Tom McDermott analyses Manchester United's 1-1 draw with Liverpool at Old Trafford and wonders what ramifications the result will have for both sides for the rest of the season.
How the game was decided
Liverpool supporters will say that a poor VAR decision cost them the game and that Marcus Rashford’s opener should never have stood.
United fans will point to a lack of concentration in the closing stages as the reason they never walked away with all three points. In the end it was a draw, and a result that Liverpool were probably happier with.
United coped well with Liverpool’s flair players, and restricted the European champions to just a few sights of goal.
Jurgen Klopp’s men had to rely on substitute Adam Lallana to get them out of trouble, and in comparison, although United were limited, they played to their strengths, and a tweak to the formation before kick-off meant that Liverpool were not allowed to play their usual free-flowing football.
Klopp’s performance and tactics
Mo Salah’s absence was clearly a blow, but Klopp’s team looked surprised by United’s energy and intensity for at least the first hour.
The pattern of play and feeling in the stadium changed after the visitors equalised, and Liverpool certainly finished the game how they should have started it.
Credit must go to Klopp for introducing Lallana in place of Jordan Henderson, and it was the former Southampton man who scored the goal to salvage a point.
In general, Liverpool’s usual quick incisive play and persistence, just wasn’t there, and the equaliser came because of United’s poor organisation, rather than from anything spectacular from the visitors.
That said, most title winning teams take something from a game when they weren’t at their best. Liverpool might look back on the fixture as a point gained next May. Time will tell.
Solskjaer’s performance and tactics
Solskjaer will take a lot from the performance and for the most part, tactically, he and his coaching team got it absolutely spot on.
In what was a mix between 3-5-2 and 5-3-2, the home side, particularly in the opening period, managed to push Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andy Robertson back in their half and prevent them from driving into the attacking third.
Dan James and Marcus Rashford caused further problems positionally in the channels between the Liverpool full-backs and Virgil Van Dyke and Joel Matip, which meant Robertson and Alexander-Arnold didn’t know whether they should push on, or tuck back in to cover.
The United goal was clouded in controversy, when in the build-up, it appeared that Victor Lindelof fouled Divock Origi.
Play continued, and James was quick to exploit the space down the inside right. The Welshman delivered the perfect ball to Rashford that would have been a dream for any striker in the world, from any era.
Along with the cross, Rashford’s movement in, and then back away from the ball, should also be commended. Matip was at sixes and sevens and didn’t know whether to mark the space, or the England forward, and in the end, couldn’t manage either.
What does the result mean for United
The performance was a bonus for Solskjaer and his players, and it should provide them with some belief. The talk before the game was all about how many Liverpool would score, so when United took the lead it came as a surprise to not just to United supporters, but perhaps a few of the Liverpool players as well.
United will not be judged on how they play against the top teams this season because the chances of a Europa League finish, never mind a Champions League one are slim.
The rebuild job Solskjaer has embarked on though, must include turning Old Trafford back into a fortress again, and results like this one against their greatest rivals, will certainly provide the home fans with some hope.
What does the result mean for Liverpool
Another point on their route to the title. It’s impossible to win every game and given how United started, and with the absence of Salah, the Merseysiders will be able to put this fixture away for another season and get their title pursuit back on track next week against another wounded Premier League side, Tottenham Hotspur.
In all honesty, it neither boosts or deflates Liverpool’s targets, and they remain unbeaten in the league this campaign, for at least another week.
Where do both teams go from here
It will definitely go down as a point gained for Liverpool, because of how they performed for most of the match.
Even though their record of 17 consecutive victories in all competitions comes to an end, they left with a point, when it could have been so much worse had they not improved dramatically in the last quarter of the game.
Klopp said to the media after the match that “pretty much everything went against us today” but the former Borussia Dortmund manager will know deep down that his side must play better if they are to end their title hoodoo.
One game in isolation like this is passable, but two or three more and Man City will fancy their chances of pipping them at the post once more.
For Solskjaer, all eyes are on the trip to Norwich City next weekend in the Premier League. Yes, there’s the Europa League match against Partisan Belgrade first, but United still sit two points ahead of the relegation zone and three ahead of the side from East Anglia.
A positive performance and point against Liverpool represents one step forward. A defeat at Norwich would suggest the big problems still exist, and who knows, maybe even a spot in the bottom three.
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