As is often the case with overhyped games, Sunday’s Liverpool vs Manchester United fixture did not live up to its billing. Despite Liverpool’s makeshift defence, Manchester United’s fearsome attack were rather tame, whilst Jürgen Klopp’s side also rarely posed any real threat for David De Gea, if any danger at all. In hindsight, it was destined to be a drab, scoreless encounter. The ultimate goal for Ole Gunnar Solskjær was to retain his side’s three-point advantage over Liverpool, whilst Klopp would have been wary of the Red Devils extended that gap to six.
Nonetheless, there was still enough to take away from the 90 minutes of football. So, let’s take a look at five talking points from the game.
- Another poor performance from Bruno Fernandes against a member of the ‘Big Six’
Bruno Fernandes has hit the ground running since he arrived at Old Trafford from Sporting Lisbon this time last year. He was influential in Man United’s late charge for Champions League football last season and he has been just as important for Solskjær this season. However, whilst he has excelled with 11 goals and seven assists this season, he has largely struggled against the ‘Big Six’. Sunday’s game at Anfield meant that United have now met every member of the ‘Big Six’ this season, but in those games, Fernandes has scored just once – a penalty against Tottenham in the 6-1 defeat – and he has often been scrutinised for his performances post-game. Some even claimed that the game against Liverpool was his worst performance in a United jersey, and the fact Solskjær subbed him off probably goes to prove that.
- Manchester United haven’t lost away from home for a year
Home grounds are often referred to as fortresses, and some teams are just impossible to beat on their own turf. The current Liverpool side are a prime example of that. They haven’t been beaten at Anfield now in 68 games, and as a result they are guaranteed to be the favourites in the betting exchange when playing at home, no matter the opponent. But in the case of Manchester United, they have become tricky to beat on the road. Sunday’s game marked 364 days since their last Premier League defeat away from home, meaning even if they were to lose to Fulham on Wednesday, they have gone a full year undefeated. That is an incredible feat.
- Liverpool’s front three still can’t find the net
There’s no doubt that Liverpool have been a shadow of their former selves this season. For the most part, they have lacked that ruthless nature in attack that won them the Premier League title last season, and whilst they showed of a glimpse of it in the 7-0 dismantling of Crystal Palace, they have once again lost that edge. Mohamed Salah (x2), Roberto Firmino (x2) and Sadio Mané were all on the scoresheet in that Selhurst Park thrashing. However, only the latter has scored in the league since, and it has had an impact on Liverpool’s results. Since that victory over Roy Hodgson’s side, the Reds have not won in the league. Three draws and one defeat have followed, whilst Liverpool have found the net just once.
- Still no minutes for Donny van de Beek
The Donny van de Beek situation is a strange one. Not for the first time this season, the 23-year-old was left watching on from the dugout as his teammates failed on numerous occasions to break down Liverpool’s defence. Even when Fernandes was brought off, with just two minutes left of play, van de Beek was not even considered, despite being a like-for-like replacement. Instead, Mason Greenwood was brought on. Even then, Solskjær still had one substitute remaining, but still the Dutch international was overlooked. As a result, the young midfielder hasn’t featured in the Premier League since December 20th, which equates to five games – far from an ideal situation for the player.
- Delayed offsides need to change!
Finally, the linesman raising their flags at the end of play for offside needs to change. If there was anything more annoying than neither side being able to spring a bit of life into the game, it was the constant delaying of offsides. It is understandable if it is a marginal decision, after all VAR will end up ruling any potential goals out in that instance. But there were numerous occasions where players were so blatantly offside that it just became a waste of time and momentum. At one point, United boss Solskjær was even heard saying, ‘We need to change that rule.’