Match Overview: Liverpool vs Manchester United
This was a game that should have been won by Liverpool Football Club, a result which would have sent the Reds two points clear of Arsenal at the top of the Premier League. Ultimately, the hesitant preview I submitted prior to the game was proved correct, much to my dismay. With a predicted 2-1 home win, I assumed that a problematic game would still be won, given the plethora of attacking options within the Anfield squad. Unfortunately, the Reds’ German manager was just as culpable as his misfiring forwards, with his questionable substitution regime making for a very disappointing finish.
elow is how the team lined up, with match details following.
The Starting Eleven
Alisson Becker, Trent Alexander-Arnold, Virgil van Dijk (c), Ibrahima Konaté, Kostas Tsimikas, Ryan Gravenberch, Dominik Szoboszlai, Wataru Endō, Mohamed Salah, Luis Díaz, Darwin Núñez
Joe Gomez – Dominik Szoboszlai (61 mins), Cody Gakpo – Ryan Gravenberch (61 mins), Curtis Jones – Luis Díaz (78 mins), Harvey Elliott – Darwin Núñez (78 mins)
Important Match Stats
Possession: Liverpool 69% – 31% Manchester United Total Shots: Liverpool 20 – 5 Manchester United Total Crosses: Liverpool 40 – 2 Manchester United Counter Attacks: Liverpool 7 – 4 Manchester United Corner Kicks: Liverpool 12 – 0 Manchester United
A point that should have been more for Liverpool, but couldn’t be more with how little they tested the keeper.
Klopp’s side have got better at playing those sides from down the table who come to defend for their lives for a point, not today though.
— Jim Boardman (@JimBoardman) December 17, 2023
Analysis of Liverpool’s Performance
First Half Struggles
The opening period of this game saw a tenacious Liverpool machine fly out of the blocks, as Manchester United and their heavily pressed rear guard persisted to play out from the back. It was the aesthetically pleasing start all the home supporters wanted, before mundane repetitive play and horrible decision making engulfed the men in possession. For many weeks now, the poor form of Jürgen Klopp’s forward line has been papered over by a continuing ability to win games.
Luck, coupled with later game periods of pressure, have seen the top of the table attained, however, this kind of wave was always going to end with frustration and dropped points. The visiting giant of Manchester arrived with a mandate to close off space, defend deep, and get over the line with either a low scoring defeat or unlikely draw. The only genuine chance of note in the first half was a decent Virgil van Dijk header (from one of many Trent Alexander-Arnold corners), which was smartly tipped over the bar by André Onana. The relentless, yet predictable attacking patterns of play (by the home side), consisted of pedestrian sideways passing, before a lofted and unthreatening cross was lifted into the box.
Second Half: No Improvement
On resumption of the second half, no changes were made and much of the same enterprise was maintained by both sides. Trent Alexander-Arnold was the forward-thinking asset showing the most promise, as he barrelled into the box shortly after the restart, before seeing his strike veer off target and into the side netting.
The much-needed LFC alterations were made, as the ever-impressive Joe Gomez came in to allow his vice-captain to take up a permanent midfield position. Cody Gakpo joined the fight also, as the ineffective Ryan Gravenberch and jaded Dominik Szoboszlai departed the field. Though the changes brought something different, nothing about those adjustments enabled the six-time European champions to raise their attacking game. Indecision and plain bad choices were rife in the final third. T
he gigantic defensive pair of Virgil and Ibou could offer little more, as their dominance allowed teammates to camp inside Erik ten Hag’s half. Alisson Becker was called upon to make a couple of important stops, as United eventually found their way past the halfway line on a few occasions. The final substitutions saw two midfielders replace two forwards, which seemed to be more of a message to his underperforming pair, rather than a move to increase potency. When decisions come off, it is pitch side genius and tactical brilliance, however, bringing on Harvey Elliott and Curtis Jones into unfamiliar roles did nothing but confirm the goalless draw.
EFL Cup and Premier League Outlook
This is a result that would have been very acceptable a few years ago, when each team were in different places. Even in this year of transition and regeneration, it is good to acknowledge a dominant display, at least to a degree. The problem is, however, that Liverpool 2.0 is so much more advanced than the Old Trafford team, that a 0-0 result must be met with huge disappointment and regret. To have drawn 2-2, away to Manchester City (in recent times), in no way compares to Sunday’s showing, given the current level of each adversary. Though the form of Klopp’s men was somewhat sporadic in the build-up to this historic tie, the sheer volume of chances and possession indicates that the fallen giants were there for the taking.
— AnfieldIndex (@AnfieldIndex) December 17, 2023
This coming week sees West Ham arrive on Merseyside for the next round of the EFL Cup, shortly followed by match week 17. That Saturday evening event will pit Arsenal against the mighty Reds, with the chance for each to take top spot for Christmas Day. If by that point, Liverpool are leading the Premier League and into the latter stages of the League Cup, only will make this bore draw at home to United tolerable.
Though only just.
Pre-game prediction: Liverpool 2 – 1 Manchester United