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Was it a sign of Liverpool’s title credentials that they could play so poorly and still show the spirit to come away from Old Trafford with a draw? Or was it a mark of Manchester United’s struggles that they could not hold on for what would have been a precious victory for them and manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer?
Before kick-off Solskjaer clenched his fist to the Manchester United fans. On the pitch his team came close to delivering a blow to Liverpool as they nevertheless ended the Premier League’s perfect start to the season but stopped short of inflicting their first loss since last January. They were hit but struck back.
The debate will rage over the involvement of the video assistant referee with a foul in the build-up to Marcus Rashford’s first-half goal although the Premier League later argued that it was not clear and obvious as Victor Lindelof kicked the back of Divock Origi’s leg. That was a poor argument – as poor, in fact, as Liverpool’s performance until the final few minutes which will be a concern for Jurgen Klopp as they dropped points for the first time since March 3 and with their run of league victories ending at 17, one short of City’s record. In saying that Klopp will have been pleased with how his side kept going.
If there was one fixture that United had to summon a response, show some fight and resistance, then this was surely it. They did just that. But how much of it was also due to Liverpool’s curious flatness? And how much did their half-time lead owe to VAR?
Their goal was executed by the exciting young combination of Daniel James and Rashford. James collected possession after running onto a Scott McTominay pass and sprinted down the right before delivering a superb outswinging cross that beat Joel Matip and was met by Rashford who guided it beyond Alisson with the outside of his right boot.
The only problem was, as Liverpool protested, there was a foul on Origi in the build-up. Yes, the Liverpool forward appeared to over-react but he was caught Lindelof. Astonishingly after the VAR check the goal was allowed with Klopp in animated discussions with the fourth official Jonathan Moss.
Clear and obvious? It appeared to be while soon after there was certainly a clear and obvious error by Lindelof who lost the flight of the ball and lost Sadio Mane with the Liverpool attacker proving too strong as he then turned his shot past David De Gea. United protested there was a handball by Mane to bring the ball down and this time the VAR did intervene. No goal.
There had been changes. De Gea was not expected to start for United but overcame a groin problem while they suffered the set-back of losing Axel Tuanzebe in the warm-up to a hip injury although Solskjaer pressed ahead with playing three at the back. For Liverpool Alisson returned in goal after being out for 10 weeks but there was the blow of Mohamed Salah not being fit enough after suffering an ankle issue which, nevertheless, should not rule him out of the midweek Champions League away trip to Genk.
As the whistle went for half-time Klopp ran down the tunnel. He had work to do and switched formations with Origi playing as a central striker – although that did not last long as he was soon replaced by Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain - and Jordan Henderson wide on the right in a 4-2-3-1. Klopp will surely have been more angry with his team’s poor performance than the controversy over United’s goal.
Liverpool began to dominate but this allowed United to play on the break and Rashford went close as he ran in from the left to shoot narrowly wide as did Fred.
Liverpool toiled but just as it looked they had run out of ideas and become frustrated they struck back with substitute Adam Lallana meeting Andrew Robertson’slow cross to turn the ball in. It was poor defending from United with Ashley Young failing to follow the midfielder and Marcos Rojo stood forlornly appealing for offside. It was Lallana’s first goal since May 2017 and it was evident how much it meant.
That's all from me
Jordan Henderson sounded satisfied with a draw, although he admitted Liverpool were scrappy and did not play enough football in the second half. Liverpool's results in the upcoming games will dictate how positively the point is viewed.
FT: Manchester United 1 Liverpool 1
Corner comes to nothing, and that concludes it. Liverpool's run comes to an end but given their performance on the day they will feel pleased to leave a ground they seem to hate playing at with a point.
Ooooooh, a big handball appeal there against Fred in the penalty area but it hit his shoulder. VAR is checking it. No penalty, but Liverpool have a corner.
94 minutes: Manchester United 1 Liverpool 1
Liverpool enjoy another spell of pressure, but it ends when Oxlade-Chamberlain overhits a lofted pass towards Alexander-Arnold.
93 minutes: Manchester United 1 Liverpool 1
Young punts a ball forward that finds Martial, and United now have a corner. Centre-backs are up! Not great delivery and Matip gets his head to it. United then penalised for offside. Brandon Williams on for the last few minutes.
92 minutes: Manchester United 1 Liverpool 1
Liverpool really pushing now, in good possession around the edge of the United penalty area. Firmino and Oxlade Chamberlain smothering, keeping the pressure on. United have no outball.
