"They came, they saw, they contained" - How the media reacted to the draw between Liverpool and Manchester United

If there is one thing in common between all of the media outlets in the aftermath of United’s draw at Anfield, it is that it was a vintage Jose Mourinho performance. As Henry Winter wrote in the Times:

“One shot on target, one corner, and one point: the Special One was up to his old tactical tricks again. José Mourinho’s defensive game-plan ensured that Manchester United stifled “a good team but not the last wonder of the world.”

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The Red Devils still benefitted from a fair amount of luck and had David de Gea to thank for their point. Whilst he didn’t have much to do, he did produce two world class saves up against Emre Can’s low effort and Phillipe Coutinho’s strike from distance which looked destined to curl past him into the back of the net, but for an outstretched right hand. Ian Ladyman said in the Daily Mail:

“As for the man of the match, in these pages at least that goes to David de Gea, the Manchester United goalkeeper. Do not let that fool you. Do not think the Spaniard was some kind of comic-book hero, repelling waves of Liverpool attacks in front of the Kop. No, it wasn’t like that. It wasn’t like that at all. De Gea just showed himself to be the best of a very bad bunch.”

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The harsh reality of the game though was that it was a message of how far United have fallen in recent years. Under Sir Alex Ferguson it would be unthinkable to have a Manchester United team playing for a draw at Anfield, even under Louis Van Gaal, United won every battle with the club from Merseyside in the Premier League. Liam Prenderville wrote in the Mirror:

“Was this really an improvement on the Louis van Gaal tenure, though? The Dutchman would have – and regularly did – get pelters for such disciplined displays, for deciding a clean sheet was paramount. Make no mistake, this was vintage Mourinho. But it was also the kind of display United fans have been accustomed to over the last few years.”

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Jose Mourinho may come under some criticism for his approach, one that is a far more defensive style than any United outfit has played in a number of games. With Ashley Young playing for added defensive strength and Marcus Rashford restricted to what at times seemed more like a wing back role than a forward, Daniel Taylor in the Guardian revealed:

“It is difficult to know the last time a United side had as little as 35% possession in a Premier League match. That figure is the lowest since Opta began collating statistics in 2003 and that alone should guide United’s supporters about what they might have to expect occasionally under their new manager.”

However, Taylor also picked up on the lacklustre Liverpool display which lacked the attacking flair and excitement that we have become accustomed to seeing in recent weeks. The front three were off the boil and lacked the penetration that had previously seen them overcome the likes of Chelsea and Arsenal with ease. He said:

“Coutinho’s usual refinement was not always there. It was unusual to see Sadio Mané make such little impact and Daniel Sturridge was substituted after a difficult hour.”

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Jurgen Klopp was missing some of his key players though. It is hard to imagine the game going the same way had Adam Lallana’s pressing been available from the start having been effective as a substitute, and Georgino Wijnaldum’s skill and ability to turn defence into attack was also sorely missed. Emre Can and Daniel Sturridge both failed to live up to expectations on their opportunities, as Tony Barrett wrote for JOE:

“Liverpool, on the other hand, couldn’t be what they wanted to be. With Adam Lallana unfit, Emre Can started in Liverpool’s midfield and demonstrated his ability to break up play. Unfortunately on this night, he was mainly breaking up his own side’s play, forced into a more advanced position which made him the hitch in Liverpool’s previously smooth swing.”

In summary, as Jason Burt in the Telegraph pointed out, this game could easily have gone another way:

“Indeed 14 points from eight games is Mourinho’s worst start with a new club for him since 2001 with United still in seventh place with a lot of money spent and some of it appearing wasted. So they settled for appearing to be a work in progress with Mourinho the manager doing just that – managing it – while the suspicion remains that had Klopp not been denied some crucial players through injury, Georginio Wijnaldum was sorely missed and Adam Lallana was not fully fit but still made an impact from the bench, then they would have won.”

Now, both sides will refocus on their challenges for the top four. Liverpool currently sit in fourth and will hope to push on from there if possible after a promising start to the campaign, whilst United need to kick start their season after a slow start has seen them languishing. A point at Anfield is certainly better than it could have been for United, but after a dull affair, a number of fans may be left wondering if a more attacking approach could have yielded three points.

Featured Image: All rights reserved by Anfield BR.

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