Manchester United have been firing on all cylinders this season, one that has seen them mount a legitimate challenge to Chelsea’s status as champions of England.
The Red Devils have been ruthlessly efficient in converting their chances while less than generous in their defending; scoring 21 goals while only letting two past David De Gea in the Premier League.
As such, their visit to Anfield had all indications pointing to the fact that the encounter was going to be a goal scoring affair. Facing Liverpool was never going to be a license to print money for Manchester United, but Jose Mourinho’s charges were expected, if not entitled, to secure all three points given their recent rich vein of form.
This was however not the case as United were held to a goalless draw at Anfield, or was it United that held Liverpool to a goalless draw?
United injury predicament
Liverpool were expected to offer stern resistance to their arch rivals despite managing only one win in their last seven games across all competitions.
The Reds were clearly second best on paper having lost Sadio Mane to injury during the international break, but that was no excuse as United had their own fair share of injuries heading into the tie.
In fact, United were missing Paul Pogba, Marouane Fellaini and Eric Bailly, key components of their high flying start to the 2017/18 campaign. Conscious that bouts against the top six teams often determine the ultimate coronation of the Premier League crown, the encounter was always going to be a litmus test to Jose Mourinho’s credentials.
Mourinho was however mindful of his weakened side, which is why United endeavored to not lose the game, rather than return with all three points to Manchester.
Compound pressure on Klopp
The one thing that was evident in the build up to the match was the fact that Jurgen Klopp needed the win more than Mourinho. Worst of all however was that Mourinho knew this and he was going to make the most of it.
Klopp was in desperate need of a win after a disparaging run resulting in whispers and hush talk of an impending crisis at the club.
Winning against a potential title challenger would be a moral lift on which Liverpool could build a decent run, while a loss would leave them 10 points behind Manchester United and quite possibly, out of the title challenge.
United however exhibited a solid defensive performance; De Gea’s individual brilliance rescuing a point for the visitors.
Jose once again, in classic Mourinho fashion, played the villain further compounding the pressure on his rival.
Anthony Martial and Ashley Young had well defined roles of protecting the fullbacks, which greatly reduced United’s attacking threat.
With Ander Herrera rusty and the wingers heavily defending, Henrikh Mkhitaryan was reduced to a peripheral figure, inevitably leaving Romelu Lukaku isolated upfront.
The bare minimum of keeping their unbeaten run alive was however obtained.
Written by Brian Humphrey
Follow Brian on Twitter @brihum
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