Ooooooohhhh...what an effort from Chamberlain, a left foot shot fizzes inches wide of the post.
90 minutes: Manchester United 1 Liverpool 1
Liverpool passing it around with some authority now, Keita has been tidy since coming on. United are tiring. Five minutes added time.
88 minutes: Manchester United 1 Liverpool 1
This could be a nervy few minutes for United now. There should be a significant period of stoppage time. Nice from Lallana to receive it on the half turn and win Liverpool a free kick that United hack away.
Back it comes, pressure building, and then an almighty sigh of relief as Alexander Arnold cuts across a volley that flies over.
GOOOOOAAAALLLL! Liverpool equalise from an unlikely source
Adam Lallana has come on to save the day! Yet another cross from Robertson, but this one from a better area past the edge of the box. It went through a few pairs of United legs at the near post and Lallana was there to tap home at the back post. And VAR confirms it stands! Is there a winner?
83 minutes: Manchester United 1 Liverpool 0
Keita on for Wijnaldum is Liverpool's final change. United are away on the break! James burst through down the left, but his cross evades Rashford in the middle. On the second phase, Fred unleashes a shot across goal from the opposite flank. Martial replaces Rashford from the bench.
81 minutes: Manchester United 1 Liverpool 0
Liverpool looking short of ideas and quality, United really sitting deep in a 5-4-1 now.
78 minutes: Manchester United 1 Liverpool 0
Maguire looked stretched, but he got to the through ball just in time with Mane sprinting and won a HUGE tackle. Then Firmino makes a frustrated foul much to the delight of a jubilant Old Trafford crowd.
76 minutes: Manchester United 1 Liverpool 0
Liverpool try to loft a pass over the top but De Gea comes and claims. Young chops down Lallana to give Liverpool the chance to swing a free kick in, but Firmino heads into the ground and the ball loops tamely to De Gea.
74 minutes: Manchester United 1 Liverpool 0
Rashford has looked a different player today, so smooth and dexterous when he dribbles in contrast to how deficient he looked before the international break. Atkinson lets play go after a couple of meaty challenges.
Alexander-Arnold trues another Hollywood cross from deep that does not find a target.
72 minutes: Manchester United 1 Liverpool 0
Liverpool have been so stiff and lacking invention in this game. Fantastic switch from James to Rashford, and the ball pops up for Fred to volley wide. United still causing problems on the counter-attack.
69 minutes: Manchester United 1 Liverpool 0
Henderson has looked uncomfortable on the right, it might be he who makes way for Lallana. More control in this half from Liverpool but no clear cut chances. It will be Henderson to come off. You imagine he might go to the right and Oxlade-Chamberlain to the right.
Fabinho booked for hacking down James as United countered.
66 minutes: Manchester United 1 Liverpool 0
Alexander-Arnold with a raking switch to Robertson, but Firmino tries too intricate a flick as he tried to find Mane's run at the edge of the box.
United get a chance to break, and Rashford skips inside Matip and fizzes a shot just wide of the near post. Adam Lallana will be Liverpool's next sub.
64 minutes: Manchester United 1 Liverpool 0
Henderson playing push higher up on the right in this half, standing between Rojo and Young. United have stopped keeping any kind of good possession now. It's park the bus time. Oxlade-Chamberlain has a shot from 20 yards or so but drags it wide.
62 minutes: Manchester United 1 Liverpool 0
De Gea stays on his line rather than running out to collect a long ball, and Young gives him an earful. Robertson whips a good low cross in that evades everyone and the ball comes straight back at United. It is a proper back five in this half.
60 minutes: Manchester United 1 Liverpool 0
Oxlade-Chamberlain on for Origi. He goes to the left with Henderson on the right, with Mane and Firmino through the middle as strikers now.
58 minutes: Manchester United 1 Liverpool 0
James down again, but that was nasty whack to the face. Ran straight into Fabinho's chest at 100mph.
56 minutes: Manchester United 1 Liverpool 0
Liverpool starting to build pressure, Fred with a terrible touch that Fabinho was all over. They just need to stay patient and not take shots from silly angles and distances or throw crosses in from deep.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain ready to come on.
53 minutes: Manchester United 1 Liverpool 0
Good movement from Rashford to push Liverpool back and win United a throw deep in opposition territory. After a spell of head tennis in midfield, United attack down the right through James and Wan-Bisakka and settle into some possession. Maguire's diagonal to Young is overhit.
51 minutes: Manchester United 1 Liverpool 0
Sloppy from Fabinho who plays Liverpool into trouble with an underhit pass. He has been one of the best players in the Premier League this season, but has not got a grip of this game today.
