Liverpool were unable to break down a stubborn Manchester United side as Jose Mourinho’s defensive game-plan paid dividends at Anfield. In a forgettable Premier League encounter that betrayed the extensive pre-match hype, David de Gea pulled off a stunning save from Joel Matip to record his seventh clean sheet of the campaign.
The home side controlled possession but were wasteful in front of goal and had to settle for a share of the spoils. Here are three talking points to emerge as English football’s two most successful clubs went head-to-head.
Unapologetic Mourinho achieves his objective
There was more than an element of deja-vu here. Twelve months ago, Liverpool and United played out a goalless draw at Anfield after Mourinho had set out his stall to frustrate Jurgen Klopp’s men. It made for a dour spectacle, but the Portuguese was unapologetic. This match was a carbon copy.
Once again, Mourinho was happy to take any flak that came his way for his side being completely devoid of attacking intent. For him, it was only the result that mattered and on that front, the United boss could leave Anfield with his objective achieved. It might make him unpopular, but if his side go on to lift the title by a single point, United supporters will not complain.
Familiar failings for profligate Liverpool
Liverpool had no fewer than 19 shots over the course of the 90 minutes, but only five were on target. In many ways, it was a microcosm of their season.
For all their possession and flair, the Reds just aren’t testing opposing goalkeepers enough. When they do, invariably they are finding them to be in inspirational form. De Gea is one of the best – if not the best – keepers on the planet and he further enhanced his reputation with a sensational stop to deny Joel Matip.
However, that save should not overshadow the fact that Liverpool were once again found wanting in front of goal. Even with Adam Lallana and Sadio Mane injured, Klopp has an embarrassment of attacking riches but has yet to discover the winning formula.
Is Romelu Lukaku a flat-track bully?
Despite the nature of the game, Mourinho would surely have expected more from his £75 million striker. Romelu Lukaku has been in scintillating form this season but he was completely ineffective at Anfield. Seventeen minutes had elapsed before the Belgian registered his first touch and aside from one shot that was well saved by Simon Mignolet, he offered nothing.
Lukaku is becoming known as a flat-track bully and it’s easy to see why. Since 2014, he has scored only five times in 36 games against the Premier League’s ‘big six’. Although his statistics this season are impressive, and he will undoubtedly go on to score plenty more goals, it is in such matches where he needs to prove his worth.