Liverpool travelled to Old Trafford this Sunday aiming to move a step closer towards lifting their first Premier League title.
They faced an in-form Manchester United, with Ole Gunner Solskjaer’s rejuvenated Red Devils determined to halt their rivals table-topping ambitions.
The game disappointed somewhat, with an exciting opening turning into a turgid affair when both sides had key players forced off during the first half. The result was a match of few chances or moments of quality, with both teams seemingly happy with a point that sends Liverpool back to the summit of the Premier League table.
Here are five things we learned from today’s north-west derby.
First half injuries hamper the spectacle
Four changes between the two sides before half time detracted from the opening periods quality and led to a subdued match. The game began with the verve and intensity expected from the two sides but tailed off significantly once United lost their bite in midfield when Ander Herrera limped off and he was closely followed by their main creative spark in Juan Mata. Jesse Lingard – the latter’s replacement – lasted less than 20 minutes before he too was forced off, depriving Solskjaer the opportunity to change his side during the second period.
Liverpool lost an attacker of their own when centre-forward Roberto Firmino rolled his ankle after half an hour, stripping the Reds of a crucial cog from their electric front three. These injuries had a detrimental effect on what had promised to be one of the most attacking and exciting games of the season, with both managers putting the handbrake on in response to the enforced changes.
Liverpool ‘keeper Alisson proves his worth
The Brazilian’s transfer fee raised eyebrows during the summer, arriving for £67 million from Roma but he has well and truly justified this expense through his consistent performances. Renowned for his footwork along with the assurance he provides his defence, Alisson today offered up a timely reminder of his shot-stopping qualities, making a crucial stop at the feet of Jesse Lingard. In a game lacking in quality, critical moments like this require big players to step up and ultimately secured Liverpool the point that keeps them at the top of the Premier League table.
Old Trafford Atmosphere Confounds Its Critics
Most Premier League grounds are criticised for their lack of atmosphere and none more so than Old Trafford. During this game, however, particularly during the second half when Manchester United’s side was depleted, the home crowd roared the Red Devil’s on and created an atmosphere that drove them on and seemed to intimidate Liverpool. Whilst the Theatre of Dreams may have a reputation as more of a day trip for football tourists than an atmospheric ground, the fans showed today they can step up and be the 12thman.
Klopp’s Old Trafford Hoodoo Continues
Liverpool’s excellent recent record against quality opposition is well documented, with Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool boasting a positive record against four of the five other top six sides. The exception to this is Manchester United and despite defeating the Red Devils in the league for the first time earlier this season, Klopp is yet to win at Old Trafford.
This unwanted record continued today in a game the Reds failed to get a foothold in. Liverpool’s front three struggled to get into the game against United once again and since Salah joined in 2017, the trio have been either scored or assisted just one goal against Manchester United.
In the same period, they have contributed to 14 against Arsenal. Partly as result of this Liverpool haven’t won at Old Trafford since 2014 and today’s performance from Klopp’s side will give Reds fans little encouragement for future match ups.
Liverpool Stuttering in their Premier League Pursuit
The weight of expectation surrounding Liverpool’s title charge is clearly weighing heavily on the club, with results tailing off since the turn of the year. The Reds have dropped nine points in 2019 and what could have been a 10-point lead following Liverpool’s top of the table clash with Manchester City, has now dwindled to just one.
Lacklustre performances have become commonplace in recent weeks and Sunday afternoon was no different, with a depleted United side creating the better chances whilst looking relatively comfortable facing up to Liverpool’s toothless attack.
Klopp must conjure up some sort of a plan to snap his side out of their mid-season slouch if they want to stand a chance of holding off the Manchester City juggernaut.