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Liverpool 0-0 Manchester United: Talking points as out-of-sorts United emerge undefeated from Anfield


In the battle between two English rivals that hold the most trophies at Anfield on Sunday, Liverpool and Manchester United played a disappointing goalless draw and shared the points between them.

The outcome will have obviously come as a great relief for the visitors, having lost there 7-0 last season. But for the home side, it’s vital two points dropped in what will surely be a captivating race for the Premier League title.

The game

To say that Liverpool dominated the game against their arch-rivals would arguably be an understatement. The Merseysiders had the ball at their feet for 69% of the time, taking a total of 34 shots towards Andre Onana’s goal. Unfortunately from their point of view, none of those shots found their way into the net, with 13 of them blocked, eight on target, and 13 going wide. Meanwhile, United took just six in total, aiming the right way just once. The whole game saw 12 corners taken, all by Liverpool.

On the other hand, that one shot that United had on target was probably the best chance of the match. It came about in the 67th minute, when a nicely worked combination between Scott McTominay and Antony got Rasmus Hojlund heading through the Liverpool defence with only Alisson Becker left to beat, but the Brazilian goalkeeper stepped up, shortened the angle and showed why he’s considered one of the best in the world.

As for Liverpool, for all their determination to control the game and keep the visitors under pressure, there was not nearly enough creativity in their game to break through United’s disciplined defence – the only aspect of their game that worked properly throughout.

Jurgen Klopp’s team came close to scoring on two occasions, though. The only aspect of the game where they looked really dangerous were set-pieces, and that’s how the first of the two opportunities arose. In the 28th minute, Trent Alexander-Arnold took a trademark corner from the right and Virgil van Dijk jumped highest, aiming straight under the bar, but only enough to force a fine save from Onana. Minute 66 was running when a low effort from range by Alexander-Arnold left the United ‘keeper rooted to the spot and appeared to be heading straight for the bottom corner, but it trickled an inch wide of the post instead.

Klopp tried to do something by reshuffling the pack in the middle of the park after the hour mark. Pale-looking Dominik Szoboszlai and Ryan Gravenberch left the pitch to be replaced by Cody Gakpo and Joe Gomez, with the latter stepping into the right-back role while Alexander-Arnold moved into the midfield. However, there was practically no effect as the Reds merely continued their fruitless domination of the ball.

Klopp’s last throw of the dice was to bring on Harvey Elliott, the hero of the win against Crystal Palace in the previous round, moving Gakpo upfront as Darwin Nunez walked off. And they still couldn’t find a way past the resolute United defence.

Controversies

With five minutes left on the clock, Liverpool had a strong penalty appeal denied. Left-back Kostas Tsimikas, now playing regularly in the absence of the injured Andy Robertson, whipped in a cross and it bounced off the ground, before undoubtedly catching the arm of Luke Shaw. Referee Michael Oliver chose not to give it straight away and looked to the VAR for clarification, and the decision was to let his original call stand – no penalty.

While the moment raised a few eyebrows, one can only assume that John Brooks and Simon Long, who sat in the VAR room, deemed the ball to have grazed Shaw’s thigh before catching his arm, which would’ve made their call correct. Looking at the slow-motion footage, it’s very hard to be sure either way, and they probably felt that it didn’t fall into the category of “clear and obvious error”.

Another contentious moment happened in the final seconds of the game, in the fourth minute of second-half stoppage time. Believing he had won a throw-in for his team, United right-back Diogo Dalot was outraged when he saw the officials had actually awarded it to Liverpool. His angry reaction prompted the referee to award him a yellow card, but the Portuguese then made another outburst, and Oliver was merciless – another yellow card, followed by the red.

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The decision understandably prompted debates about whether Oliver’s call was harsh on Dalot. On one hand, players should definitely know better than to react the way Dalot did in that situation, especially straight after being booked for dissent, but on the other, it’s hard to remember if anything like this happened in recent years – two yellow cards awarded to the same player for dissent within just a few seconds of each other.

Be that as it may, Dalot had to leave the pitch and will be forced to miss United’s clash against against West Ham at the London Stadium on Saturday.

The aftermath

There have been different reactions to the outcome of this game from the two sides of the football spectre. Liverpool captain Virgil van Dijk said there was only one team trying to win this game, and adding that United were “buzzing” with the point they had won at Anfield. The experienced Dutch defender was then criticized for the statement by United legend Roy Keane, who accused Van Dijk of arrogance, mentioning the fact that Liverpool had not won the Premier League title in 30 years before 2020, and that back in his day, it were Liverpool who buzzed whenever they avoided defeat against the team led by Sir Alex Ferguson.

While both of them have a point, their arguments also speak against them. It’s of no use to Liverpool or Van Dijk now that they dominated possession and did most of the attacking through the contest, and buzzing or not, United did earn a point, taking potentially vital two off the hands of the home team. Liverpool have nobody to blame for not winning but themselves.

Keane’s words, on the other hand, while also true, do not change the fact that this United team is nowhere near the level of the one he played in, and that they are, in fact, happy and arguably lucky to have left Anfield with something. The drop Manchester United have suffered since Ferguson retired is evident, whether Keane feels insulted by someone pointing it out or not.

Speaking of points won and lost, the game has left the 10-point gap between Liverpool and Manchester United untouched. For Liverpool however, it means that they’ve relinquished the top spot in the Premier League table to Arsenal, whose victory over Brighton has them in a one-point lead on a total of 39. It also means that Aston Villa, who came back from behind to beat Brentford, have caught up with Liverpool in second place with 38 and are only behind on goal-difference. Having failed to beat Crystal Palace at home in an unbelievably disappointing fashion, defending champions Manchester City are now on 34.

Liverpool will have to shake this disappointment off and try to channel the anger the right way very quickly, facing West Ham in the Carabao Cup on Wednesday, before taking on Arsenal for the top spot at Anfield on Saturday.

As for United, the point they took helped ward off West Ham to remain seventh with 28, after the Hammers beat Wolves to get to the tally of 27. Ten Hag’s team will now have Newcastle, sitting sixth with 29, in sights, but to overtake the Magpies, they’ll need to put some distance between themselves and West Ham when they travel to the London Stadium on Saturday.



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