A Strange But Abject Game - Liverpool 0-0 Man United
Liverpool were held to a goalless draw at Old Trafford after an absolutely abject attacking display saw them fail to break down a depleted Manchester United side.
The Reds started as the better side away from home, with an indirect free-kick inside a couple of minutes after De Gea was forced to handle a back-pass under pressure from Bobby Firmino, and Joël Matip was able to win his side a free-kick just outside the box with a rampaging run. Both opportunities were wasted.
And sadly that proved to be the template for the rest of the match as Liverpool struggled to break down the home side, and relied heavily on set-pieces to generate anything, only to consistently fail when it came down to the final ball.
In fact it was Manchester United who produced the best chance of the game – Romelu Lukaku playing a delightful pass through to Jesse Lingard, only for the brilliant Alisson Becker to charge out and make a huge intercepting save.
It was a first half performance that could be excused, as it was very stop-start. United were forced into all three subs in the first 45, with Ander Herrera, Juan Mata and substitute Jesse Lingard all limping off injured. Liverpool themselves suffered a huge blow as Bobby Firmino had to limp off with an ankle injury, replaced by the flat Daniel Sturridge.
And in Sturridge’s defence, he wasn’t the only player to offer nothing in an attacking sense – in fact he mustered Liverpool’s only shot on target from 40 yards – as both Sadio Mané and Mo Salah were absolutely appalling. Too much of Liverpool’s attack went through James Milner, who too often completely failed to deliver.
The lack of quality going forward was clear to see, and with the game crying out for a change, Klopp threw on an out-of-form Xherdan Shaqiri, and his standard desperation sub – Divock Origi. Neither brought anything to the table.
It became clear as a lacklustre second half ran down that not losing was more important to Liverpool than winning, as they offered very little impetus or tempo despite dominating possession. The fact that nobody in a Liverpool shirt had more shots than Joël Matip is a damning indictment of the Reds’ attacking performance, as is the fact that they only managed one shot on target, despite United playing a makeshift midfield.
The positive of course, is that on paper this was Liverpool’s toughest remaining fixture, and they were strong defensively to secure a deserved clean sheet, and an important point, one that keeps them on top of the Premier League and in the box-seat in the title race, even if it doesn’t necessarily feel that way.
Looking ahead to Watford in midweek, and Liverpool need to find a way to get their attacking machine flowing again, almost certainly without Roberto Firmino, and that will be a tough ask. But there’s a long way to go, and at the moment the Reds are top of the pile. Just about.