[Manchester United 1 – 1 Liverpool]
A draw at Old Trafford? Sounds good to me, usually.
And it should, and would be, except when it comes in this moment. A win would have seen Liverpool matching a record set two years ago by City that seemed untouchable, set a new record in being the first to win over there after being down at half-time in the premier league, not to mention pile on the pressure on the Devils’ derby rivals. None of that would have normally mattered, either, but for the simple reality that Manchester United are in a bad state, nowadays, and the opportunity was clearly there.
Speaking of derbies, it’s interesting to observe that United don’t really seem to view their crosstown opponent as a rival – their games have an almost exhibition-like sheen to them. Probably because the Citizens had not been a force until just a few years ago, whereas the the red-on-red rivalry has existed for seemingly forever. Still, I suspect that Pep’s City would have taken advantage today. It’s the kind of game made for them.
The international break clearly suited Ole Gunnar Solskjær, and his players, very well. They came storming out of the gates with an intensity they had not really shown yet this season, and in a somewhat different formation intended to place pressure on Trent and Robbo by forcing them to stay behind. It’s really the most obvious way to hurt Liverpool, but it’s also particularly vulnerable to mistakes, which will normally be punished swiftly. Not to take away from United’s performance, which was the best they had shown in a fairly long while, but their mistakes did come, and Liverpool could easily have been two or three up before Rashford got to poach one for his side. In fact, but for a sleepwalking Bobby Firmino, who might need a rest, this game would have been over at half-time.
Instead, we got ourselves a bit of a nailbiter, one more reminiscent of clashes towards the bottom of the league table.
Lallana converted another poacher-like effort in the end, on what was practically the first good ball to be passed into the United six-yard box, incidentally serving as testament to the sloppy nature of Liverpool’s game today. But momentum had finally swung by then, with him and Oxlade-Chamberlain giving their side a much needed shot in the arm, repeatedly exposing the nervous core of the United defence. Ox almost cemented that swing with a brilliant long-range effort a couple of minutes later. Klopp may want to use these guys a little more in the future; together, they really changed the game. Somewhat related, it was nice to see Allison back in goal, who had a few wobbly moments early on but sharpened up and ultimately looked his old self.
Which leads me to what I can delay no longer. Thinking about my man-of-the-match for today was difficult. I really couldn’t identify anyone standing out for the Liverpool side, except maybe the subs. If we had somehow won, I suppose it would have gone to one of those two. But in all honesty, only one player stood out to me for the duration of the game, and he was wearing a red shirt today. Most responsible for inflicting pain and suffering on Van Dijk, to the point where the latter actually made a couple of significant errors, my award goes to Andy Pereira.
So a draw at Old Trafford, then, and not having to chase that incredible City winning streak record will relieve a bit of pressure off the Reds. I guess we’ll take it, even if it comes with a hint of disappointment.