Manchester United 1-1 LIVERPOOL

Liverpool’s visit to Old Trafford ended in a draw.

A couple of major changes to the squad. First of all, Henderson returned and could captain us for this important fixture. A couple of surprises was that Joel Matip couldn’t play due to being ineligible under FIFA guidelines while being a part of the AFCON tournament this season. Nathaniel Clyne was injured in the game against Southampton and Klopp would need to choose a rather young and inexperienced right back – Trent Alexander-Arnold.

Also back to a level of fitness which saw him included in the squad was Coutinho, who played for half an hour in the 2nd half.

So Liverpool went out there with a decent squad, though not exactly “full strength” and tried their best. Considering that we had gotten a goalless draw in the last meeting with United, it seemed like an improvement had been made by the time the full whistle had been blown. At least we scored as we got a draw this time.

Liverpool weren’t exactly “dominating” but we consistently put forward regular attacks and defended against counter attacks as they came to us. Our defence certainly didn’t let us down for the first half and up to the 84th minute there wasn’t any goals conceded by Liverpool. Alexander-Arnold went up against some of the best players United have and showed his quality to be of a high standard. Inexperienced he may be, but he did not embarrass himself or the club at any point in the game. He was solid in his defensive duties.

One thing that surprised me was that this wasn’t a high scoring game. Chances were made for goals to be scored and some were missed but it could have been 2-2 by half time. Instead, it would only be 0-1. Liverpool scored the first goal after Paul Pogba had jumped very heavily onto the back of one of Liverpool’s players within the penalty area who were about to head the ball and maybe score a header. Referee rightly pointed to the penalty spot and James Milner would take it and score our goal. It was a confident penalty, plenty of power and accurate enough to hit it hard to the right hand side of the net. De Gea would dive the right way but it had already hit the back of the net and wasn’t going to be saved. This goal came around the 27th minute and there was still plenty of time to play and score more. The lead was kept until the half time break.

United seemed to change tactics after the break. They had been playing some rather offensive football, but most of it was short passes and counter attacks from the back. They would change to playing “long balls”, with De Gea consistently blasting the ball right up the far end of the pitch. Often, it was going to Ibrahimovic or Fellaini, once he’d been substituted on. This was quite dangerous, giving United an advantage where they wouldn’t need to waste time pushing the ball through defenders and midfielders before the strikers got possession. The defenders were tested more often than they had been in the first 45 minutes. Even when our defence closed down on these attacks, Liverpool had to win the ball and still make their way up to the other end of Old Trafford.

Liverpool brought on Coutinho at the 60 minute mark, a refreshing and welcome change which I had been hoping for from the start of the match. He played well, though was quite tightly marked and never managed to score any goals. I honestly thought he’d have more impact on the game. Another surprise was that Sturridge had been included in the squad and did not appear at all. There was good play from Lallana and Firmino, Origi hadn’t been brilliant and was swapped for Coutinho. It still would have been possible to exchange a midfielder, perhaps Emre Can for making sure Sturridge got a game. He just wasn’t given his chance.

The game was fairly rough as you might expect from such an important game between fierce rivals, with some of the rougher parts of the game including Firmino’s shirt being pulled excessively and Jordan Henderson being wrestled to the ground in a chokehold by Paul Pogba. SERIOUSLY. This is not an exaggeration. Take a look at this.

Pogba wraps his arm around Henderson’s neck, then pulls him backwards. He was not disciplined for this action.

Liverpool kept pushing on and on but the time would down fast enough so as to reach full-time without conceding.

The goal Manchester United got would be a very late one. The 84th minute, to be exact. Valencia would be given the ball out wide on the right wing. At the time, most Reds fans were shouting for offside to be called but the linesman would not raise his flag. The play continued and Valencia would throw over a cross in the box. The cross would find Fellaini first, but he’d head off the bar. It was only when the rebound came back that Zlatan Ibrahimovic would head home from inside the 6 yard box and the ball ended up in Liverpool’s net.

It was not spectacular, a very messy and rather un-defendable goal. Unpredictable to know where the rebounded shot from the original Fellaini shot would end up at. Too close to stop if it was going to be powerfully headed by anyone, which it was.  I don’t feel this reflects badly on any single Liverpool player specifically. You can’t point the finger at anyone. Not our defenders, not our goalkeeper. It was just a goal line scramble which ended up luckily (for our opponents) rebounding to a United player who couldn’t really miss from such short range.

It was disappointing that Liverpool had to accept a draw after this scrappy goal had equalised and forced us to only claim 1-1 instead of winning 0-1. I still feel happy about Alexander Arnold gaining significant experience against one of the best teams in Europe. He did great and I’d be happy to see this youngster again, perhaps in the Cup competitions though once Clyne has returned, I think he (Clyne) should stay as our regular right back for Premier League fixtures. There were still positives to take from this game.

Man Of The Match

Simon Mignolet made a lot of difference as to whether we would draw or lose this game. We couldn’t win it from the moment Ibrahimovic had scored, there was just too little time and as such, we could only draw or lose. The chances United had throughout the game were enough to have brought them victory. At times, Liverpool were about to concede a goal but Mignolet pulled off some very quick reaction saves. He’d been a vital part of our defence as players like Mkhitaryan, Fellaini and Ibrahimovic tested him again and again. Only to be denied.

I definitely do not blame Mignolet for the goal which was conceded – He deserves praise, not criticism. That goal was partly the match officials fault anyway, the lead-up to the goal had seen Valencia in an offside position before he’d crossed in his assist. Close range shots are always extremely difficult to defend, there’s no embarrassment or shame to it happening. Simon can be proud of all the shots he stopped rather than feeling negative for the one that wasn’t stopped. Karius has been doing well in the cup competitions but this is top flight Premier League football which Mignolet has been a part of and he’s put in a worthy performance to reflect that high standard of football the teams were playing in. We couldn’t ask for more from him. I still consider him being “number one choice” for Liverpool’s goalkeeper position.

What’s next? 

Liverpool drew with Plymouth the first time they played so a FA Cup 3rd Round replay has been organised for the 18th January. For Plymouth, this means about an extra million pounds for the club as they get a bonus fixture which wouldn’t have been on the list if they had been beaten at Anfield. For Liverpool, this is the chance we have to progress to the 4th Round and we’ll surely be looking to do that. We already know that we’ll face Wolverhampton Wanderers in the 4th Round if we progress in this competition.

I hope you can continue to walk on with hope in your hearts, Anfield Family. You’ll Never Walk Alone.

[written by] Stuart Drewery.

I’m an Englishman (born and raised in Liverpool in the 80s). My whole family including my parents and grandparents were Liverpool fans so I was born into being a red.

I’ve seen Liverpool win the league (more than 25 years ago) and I’ve been 100% loyal and committed while supporting the Reds through all the good times AND the bad times since the 80s.

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