightly disheartened with the manner of the point that they earned, but any point taken from Anfield is an achievement. Nonetheless, with the red devils still 5 points from leaders Manchester City, a win would’ve been the result many fans were looking for. For Liverpool, this was a disappointing display but they must be somewhat content with a point given their impressive position in the league table.
Mourinho will be proud of his team’s defensive showing but he’ll need to get them scoring if he’s to come out of a tough forthcoming couple of weeks with wins.