Here is an admission: I was fairly sure that Liverpool would finally succumb to its poor recent form and United’s newly found one today, and lose its current incredible streak of not losing at home in the premier league. That, thankfully, did not happen, though it took some remarkable defensive work, particularly from Fabinho (again!), and a couple of (routine for him but otherwise) bonkers reflex saves from Alisson to keep a clean sheet and the streak going.
Sadly, a new streak is now in motion, as the Reds have failed to score in three straight premier league games, something that hasn’t happened, if I’m not mistaken, since that “miracle of Istanbul” year. For a team that has a justifiably celebrated world-class front line, this goes beyond just poor form, and it is worth pointing out that the team managed to avoid such a streak through some terrifyingly lean years, including one where it almost got itself relegated to the Championship. “Liverpool can’t score” is about as likely a headline as “worldwide pandemic shuts the whole world down in a manner of weeks” – they both qualify as black swan events – yet here we are.
Liverpool can’t score.
Much as it pains me to say this, tons of credit goes to the United backline, who basically executed the same game plan as did the Saints and Magpies before them, only better, because the Merseysiders certainly came into this game with obvious renewed purpose and intent. The game stats are misleading in two ways; first, the Reds pretty much dominated throughout. Yet at the same time, the more dangerous team were unquestionably the visitors. Ole is executing Murinho’s classic game plan better than the special one himself. Klopp’s headaches in the back were painfully highlighted as he played the entire game with his holding midfielders in the center of his defense. The fullbacks traded going forward for providing a stronger defensive cover, and together managed to mostly nullify the opposition’s creativity. That Liverpool didn’t leak a goal owes largely to communications and teamwork, plus the aforementioned catlike Alisson.
But all of the above, and really this entire game, ultimately revolved around two players – for the Red Devils, their driving force through this run of form, Bruno Fernandes. And for the Reds, it was of course one Thiago Alcantara. They were matched against each other, and both served as the engine for their teams. Thiago ultimately came on top, as he contributed to and played a crucial role in all phases of play, while Fernandes seemed a bit more quiet in comparison. He is a special player, this Red number 6, and is only going to get better as this long season continues to unfold and he takes more of the reigns. He is my man-of-the-match.
And a long season it is, indeed. With half of it left, no team is dominating, which actually makes this a normal premier league season, unlike the last three. We will have many more twists and turns before it is all over, and the eventual winner will likely do so with a final point tally in (gasp!) the seventies. I also do expect the lads to recover their scoring form sooner rather than later, and so here is a prediction for you – the return match in May between these two titans of English football at Old Trafford is shaping up to be the biggest match of the season, and one that may well determine who wins the title.
As well it should be. The premier league is truly back.