Manchester United faced Liverpool yesterday in a thrilling game that had a massive impact on the Premier League title race. A Liverpool win would have seen Jurgen Klopp’s men keep up the pressure on leaders Chelsea with only five points between them. A Manchester United win would have them move level on points with rivals City earlier dropping points following a 4-nil thrashing at Everton.
Both teams lined up in the normal fashion, with Liverpool missing a number of key players — with the likes of Mane, Clyne, Coutinho, Matip, and Sturridge either on the bench or unavailable. United were close to full-power, with defender Eric Bailly being the only notable omission, and at first glance, they looked like favourites.
Like in all things football, strength on paper turned out to be exactly just that—strength on paper. United found it difficult to play their natural attacking game under the pressure of Klopp’s energetic pressing tactic. Liverpool lined up in a shape similar to a 4-4-2 diamond which crowded out the midfield and stopped United maestro Michael Carrick from being able to dictate play.
United came close with a Pogba shot off Mkhitaryan’s delicious through ball rolling just wide off the right post. Following that the game was a haphazard affair of rigorous pressing, but it didn’t take long for Paul Pogba to concede a penalty due to a handball in the 18-yard box. James Milner calmly slotted home to make it 1-nil to the visitors.
Henrikh Mkhitaryan came close as he raced through on goal, but his effort was palmed away by the Liverpool keeper.
United brought on Wayne Rooney for Carrick and later, Marouane Fellaini for Darmian, a tactic which paid dividends as Zlatan Ibrahimovic headed home his 14th goal of the season, after a Fellaini-header had glazed the post.
An entertaining game for neutrals and both fans went home thinking they deserved better. However, there was only one winner in the end – Chelsea.