49 minutes: Manchester United 1 Liverpool 0
Liverpool enjoying some early possession, setting the pattern you imagine for the rest of the half. James tries to tests Robertson and Van Dijk on the break, but the Liverpool centre-back makes a big tackle. James looks a bit winded and play is stopped.
47 minutes: Manchester United 1 Liverpool 0
Henderson does well to get down the right, and his cross loops over to Robertson on the opposite flank. Wonderful cross but Lindelof heads away. Klopp has moved things around - Mane to the left, Origi through the middle, with Firmino playing off him.
Liverpool probably just got a rocket at half-time and they get us started in the second half.
Mane's disallowed goal
No doubt it was the right decision to disallow it, but it does not feel right to officiate a chaotic game like football in such a surgical and judicious way.
The task facing Liverpool
Ipswich Town in 1984 are the last away team to be trailing in a league game at Old Trafford at HT and win so no pressure Liverpool— Duncan Alexander (@oilysailor) October 20, 2019
Fair play to Solskjaer
- United have not sat back. Their wing-backs have pushed forward and pinned Alexander-Arnold and Robertson. It's been a back three not a five as we suspected.
- Pereira's movement has been excellent, but his decision-making needs work.
- Liverpool need their three forwards to hold up play better. Origi may well have been fouled, but the softness with which Lindelof pinched the ball off him was the story of the half.
Shades of the game when United broke Arsenal's unbeaten run
No big screen at Old Trafford
HT: Manchester United 1 Liverpool 0
Jurgen Klopp runs straight down the tunnel. He will be fuming with his team, who have not turned up so far.
45 minutes: Manchester United 1 Liverpool 0
Old Trafford are going bananas, they are loving this and the sense of injustice Liverpool are feeling at present. The home team have a corner which will be the last action of the half.
NO GOAL! Overturned after VAR reviewed
Mane got the better of Lindelof and poked past De Gea, but the ball brushed his hand. According to the rules, VAR worked well. Whether the laws are right is another question.
GOOOOOAAAALLL! Mane has it in the net
But I think the ball brushed his arm as the long ball came out of the sky.
43 minutes: Manchester United 1 Liverpool 0
Poor decision from Fred to try a raking pass from deep that hands the ball straight to Liverpool, but Pereira sprints to win the ball back with a crunching tackle.
40 minutes: Manchester United 1 Liverpool 0
United back on the front foot, Liverpool look all at see as Klopp continues to berate the officials for not overturning the goal.
I'm not sure about this one - I think it was a foul, but I don't think VAR can intervene on fouls in general play. It was not a penalty, offside or a dangerous tackle. Lindelof caught Origi from behind, and he threw himself over.
GOOOOOOOAAALL! United lead
Sweeping attack and James fades a cross behind the retreating Liverpool defence for Rashford to poke home. VAR checking for a foul on Origi in the build up.
35 minutes: Manchester United 0 Liverpool 0
Oooooh, that was Liverpool's first chance as they exploit the channels down the side of United's back three. Mane did brilliantly to keep it in on the right touchline with a touch that released the ball perfectly into his path. Picked out Firmino at the edge of the area, but he tamely side-footed one straight at De Gea. Should have laced it.
33 minutes: Manchester United 0 Liverpool 0
Silly foul from Mane as he chased a long diagonal. Liverpool have lumped a number of unsuccessful long balls forward and it keeps coming back at them. Really odd decision-making.
30 minutes: Manchester United 0 Liverpool 0
Henderson penalised for a stray arm to the face of Ashley Young, but no card. Neville and Carragher in agreement that United have had the better of the opening half hour, but Liverpool will fancy there spell in the game is still to come.
28 minutes: Manchester United 0 Liverpool 0
Wan Bissaka with the freedom of the right flank once again and he whips in a dangerous cross to the near post. Van Dijk gets across to volley the clearance away. Liverpool's front three just cannot get a hold of the ball so far.
26 minutes: Manchester United 0 Liverpool 0
Alexander-Arnold having a shaky game. McTominay pounces on a loose ball and drives through midfield, into a similar position to where he scored against Arsenal, but shoots at Alisson.
Gorgeous feet from Rashford to leave Matip for dead in the penalty area but he mis-cues his cross onto his standing foot. More good work from United.
23 minutes: Manchester United 0 Liverpool 0
The Old Trafford crowd responding to the positive start their team have made, going through the songbook including the 'Vieira' one about giving the ball to Ryan Giggs in the '99 semi final. Liverpool have not stretched De Gea so far.
