“How many shots on target did Liverpool have on target today? Two. Two shots on target with 65% of possession, you have to be critical of Liverpool. It is their problem, not our problem.”
The clash of the Reds involving eternal rivals Manchester United and Liverpool ended in a so-called ‘drab draw’ with the final scoreline being 0-0. True, it was a game with little chances and the pressing was like playing FIFA against the one guy who uses legacy defending over tactical, but, the game had much more to it than a ‘drab draw’. While the plays might have been the least exciting in the final third a certain Ander Herrera stood out in a game which was clearly a midfield battle.
How the teams lined up?
Liverpool were definitely hit with the absence of Wijnaldum Lallana. Even though Lallana came on later, his impact was minimal as United managed to contain everything they had to offer.
United were hit with the absence of Martial but the inclusion of Young surprised many. His selection was probably based on his defensive abilities over the rest of the options and it made sense towards the end. Clyne was possibly Liverpool’s best pick of the lot along with Matip and Lovren.
Ander Herrera can switch gears smoother than a Corvette
Ander Herrera has silenced several doubters with his deep-lying role and displayed impeccable standards to counter Liverpool’s pressing which seemed ineffective for pretty much the entire game. Having combined well with Fellaini to shut out any attacks Liverpool had to offer, the pair managed to intercept 13 times. Simply put, Herrera was United’s response to Klopp’s popular ‘Gegenpressing’.
A day to forget for Mane, Sturridge and Ibrahimovic
One of my favorite players based on Liverpool’s attack this season; well, until this game, of course, was Mane. A typical Klopp player thanks to his pace and versatility, his performance was one to forget for both the manager and the fans alike. Pretty much absent during the game, his best appearance was during the half-time walk from the tunnel. It’s pretty fair to presume that Mane’s impact is substantially reduced against teams who play deep, and that was for everyone to see last night.
Ibrahimovic had chances; chances a player of his caliber should’ve finished. Pogba would’ve received less slack had he converted the chances the Frenchman has been creating for him in the past couple games. Sturridge’s impact was minimal thanks to Eric Bailly’s front-footed defending. The African made sure he was always close to his man and harried the English striker whose goal drought goes on.
United pressed and defending in rotation
While United managed to shade the first 20 minutes, Liverpool seemed to find their zone and both Rashford and Young we made to drop deeper, thereby reducing the chances of creativity from the wings. Blind and Valencia had to centralize a bit and it was like have 6 men in defense. This is to be expected of a Mourinho team and it worked well. It might have been boring, but to stop a team that has been scoring past every opponent is a remarkable achievement. Of course, there was a need for De Gea to pull off some magic and Valencia did a sensational last minute steal but its all part of the game.
Both teams could’ve scored
There were clear cut chances for both United and Liverpool. 65% possession and two shots wasn’t a great feat and United managed to record their lowest possession stat. Ibrahimovic failed to convert a Pogba cross and Fellaini failed to convert a header despite his ‘apparent’ aerial threat. Coutinho’s shot was a definite goal-bound until De Gea pulled off a stunner. Both teams had their chances but a draw was the best result one could expect considering pre-match match scenario. United silenced critics and Liverpool are unbeaten for a while now. All in all both teams should be happy.