Adam’s Lallana’s first goal for Liverpool since 2017 was enough to secure a 1-1 draw for table leaders Liverpool at Old Trafford in a game they were favourites to win. We take a look at some of the takeaways from the game.
LIVERPOOL MISS CHANCE TO RESTORE 8 POINT LEAD AT THE TOP
Liverpool went into this game as favourites after an excellent start to the season. With 8 straight wins on the board this season and 17 straight wins in the Premier league dating back to last season, the Merseysiders travelled to old Trafford in search of a first away win since 2013 against their struggling foes Manchester. A win would have equaled Manchester City’s tally of 18 consecutive wins in the 2017-2018 English Premier League season and would have made Liverpool the first Premier League side to win all of their first 9 games of the season.
Manchester City’s 2-0 win against Crystal Palace on Saturday evening meant the gap at the top of the table had been slashed to 5 points and so the onus was on Liverpool to make the next statement in the next chapter of the exciting Premier league title race.
Jurgen Klopp’s side however were disappointing as they struggled to break down a resilient Manchester united team. Despite having a 68% possession, Liverpool produced only 4 shots on target with only one finding the back of the net. It was a low return in front of goal for a Liverpool side who are well renowned for being clinical in front of goal against a side that had registered just a goal in their last 3 premier league games before Sunday’s encounter. Few defensive lapses coupled with no urgency game build up summed up Liverpool performance on the day as the back four failed to cope with the pressure from the Manchester United attack in most parts of the first half. Trent Alexander Arnold, an important figure at the back lost possession on 33 numerous occasions, more than any other player on the pitch. Van Dijk and Joel Matip were troubled at times and were culpable for Rashford’s goal.
Liverpool’s midfield was stagnant and lacked creativity. Fabinho who is the calm presence in Liverpool’s midfield struggled to control the midfield and was usually overrun on multiple occasions throughout the game. Henderson covered more ground than any other Liverpool player in the first half but was ineffective once again going forward. He was inevitably taken off in the 71st minute. Wijnaldum on the other hand started the game brightly, once testing David De Gea in goal with a low-drive shot but he tailed off after United scored before he was replaced by Naby Keita in the 82nd minute.
Inasmuch as Liverpool’s main men failed to perform yesterday, credit must be given to Manchester United and Ole Gunnar Soljskaer’s compact setup pegged back Liverpool restricting their full-backs, Robertson and Arnold who are dangerous offensively from making marauding runs up the pitch for most part of the game. They also rarely afforded the Liverpool attackers spaces for them to penetrate, restricting Liverpool to “poor” strikes from outside the box. Klopp would surely be concerned with his team’s performance with games against Genk and Tottenham Hotspurs on the horizon in the Uefa Champions League and Premier League respectively. If Liverpool are to win the league this season, these are the games they should be winning.
VAR AT THE CENTRE OF CONTROVERSY ONCE AGAIN
Ahead of the game at old Trafford on Sunday, the Video Assistant Referee (VAR) had been under scrutiny on Sunday after controversial decisions were awarded in five of the eight matches played on Saturday. On Sunday, Liverpool were the next team on the receiving end of a “controversial” VAR decision as they were aggrieved that Manchester United’s goal was not disallowed despite an apparent foul on Divock Origi by Victor Lindelof in the build up to the goal. Referee Martin Atkinson after consultation with VAR officials then allowed the goal to stand. It seems it is still going to take time before the football world comes into grips with it.
LIVERPOOL’S FRONT THREE STRUGGLE IN SALAH’S ABSENCE
For all the talk of their defensive stability, Liverpool’s biggest asset is their attacking prowess and the trio of Mané, Salah and Firmino are the epitome of an attacking masterclass but against United, Mane and Firmino struggled to trouble Manchester united’s backline in the absence of Salah who was ruled out of the game with an injury he sustained against Leicester City. His replacement Divock Origi failed to make any impact. Firmino, the key link between Salah and Mané failed to dictate the game upfront and was restricted to shots outside the box. Mané started brightly but just like Firmino could not produce any magic moment for Liverpool. Klopp will be hoping Salah returns against Spurs next weekend.
DANIEL JAMES IS UNITED’S MAIN MAN
The expensive acquisition of Harry Maguire and Aaron Wan-Bissaka during the summer transfer window overshadowed the 15 million pound signing of Daniel James. He was seen as a player for the future and was expected to play a minimum role in a United jersey this season but 9 games into the Premier league season, he is the team’s best player this season. His work rate, ability to run at defenders and productivity with the ball has seen him score 3 goals and registered 1 assist this season. On Sunday, he made 100 percent tackles and created 2 chances with one of them being the assist for Rashford’s goal. If United are to have a successful season, he would be expected to replicate this form in every game.
Next up for Manchester United and Liverpool are away games in European competitions and tricky fixtures against Norwich and Tottenham Hotspurs respectively which are “must win” games for both teams for different reasons.