Anfield draw reminds Liverpool vs Man United seldom produce classics

Dull draw at Anfield was another reminder Liverpool vs Man United seldom produce classics… but Erik ten Hag can take encouragement from the result as Reds’ title credentials are dealt reality check

  • Man United took a defiant point after their goalless draw with rivals Liverpool
  • Liverpool’s Premier League title credentials were tested by their arch rivals
  • Man City MUST win before going to ‘pointless FIFA jamboree’ – It’s All Kicking Off

This poor game was not as out of keeping with the history of the fixture as some people may think. Games between the two most successful clubs in English football have not often been classics.

Still, this was an afternoon to encourage only Manchester United. Erik ten Hag’s players answered some of the questions facing them beforehand. They were committed, organised and they worked desperately hard. They deserved a point even if it was, from the outset, the very ceiling of their ambition.

As for Liverpool, question marks hover. Not in terms of their superiority over their great rivals. That remains significant. But in terms of their title credentials and that is what really matters on Anfield.

One of the curiosities of the Jurgen Klopp era is that Liverpool, for all their excellence, have won the Premier League just once. There are reasons for that and the main one is Manchester City. Nevertheless, it is an anomaly that will follow them into the post-Klopp years if they do not manage to add to the title they won in the Covid-decimated season of 2019/20.

This season City appear intent on leaving the door open a little. Pep Guardiola’s team have not been at their best and have flown to Saudi Arabia for the Club World Cup on the back of 2-2 home draw with Crystal Palace. But Liverpool did not take the opportunity that presented itself here. 

Manchester United escaped Anfield with a point as last season’s horrors were avoided

This was an afternoon to encourage only Manchester United as Erik ten Hag’s players answered some of the questions facing them beforehand

Liverpool’s Jurgen Klopp and United’s Erik ten Hag share the Premier League points after a goalless draw

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With a league game at Anfield against Arsenal next weekend, Klopp’s players had the opportunity to head towards the New Year with a significant gap open between themselves and the defending champions.

Here, though, Liverpool were not good enough. They did not carry much fortune. Nothing really fell their way in the penalty area. Equally, they did not present enough quality with the ball. They didn’t make enough good decisions and, ultimately, didn’t really look like a champion team. Not here, not today.

United, given their currently reduced circumstances, had some stand-out performers in their team. Central defenders Rafael Varane and Jonny Evans were two of them. Varane has only just come off Ten Hag’s naughty step to find a place back in the team while Evans last played here for United more than eleven years ago but you would not have known it. 

That team in September 2012 was managed by Sir Alex Ferguson, won 2-1, had Robin van Persie, Ryan Giggs, Rio Ferdinand and Patric Evra in it and went on to win the Premier League.

Things have changed for United but certain things in football remain the same and one of them says that if you get through the first 15 or 20 minutes at Anfield then you can grow in to a game.

United’s defensive resolve featuring Jonny Evans and Diogo Dalot withheld Liverpool’s attacks

Raphael Varane (R) impressed as his return from the cold in United’s squad continued

Liverpool missed the chance to go above Arsenal at the top of the Premier League

On Sky commentary, Gary Neville said this was the worst atmosphere at Anfield he could remember. That seemed a peculiar statement. It’s been better but it has also been much worse. 

The home supporters are slowly falling in love with this latest version of Klopp’s Liverpool and what they expected here was another steam rolling of a United team low on bodies, belief and confidence.

Instead, once their early energy didn’t bring them reward, Liverpool malfunctioned. In midfield, they were particularly poor and it is in this area where the evolution of Liverpool is taking longer to take effect. 

With players such as Jordan Henderson, Fabinho and James Milner gone and Thiago Alcantara a long-term absentee, the midfield here comprised Ryan Gravenbach, Wataru Endo and Dominik Szoboszlai. 

Of the three, only Szoboszlai excites and it just so happened that this was one of his worst performances for the club he joined in the summer. The Hungarian didn’t last the distance.

All of which was a shame for Liverpool for United kept giving them the ball. Ten Hag’s team risk embarrassment when they attempt to play out from the back and lack the physicality to regularly win long passes in to channels. 

So they had a problem from the start and even though it was one that endured throughout the 95 minutes of this game, Liverpool were not calm enough or creative enough to make United pay.

Liverpool’s midfield struggled and this was one of Dominik Szoboszlai’s worst performances

Marcus Rashford came on in the second half after recovering from Noravirus in time to play


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United, then, will limp on. It’s West Ham way for them next Saturday lunchtime. Frankly, anything could happen. 

Liverpool, though, cannot allow their momentum of the first half of the season to stall. They had not been hugely impressive in winning recently at Crystal Palace or Sheffield United but had taken the points. Here, they ran aground.

City will return to England in a week’s time and head straight into a game at Everton. They will be behind in the title race but maybe not by quite as many points as they feared when they got on the plane to the middle east on Saturday night. Liverpool may yet come to regret that.

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