Liverpool failed to capitalise on Manchester United’s extraordinary string of injury setbacks but Sunday’s intense goalless draw was enough to see Jurgen Klopp’s men return to the Premier League summit.
The latest battle between English football’s two most successful clubs was a typically tense affair as Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s in-form side looked to bolster their top-four chances and give their title-chasing rivals a bloody nose.
United’s trio of first-half injuries gave Liverpool the upper hand, yet the visitors failed to exploit those issues and had to make do with a 0-0 draw that puts them a point ahead of Manchester City and in control of the title race.
Good effort from everyone! Hope we get all players back very soon 🙌🏾 pic.twitter.com/q2gmUDkfNu— Paul Pogba (@paulpogba) February 24, 2019
Klopp’s men made the short journey to Old Trafford looking to do the double over United, but Solskjaer’s team are a far cry from the side so easily overcome 3-1 at Anfield in what proved to be Jose Mourinho’s final match.
Solskjaer has helped resurgent United go unbeaten domestically since that December loss and the caretaker manager may well be wondering what could have been had Ander Herrera, Juan Mata and his replacement Jesse Lingard not been forced off in a stop-start opening period.
Roberto Firmino also limped off in the first half and Liverpool failed to kick on without him. It could have been worse for Klopp’s visitors had Chris Smalling tucked home at the end.
The decibel levels went through the roof as the sides came out, and the atmosphere intensified as visiting fans sung towards the end of a minute’s applause for the late Eric Harrison. The return chants by some United supporters were as predictable as they were distasteful.
On the field, James Milner wasted an indirect free-kick inside the United box and Marcus Rashford saw a scooped effort easily stopped as an entertaining start petered out.
Mohamed Salah fired a free-kick over after Joel Matip saw a run unceremoniously stopped on the edge of the box by Herrera, whose afternoon came to an early end as injury saw him replaced in the 21st minute by Andreas Pereira.
As if losing Monday’s man of the match at Chelsea was bad enough, things got worse four minutes later as Mata limped off and Solskjaer turned to pre-match injury doubt Lingard.
Liverpool were not immune from injury, though, and Daniel Sturridge came on for Firmino to make it three changes by the time the sides had mustered three shots between them.
Sturridge got away the visitors’ first effort on target soon after, while Virgil Van Dijk had to be far more alert to prevent Paul Pogba’s curling attempt finding the net at the other end.
United would soon have an even better chance thanks to a Romelu Lukaku pass displaying skill and vision that left those watching rubbing their eyes in disbelief. Liverpool’s defence was among those in shock as Lingard was put in behind, only for Alisson Becker to make a fine save as the attacking midfielder attempted to round him.
It was Lingard’s last contribution as he quickly fell to the deck in pain. The England international’s hamstring issue had flared up and Alexis Sanchez had to be introduced two minutes before half-time.
When play resumed after the break, Pogba and Sanchez both strayed offside when meeting free-kicks as the atmosphere grew.
Rashford, in discomfort from the first half, slashed an effort wide as the Stretford End cheered on surprisingly attack-minded United, although Liverpool began to regain their composure as tiredness crept into the hosts’ well-drilled defence.
There were nervy moments for both sides before the end.
Scott McTominay – deployed in place of injured Nemanja Matic – chested just wide of his own goal from a corner. Matip turned into his own goal after Smalling’s ball across, but offside was rightly called against the United centre-back when meeting a free-kick from Luke Shaw, who flourished up against Salah.
There was time for one last chance but Lukaku’s cross skipped out of Smalling’s reach at the death.
- Press Association