21 minutes: Manchester United 0 Liverpool 0
This is more like it from Liverpool. Robertson really sharp to pounce on a cross that bounced back in his direction but United scramble it clear.
Then United are back on the counter, and James and Rashford are two on two with Matip and Van Dijk. Rashford could have taken Van Dijk on, but he tried to slip a pass to James that Matip cut out.
Moments later, Rashford does get the better of Van Dijk in a duel on the right, the Dutchman slipping, and his cross is deflected for a corner. Alisson punches clear.
17 minutes: Manchester United 0 Liverpool 0
A few gaps in United's midfield just starting to open up, Firmino and Wijnaldum starting to collect the ball under little little pressure. United try and release Rashford on the break but once again the timing of his run was all wrong. Pereira has the chance to cross again, but no United player attacks it.
15 minutes: Manchester United 0 Liverpool 0
Liverpool's first moment of quality as Wijnaludum dances past McTominay and Fred before shooting straight at De Gea from 20 yards. Lovely feet, even if the United midfielders sold themselves.
Mane goes down looking for a free kick but does not get one. Liverpool settle into a spell of comfortable possession for the first time in the game. Alexander-Arnold burst forward at pace and they work the ball across the box to Origi, whose cross is deflected to De Gea.
12 minutes: Manchester United 0 Liverpool 0
Pereira is picking up some nice positions in the No 10 area, this time getting on the end of a nice flick from James. Driving at the back four, he decided to shoot when he had options left and right. The effort was tame and easily collected by Alisson.
10 minutes: Manchester United 0 Liverpool 0
Crucial intervention from Robertson to cut out a free-kick whipped to the near post, before Firmino races away on the counter-attack. Did not have much support, but it was still a barmy decision to shoot from a tight angle and he shanked it into the Stretford End.
8 minutes: Manchester United 0 Liverpool 0
Most of the game being played in Liverpool's half, contrary to pre-game expectations. James and Rashford trying to split wide into the space behind the full-backs.
Pereira darts into the space James opens up and whips a good low cross in from the right, but Rashford was on his heels at the back post. He needed to get across his man.
6 minutes: Manchester United 0 Liverpool 0
Klopp will not be too happy with the first six minutes, a lack of composure and accuracy on the ball from his players but United deserve some credit for forcing mistakes. They have been bold and energetic, looking to press Liverpool high whenever they get the chance. Can they keep it up?
4 minutes: Manchester United 0 Liverpool 0
Mis-placed Rojo pass gets a groan from the Old Trafford crowd, then some fine one on one defending from Wan Bissaka to halt the run of Robertson. Liverpool should be able to switch play to the full-backs with ease with United pushed back in a back five. Young and Wan Bissaka are trying to push on when United are on the ball though.
2 minutes: Manchester United 0 Liverpool 0
Looks like Pereira is playing very centrally, between James and Rashford. McTominay right in the face of Fabinho in the first few minutes, United trying to swarm over Liverpool when they are playing out from the back.
Very frantic and scrappy in the early exchanges, Liverpool struggling to string two passes together, but an Origi surge down the left does gain them ground. Sadly for them, at the expense of a free kick.
United get us going and kick long right from kick off.
Kick off moments away
All eyes on how United set up in the first few minutes. Lots of defensive players in the team, but not exactly clear how they are arranged.
Players in the tunnel
One of the most spacious tunnels in the Premier League. Roy Keane less than impressed with the amount of hugging and small talk: "YOU'RE GOING TO WAR."
Liverpool fans with plenty of inflatable sixes in the away end....
A reference to the number of European Cups they have won, more than United's three. Also some reports that United fans are planning to fly an anti-Woodward and Glazer plane over the stadium. Manchester is a great place to be in the light aircraft business, but it does not quite top Arsenal fans flying competing planes over the Hawthorns - one pro and one anti Arsene Wenger.
A reminder of the teams
Man Utd: De Gea, Wan Bissaka, Lindelof, Maguire, Rojo, Young, McTominay, Fred, Pereira, Rashford, James.
Liverpool: Alisson, Alexander-Arnold, Matip, van Dijk, Robertson, Henderson, Fabinho, Wijnaldum, Mane, Firmino, Origi.
Who will be United's Klopp?
