Manchester United left Anfield with a 0-0 draw for the second consecutive season as Jose Mourinho employed familiar tactics. Had United played well, maybe they would have been able to take more than just the one point, but coupled with their lack of ambition it was a generally poor performance.
Liverpool were the better team, yet for all their possession, David de Gea was only really called upon once. Central defender Joel Matip was the only player to test the goalkeeper and the Spaniard was up to the task.
Other than that, United didn’t even have to defend especially well to keep Liverpool out, with their other attempts kindly directed straight in to the gloves of De Gea.
Somehow, this didn't go in. ⛔ pic.twitter.com/2wSswmEqiH
— Squawka News (@SquawkaNews) October 14, 2017
The second best chance of the game fell to Romelu Lukaku but he fluffed it. Just as Zlatan Ibrahimovic failed to win the game for United with his tame header in this fixture last season, Lukaku made Simon Mignolet look good.
He needed to go low and hard but instead lifted his shot to a nice height for the goalkeeper to palm away.
Many United fans were left frustrated at the final whistle. To set up like that against Manchester City, who have been tearing teams apart from fun this season, would make sense.
But Liverpool had only won one of their previous seven games, so why not take the game to them?
The injuries to Paul Pogba and Marouane Fellaini were key for Mourinho, as well as the knock Marcus Rashford suffered during the international break, but it’s unlikely that even with their inclusion that the United manager would have instructed his team much differently.
With Eric Bailly also unavailable, Mourinho was keen to protect his defence, with both Chris Smalling and Phil Jones no strangers to making costly errors.
Still, taking a point away at Anfield isn’t a bad result, even if the performance left little to be desired.
United supporters will have to console themselves with the knowledge that Mourinho boils more piss on Merseyside than most and this latest performance will have wound up the scousers.
Jurgen Klopp isn’t immune to this, firing shots at the final whistle, when making a dig about United’s approach to the game.
“For sure, you could not play this way at Liverpool, but it’s OK for Manchester United,” Klopp said.
The Liverpool manager loves giving these sort of sound bites to the supporters but there’s little weight behind his words.
It wouldn’t be OK for United to have a +1 goal difference after eight games, go five years without any silverware or 27 years without the title, but it’s seemingly accepted at Liverpool.
Mohamed Salah, Philippe Coutine and Firmino were Liverpool’s most dangerous players and Klopp substituted them all.
“I was waiting for Jurgen to change to go more attacking but he kept the three strong midfield players all the time,” Mourinho said after the game.
United were there for the taking but De Gea had nothing to do in the second half, with Klopp’s replacements proving less effective than the players he started.
United, United, top of the league 😉
— Scott Patterson (@R_o_M) October 14, 2017
It goes without saying that United are going to have to raise their game if they are going to deny rivals Manchester City from winning the league this season, but a 0-0 draw against Liverpool, even on the back of a poor performance and negative tactics, isn’t a cause for concern.
If United had played like that and lost, then Mourinho would deserve the stick that comes his way, but even Sir Alex Ferguson struggled to inspire good performances at Anfield.
United fans are entitled to be frustrated that they didn’t get to see their team give it a go against their rivals but a draw will do.