Sunday 17 January 2021

Match report: Liverpool 0-0 Manchester United

Bruno Fernandes and Paul Pogba squandered chances for a famous late win at Anfield but Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's side retained top spot with a well-earned draw.
Having gone down 2-0 in the corresponding fixture last season, Solskjaer's United showed vast improvement against an admittedly out-of-sorts Liverpool and the Norwegian will be the happier of the two managers. A draw was a fair result, and we'd certainly have taken a point beforehand, but the fact we were left slightly disappointed shows how far we've come.

Alisson twice saved superbly from point-blank range to deny Pogba and Fernandes, thwarting the latter with his foot late on as United came closest to a winner.
In truth, a draw was probably the right result with clear cut openings unsurprisingly few and far between, with neither side able to find the breakthrough. Solskjaer's Reds continue to hold a slender lead at the summit, three points ahead of the champions and two ahead of Leicester and Manchester City, whom have a game in hand. 
The United boss made three changes from the win at Turf Moor with Victor Lindelof and Solskjaer's preferred big game pairing of Fred and Scott McTominay coming in for the unlucky Eric Bailly, Nemanja Matic and Edinson Cavani with all three dropping to the bench. Jurgen Klopp chose something of a makeshift side with Fabinho and Jordan Henderson, usually the heartbeat of his midfield, pressed into service at the back. Xherdan Shaqiri made a rare start in the engine room.

Thiago was influential early on for the hosts, with the European Cup winning playmaker dictating the tempo, and particularly influential in starting attacks and he constantly kept Liverpool moving. 
Roberto Firmino had the first effort of the encounter when he was picked out by Sadio Mane at the end of a flowing move, but the goal-shy Brazilian skewed his effort wide.
Mo Salah volleyed wide after Firmino had another shot blocked, but United finally sprung into life shortly before the half hour when Fernandes flashed a free-kick inches wide after the magnificent Luke Shaw had been scythed down. 

Firmino tested David de Gea with a daisy cutter and Salah went close again, but for all their possession and territory, Liverpool failed to get in behind a United defence expertly marshalled by a superb defensive unit. 

Liverpool had the better of the opening half, but the Reds proved far more of an attacking threat after the interval. Fernandes had a shot blocked by Fabinho, before a trademark Andy Robertson cross was dealt with excellently by the impressive Harry Maguire. Firmino was waiting to pounce, but the United skipper flicked the ball to safety off the striker. 

Cavani was introduced in place of the ineffective Anthony Martial after an hour, and Fernandes went close from distance shortly after the veteran striker's introduction. The Portuguese playmaker lined up a 25-yarder, but Alisson saved with ease. Salah then shot wide on the counter attack in an increasingly end to end encounter. 
With 15 minutes left came the big moment United had been waiting for. Shaw stormed down the left and cut the ball back for Fernandes but our December Player of the Month saw his close range snap shot superbly saved by the outstretched foot of goalkeeper Alisson.

De Gea tipped wide from Thiago and Salah saw another effort off target before the Reds (in their grey away kit) saw another huge chance go begging. Marcus Rashford and Aaron Wan - Bissaka linked up down the right and the former found the onrushing Pogba but his fierce drive was repelled by the busy Brazilian between the sticks. 

That proved to be the last incident of the match as United preserved leadership of the league ahead of the trip to Fulham in midweek.

Overall team performance: 7/10
United Faithful Man of the Match: Luke Shaw. Possibly his finest game for United and the best player on the pitch by a distance. 

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