Manchester United came away with a crucial point from Anfield after they held Liverpool to a rare goal-less draw. The Hard Tackle lists out some of the key take-aways for Jose Mourinho’s side from the showdown on Monday.
The game certainly didn’t match the hype and attention it received throughout the international break with the two Premier League giants basically fighting out a fraught contest at Anfield. While the first half was marked by a Liverpool side that were hesitant to stop United in their tracks and impose their style of football, the second half was marked by a defensively resilient performance from Mourinho’s side as they stayed back in numbers to ward off the Reds’ attacking threat.
The game may not have been as exciting as expected but it did provide a fair bit to discuss and talk about tactically as well as in terms of individual performances. The Hard Tackle lists out such key talking points from a underwhelming North-Western Derby.
David De Gea may have endured a poor outing against Stoke City before the international break, but it is games like that against Liverpool that encourage Manchester United supporters to forgive his occasional lapse in performance levels. The Spaniard was solid in goal and pulled off two spectacular saves to deny Emre Can and Philippe Coutinho in crucial moments during the game to keep the Red Devils in the contest.
On a night when there was limited threat to both the goals, De Gea appeared to be the busier of the two goalkeepers and ensured his side came away with the crucial point. It’s not often you have goalkeepers associated with the terms ‘game-changer’ or ‘match-winner’. But over the past couple of seasons, the 25-year-old has established himself as an indispensable member of this Manchester United line-up turning up with stupendous performances that have earned his side many a point in the league.
Zlatan looks off-colour
It’s now four games since the Swedish striker has found the net for United and fans have already begun to voice their disapproval over his performances off-late. In a game that didn’t have much for strikers, Zlatan needed to drop deep and get involved more in build-up play to conjure up any meaningful attack going forward. However, the Swede often appeared lackadaisical and sloppy in his approach towards the game and hence was left isolated up-front.
In a game of limited opportunities, it is important to make the most of what comes your way but as has been the case in recent weeks, the 34-year-old failed to put away a couple guilt-edged chances that came his way in the first half. It’ll be interesting to see how Mourinho manages to bring the best out of the Swedish striker once again.
Maybe some time out of the starting XI in favour of a place up-top for Marcus Rashford could be an option Manchester United can explore in the coming weeks.
Is the old Mourinho back?
One would have to go back to Chelsea’s 2014-15 Premier League winning season to pin-point a performance like the one United pulled off against Liverpool on Monday. A tactic typical of Jose Mourinho, United sought to draw first blood with a pacy start to the game against a rather cautious Liverpool side before opting to sit back and defend through the latter period of the match.
While his side found it difficult to create chances and failed to take the limited ones that came their way, they were incredibly resilient in defence putting their bodies on the line to ensure Liverpool stay away from their attacking third. A crowded back-line aided by a solid performance in between the sticks ensured Manchester United came away with at least one of the two favourable results for Mourinho. He maybe slammed for the negative nature of his style of football, but if his jibe at the ‘football Einsteins’ early on in the season was any indicator, he clearly isn’t bothered.
After a disastrous capitulation at Chelsea, Mourinho is at Old Trafford to prove a point and with him in full-charge and control over proceedings at the club, it is only a matter of time before United begin climbing up the table once more. And what better opportunity for him to signal a strong statement of intent and progress than next week when he returns to Stamford Bridge to face Chelsea, a club that sacked him 10 months ago for a second time.
Herrera stakes claim for regular first-team spot
After putting up with Wayne Rooney’s erratic performances for weeks on end, Mourinho will be very pleased with Ander Herrera’s form off-late. The Spanish midfielder is injecting new life into that midfield role and was pivotal in keeping Liverpool from imposing their free-flowing and high-intensity football especially in the first half. It was therefore no surprise that he was named the man of the match for his incredible performance in such a high-profile game.
— Sky Sports Statto (@SkySportsStatto) October 17, 2016
His recent performances have definitely helped present a strong case for a regular place in the starting XI and have also shown how impactful he can be on both the creative and defensive front. It’s his versatility that’ll appeal to Mourinho as it leaves him the choice of fielding the Spaniard either in a two man holding midfield position along with Paul Pogba or in a centre-attacking midfield role behind Zlatan or Marcus Rashford.
While the quality he brings to the centre-attacking midfield role has been well taken note of, his ability to play along side Pogba in a holding midfield role gives the Frenchman the license to move forward more often, which is something Mourinho could consider, in order to bring out the best from his world record signing.