So Liverpool’s Premier League winning streak comes to an end with a draw at Old Trafford. While The Reds were hoping, or maybe even expecting so much more from the game, in the end we gladly grabbed a point, such was the way the match panned out. Given that it looked like we were going to get absolutely nothing from a dreadful afternoon in Manchester, Adam Lallana, the unlikeliest of saviours, ensured Liverpool returned to the prettier city with at least something.
So much of the conversation around the game has been centred around VAR and the decisions the mystery machine did and didn’t give. I’m finding it hard to get angry about it though. Sure it is annoying that VAR hasn’t actually been devised solely to help Liverpool win the league, as Man City Twitter has promised me, but I’m still of the opinion that sometimes decisions go against you and if you play well enough you will win anyway. Besides, they weren’t even in the top five worst decisions given in the game.
Other things annoyed me much more. For example when the referee stopped the game for a head injury when Daniel James was just winded. Or when we kicked the ball out, when Manchester United had chosen not to, when Daniel James had gone down again. To be honest, just Daniel James.
But the main thing was how much respect we gave such an average side. Jurgen Klopp spent all week in the build up saying how brilliant Manchester United were and I thought we were just having everyone on, but then we played like we were going away to the Nou Camp in the Champions League. In fact, no – we were much more confident going to Barcelona last year than we seemed to be at Old Trafford, where we weren’t ourselves at all. Nervous passes from everyone, strange decision-making and just a complete lack of the swagger that a team eight points clear should have.
It was only after Liverpool equalised that they started playing in a manner that they should have done throughout. Pressure, probing passing and belief in each other. The fact that Liverpool looked much more likely to force a winner and that United were desperate for the final whistle just compounded the frustration that Liverpool didn’t do all that much earlier.
But they didn’t and have to make do with a point. But I’m not looking to read too much into the game. I don’t think we have “learned” anything about this Liverpool side much more than they are capable of having a bad day at the office, same as anyone else. Sure Jurgen Klopp’s record at Old Trafford is now a slight worry, but we won’t have to play there for another season – longer if they get relegated – so it’s not a short term concern.
Other concerns are there and they are ones that haven’t gone away. Like a lack of alternatives when one of the front three is not available to start, and a lack of dynamism in midfield. But the performances off the bench from Lallana, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Naby Keita were all positive and if just one of them can use this opportunity to kick start their season and be the players we know they can be, it will be massive for Liverpool.
So, some reasons to be positive on a disappointing day.
I still find it curious that Manchester United get to be the moral victors after a home draw in which they had less possession, fewer shots and shots on target. But then Chelsea practically did a lap of honour after getting beat by Liverpool 2-1 at Stamford Bridge, so maybe we just need to accept that this is how teams, who have spent most of my adult life finishing above Liverpool, see us now. Liverpool are so superior that a home draw is celebrated. We just need to remember that next time.