In a game where the Red Devils were expected to transcend themselves and send Liverpool back home with their tails firmly between their legs, it was another scenario which took place as Liverpool troubled United at Old Trafford for most of the game by refusing to break down, with Pogba made to look like the villain of the story for his stupid mistake which gifted them the lead, until Zlatan came to the rescue by scoring a dramatic equalizer to avoid a damaging defeat. The Perfect 10 was not reached however, as the winning streak was ended with the draw, one which the Red Devils could have avoided in truth if they had shown some more commitment and passion in this game.
Liverpool started the brighter of the two sides, despite missing their talisman Mané, but United got back slowly but surely, as Zlatan caused some chaos in Liverpool’s backline when he charged down Mignolet after a backpass from Lovren, but the ball deflected off him and landed agonizingly on the roof of the net instead. Pogba then had a chance to find the net, but sliced his shot just wide from goal when he could have done better. United had taken possession of the ball but Liverpool remained a threat with their quick-counters led by Lallana, Firmino and Origi. United looked shaky at the back today, conceding corners early on, while a player like Carrick looked very uncomfortable, misplacing passes when being put under pressure, then Jones getting robbed of the ball by Firmino, and it needed the quick thinking of Rojo to put the ball into corner kick. Yet, this is where United’s fate changed, as from the resulting corner kick, Pogba rose in front of Lovren to deny the defender the chance to meet the ball, but in the process outstretched his left arm, just like when he performs the ‘dab’ when he scores, and the ball came smashing on it, and with the referee just a couple of yards away, the penalty was inevitable. Milner stepped up to take take it, and despite De Gea diving the right way, the shot was too well struck to be saved, and Liverpool took the lead. United looked completely disorganized as they tried to get back quickly, but still got a chance thru Zlatan after a foul on Martial just outside the box. Although the striker took the free kick sweetly low on the ground, Mignolet was equal with the save to keep it out, then he denied Mkhitaryan on a one-on-one situation which the latter should have buried in the net instead,and the frustrations could be sensed in the stadium as Liverpool kept things under control despite being dominated, and instead could have been further ahead if they had manage to exploit their counters well at the other end. Mourinho, who had earlier stated that the fans should be more vocal, as well as made some big claims during pre-match interviews, was the first one to leave the field before the half-time whistle, as he was clearly caught unawares by Klopp’s tactics, and in his old fashion, was seen going down the tunnel while the team was still trying to muster something. His previous records against Klopp as well are not that good in truth, as he only managed to defeat him once with Real Madrid for a CL game’s second leg, and still was not qualified as Klopp’s Dortmund at that time had won the first leg on a bigger margin.
With Carrick struggling in the first half, it was not a surprise to see Mourinho send on Rooney instead (and I believe he should have started for such a game), but the others as well were not really up to the standards, as Mkhitaryan wasted a second opportunity with a low cross-cum-shot which Martial failed to connect as well as he rushed in the box in an attempt to backheel the ball in the net. Klopp sent on Coutinho around the hour mark, the little Brazilian coming back from an injury, and he almost made an instant impact, as he played around with United’s defense before finding Firmino in his back, but De Gea was on alert and made the save to deny Liverpool the chance of running away with the game. Mata was then sent on for Martial as United looked create something to get back in the game, but instead could have been further down had Wijnaldum connected properly with a diving header which finally went over the bar harmlessly. The frustrations turned to desperation for United, as Fellaini was sent on for Darmian, but the big Belgian made good use of his height (and hair) as he brought about some stability in midfield, was got involved in the build-up of the equalizer. Rooney managed to get a cross in the box from the left side, and Fellaini rose to head the ball, only to see it hit the far post of Mignolet, but Valencia was quick on the rebound, and sent in another cross this time aimed at Zlatan, and his looped header was no match for the keeper nor the desperate defending from Lovren as the ball crossed the line. United however exposed themselves to Liverpool’s counter-attacks as the final whistle beckoned, and Herrera had to ‘sacrifice’ himself as Firmino looked to break free, earning himself a yellow card in the process as he pulled back the striker in a desperate attempt to stop him, but in the end both teams had to content themselves with the draw. For United however, it more 2 points lost than 1 won, as this Liverpool side was not really terrific today, and if United had organized themselves in a better way, they should have been the winners of this game, as the draw keeps them stuck in 6th, the same position which seems to have been assigned to them irrespective of the result since the previous games. Looks like Mourinho still has some more ‘homework’ to do to get the team to a higher level, where they will not be bottlers when quality oppositions will be facing them.