In the end, perhaps it wasn’t altogether surprising that the much-anticipated showdown between Liverpool and Manchester United ended in a scoreless draw. For all the hype surrounding the build-up to the match, it proved to be a fairly drab affair, becoming the sixth draw in the last nine meetings of the two teams.
Of course, they go again in the FA Cup next weekend, as Liverpool travel to Old Trafford for their fourth-round tie. Perhaps then we will see the shackles loosened for both sides, as the intense pressure of the league meeting is vanquished. The 0-0 final score ensured United stayed three points ahead of Liverpool at the top of the table, but the real winners were Manchester City, who jumped into second place with a rout of Crystal Palace, and are just two points behind United with an all-important game in hand.
With that in mind, United may feel that they missed a trick at Anfield. While Liverpool dominated the early proceedings, living up to their billing as the favourites in the betting exchange, the Reds failed to create much in the way of clear goalscoring opportunities. Indeed, Klopp’s side have struggled for goals of late, having only notched once in four Premier League games since their 7-0 hammering of Crystal Palace in December.
As Liverpool’s confidence dipped in the second half, United carved chances for themselves, and arguably should have won the match. Bruno Fernandes had a glorious opportunity from close range but was denied by the foot of goalkeeper Alisson, while Paul Pogba had the goal at his mercy close to the end but similarly saw his powerful strike parried by the Liverpool stopper.
Had one of those chances gone in, we’d have been heralding the perfect away performance. For much of the game, United were in defence mode, but there was still a distinct danger about them on the counter attack, with the runs of Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial giving Liverpool’s makeshift back four something to think about. This was not a performance in the mould of the two 0-0 results United achieved at Anfield under José Mourinho – there was a much more distinct threat to Ole Gunnar Solskjær’s side.
That’s why the Norwegian was experiencing bittersweet emotions after the game. To come to Anfield and leave with a point is no mean feat – after all, Liverpool went into the game with a 67-match unbeaten run at their home stadium. But the way the game panned out, and the chances United had late on, it felt like an opportunity missed for United to really hammer home their advantage on their bitter rivals.
“I’ve got to be honest and say I’m a bit disappointed at the moment,” Solskjær said. “You’re playing against a fantastic team and they had more of the possession. With the injuries they’ve had, you think you might be able to go here and get a result. We didn’t. A point might be okay if we win the next one.”
There is, of course, a long way to go in this Premier League season. That fact that we have reached the middle of January gives one the feeling that we are further forward in the season than is really the case. In reality, the late start to this season means we are not even at the halfway point, and there are bound to be plenty more twists and turns in the months to come.
This time last year, Liverpool supporters were singing “we’re going to win the league” after defeating United at Anfield. This season, however, there seems to be a genuine title race brewing with multiple clubs gunning for the top prize. It seems as though this Premier League campaign is destined to go down to the wire, and who knows whether United will live to rue the fact they didn’t sneak a win at Anfield on Sunday.