Manchester United were held to a 0-0 draw by second-placed Liverpool in their tense premier league fixture on Sunday. In a game where a defeat for either team could have been costly, both teams failed to capitalize in the final third. In the first United vs Liverpool fixture of this month, the rivals ended up sharing the spoils.
This fixture saw the return of Victor Lindelof alongside Harry Maguire at center back. Wan-Bissaka and Shaw were the wing-backs behind Fred, McTominay, Pogba, and Fernandes. Rashford and Martial were the attackers in a 4-2-3-1 formation. David de Gea continued his excellent form in the net. Greenwood, Cavani, Telles, and van de Beek started on the bench today.
Liverpool started the game very well, pressuring United from the off. Luke Shaw and Wan Bissaka had their hands full handling Liverpool’s wingers. United had a clear strategy to drop back and defend before breaking fast and sucker-punching Liverpool. Martial and Rashford combined well early on but the passing in the final third did not come to fruition. Maguire and Lindelof put in a shift to keep Liverpool’s aerial threats out. Meanwhile, Shaw and Wan Bissaka kept Salah and Mane frustrated. Although United defended brilliantly, their midfield was giving the ball away and inviting more pressure from the hosts. Pogba was impressive in his combinations with Fred to release Rashford and Martial down the wings as United slowly grew into the game.
United came agonizingly close from a freekick in the 34th minute from Bruno. The Portuguese midfielder’s curled effort was inches wide of the top corner. Shortly after, Lindelof pulled off an excellent block to deny Salah, and the resulting shot rolled straight at de Gea. Pogba released Rashford through on goal in the 39th but the English forward was unable to get a touch on the ball. Although the flag was raised for offside, a successful attempt from Rashford could have prompted a VAR review. As the half time whistle blew, United knew that had a tough task coming up in the second half.
Maguire and Lindelof had a busy start to the second half as they headed out crosses from both wings. On the other end, Maguire was just as excellent defensively to deny Firminho off a cross. Testing times for United as Liverpool were beginning to get in behind the United defense and trouble de Gea. Ole pulled the trigger on substitutions early, bringing on Cavani for Anthony Martial in the 62nd minute. The game became a lot more end-to-end as United began breaking fast and well to trouble Liverpool’s makeshift defense. Bruno Fernandes came close yet again after a great low cross from Shaw. At point-blank range, Bruno was denied by Allison much to the frustration of United fans and players.
Shortly after, David de Gea pulled of a solid save from Thiago. The goalkeeper had a relatively uneventful evening despite the weight of the fixture he was in. Paul Pogba had another excellent opportunity from a tight angle but his shot was right at Allison. In the final quarter of the game, United looked much better and a goal seemed inevitable. However, some poor finishing and poorly timed runs did not give United the opportunity to go ahead. Marcus Rashford had a run into the opposition box alongside Cavani. Much to the dismay of all United fans watching, he decided to go solo instead of laying the ball off to the veteran as the move fizzled out. At full-time, United were left the more frustrated side as they had the better chances to take maximum points.
United have more positives to take from this game than negatives. While most fans expected the defense to struggle and the attack to flourish, the reality was quite different. Maguire, Lindelof, and Shaw were fantastic today as Liverpool’s front three struggled significantly. United took a long time to grow into the game and find a foothold but looked confident when they had possession. Rashford’s first touch was poor today and Martial was unable to get a lot of touches in the opposition half.
The top of the table looks a bit tighter now with Manchester City winning their game in hand and nabbing second place. United will be hoping to secure maximum points in their coming fixture against Fulham while also keeping one eye on their FA Cup fixture against Liverpool. A point at Anfield is not bad, but three points are much better than just one. As of now, United continue to lead the pack but being consistent will be key for them.