Liverpool have refined the old transfer model perfected by Ferguson of buying his rivals’ best players. The current Liverpool team is a Premier League bottom-10/Champions League group stages All-Stars XI, with players signed from the likes of Roma, Southampton, Newcastle United, Schalke and even Hull City and Sunderland. That is not simply the new market now – it is the only market. No-one really big in Europe any longer sells any player worth having. A lesson that United have spent millions to learn.
Read Sam Wallace's column on Liverpool and Manchester United: Jurgen Klopp has lifted his club off the canvas just as Sir Alex Ferguson once did.
More team news...
Axel Tuanzebe has a problem in the warm up, Marcos Rojo comes in on the left of the back three.
Solskjaer says De Gea declared himself fit
Never like hearing that sort of thing, myself. Players will always say they are ready to play, but there have been so many cases of unfit players proving a hindrance to their teams down the years. Think Wayne Rooney at the 2006 World Cup, Diego Costa lasting 20 minutes in a Champions League final or Mauricio Pochettino bringing Harry Kane back in the same game last year.
Will be interesting if De Gea has to sprint off his line early on....
'We are back on our perch'
United are only two points outside the relegation places now, and could even be in the bottom three if results go against them this weekend. The nightmare scenario for United is Liverpool winning, equalling City’s record of 18 league victories in a row, and condemning United to the humiliation of being below the dreaded line. Nothing would highlight the contrasting trajectories of the two clubs more and United would lurch into another week of crisis.
Read Jason Burt's special feature on how Liverpool surged ahead of United and got back on their perch.
Reasons for optimism
- Liverpool less than free-flowing away from Anfield.
- United's obduracy when leading.
- The rarity of away thrashings in these 'Big Six' Games.
I tried to build a case for United earlier in the week, which was not a simple task. You can add injury to Salah now.
Team news analysed
My feeling before the team news was this would be a game of few goals, and the loss of Mohamed Salah strengthens that. However, it is a new and relatively untried defensive set-up from Solskjaer that could go either way. The worry for United will be Mane and Firmino getting into those gulleys between centre-back and wing-backs in their back five and driving at the outside centre-backs in one on ones.
I can see this being slow burner but Liverpool just about getting it done, maybe with a late goal.
Salah's shirt is there, but the player is absent
Liverpool team: No Mohamed Salah in the squad
Jurgen Klopp says Salah was not ready - could not train with the team during the week.
Manchester United team: De Gea starts as Solskjaer switches to a back three
Sky suggesting Mohamed Salah has not arrived with the Liverpool squad. No sign of him getting off the coach.
Some sparse protests outside Old Trafford
Alisson back in goal for Liverpool today
Manchester United have been here before...
You have to go back 30 years since United started a league campaign this badly. James Ducker caught up with one of the players who emerged on the right side of that particular crisis: Gary Pallister. Read his exclusive interview with the former United centre-back here.
Here is a taster:
I think going for a drink like we did built a mentality where we weren’t just team-mates, we were mates, too. It galvanised the spirit within the team.
Sky have a full-strength team out
Souness, Mourinho and Keane in the studio. It's a bit like when the camera pans to a toddler walking towards a boiling radiator at the start of Casualty....you know what's coming.
The final frontier for Klopp and Liverpool?
Seldom in the history of Manchester United and Liverpool's storied rivalry has one team approached the fixture with such trepidation.
United look ripe for a pasting. Fifteen points behind league leaders Liverpool already, as big as 4/1 with some bookmakers to win at Old Trafford and key players David De Gea and Paul Pogba injury doubts. There is a gulf in class between both teams, on the pitch as well as in the dugout.
However, Liverpool have a psychological barrier to clear having lost 13 of their last 18 fixtures in all competitions at Old Trafford. Jurgen Klopp is yet to taste a league win there and Mohamed Salah has not scored against United in his Liverpool career.
United held them to a goalless draw while severely under strength in this game last season, two dropped points that proved costly in May when Liverpool missed out on a first league title since 1990 by a point.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's team is short of creativity and goals, but their primary objective today will be stopping Liverpool. United need this game to become a scrappy, low-quality fight - if it turns into a basketball match there is only one winner.
United do have a reasonable defensive record and Liverpool have won just one of their last 10 away league games against members of the so-called 'Big Six'. So there is a ray of hope.
Solskjaer was perhaps guilty of unnecessary provocation when describing Liverpool as United's 'perfect' opponents and claiming that it would not take 30 years for United to win their next title.
The United manager also added: "We do have a plan and we know that we've made some decisions that maybe in the short-term would harm us, but we know in the long-term will benefit us.
"But results are always the main thing and we can move forward quicker if we get results and performances."
Team news shortly.