Player ratings: Manchester United 0-0 Liverpool

With every passing performance at the moment, my belief we can win the title fades. We seem to be just lacking in both quality but more importantly, bottle. A stalemate at Old Trafford may normally be a decent result but the way this game panned out, with three of their players going off injured in the first half and a fourth clearly struggling, never was a Man United team more there for the taking than today but we either lacked the ability to get the job done or, not for the first time this season, we bottled it.

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Alisson (8) - Didn’t have too much to do but dealt with everything that came his way comfortably, including a brilliant piece of goalkeeping to thwart Lingard when clean through. A dodgy moment or two with his distribution but nothing like his recent risk taking, which was good to see.

Milner (5) - Tried really hard but put in a performance completely lacking in any kind of quality. All our attacks seemed to be going through Milner for some reason but his delivery into the box was consistently woeful for  the entire match. I expected Milner to start today but as one of the midfield three, to help protect Trent but not to start ahead of him and I feel we would have benefited more from TAA at right back today, than we did Milner.

Matip (7.5) - I thought Matip was really good, especially in the first half. Dribbled forward brilliantly at one point, winning a free kick in a dangerous position. Matip dribbling defies physics, he’s like a baby giraffe with a silky first touch, it doesn’t look right but somehow he’s really good at it. Couple of good interceptions as well. Matip is really staking his claim for first choice beside Van Dijk at the moment. Lucky Smalling was offside though, when he stuck the ball in his own net.

Van Dijk (7.5) - Dealt fairly effortlessly with everything once again, in a fairly quiet afternoon for him. Some nice distribution and a source of composure at the back. If only we could transfer some of that further forward...

Robertson (7) - Dealt absolutely brilliantly with Lukaku from a defensive point of view, considering the physical mismatch. Tried to get forward but we seemed to be favouring attacking from our right and Robbo was often ignored when well placed. Put in a couple of decent deliveries but nobody there to benefit from them. One of our better performers on the day.

Fabinho (7) - Probably the best of our midfielders on the day. Put in some good tackles and made a few nice cross field, diagonal balls and distribution from deep, especially in the first half. Starting to show he can play the lone holding role in a 4-3-3 which is good.

Henderson (6.5) - I thought it was a little harsh taking Hendo off, as he was having a decent game. We were badly lacking in midfield creativity today though and Hendo played his part in that. There was no urgency in our attacking play and it’s Hendo I was looking to, to get on the ball and up the tempo of the team. His substitution may have been for the purposes of managing his fitness however, after a recent busy schedule.

Wijnaldum (6.5) - Did a lot well Gini, it was mentioned on the match thread that watching Gini shield the ball, is a thing of beauty. Once again though, took no responsibility in an attacking sense. When he does, like he did against Bournemouth, it frees up so much space for our front three to do something. Frustrating.

Salah (3) - Picked right up where he left off against Bayern. Dreadful. Did absolutely nothing but lose the ball, over and over again. Also, why do we let Salah take free kicks and corners so frequently? Do we think because he scores goals that he’s a technical player? He’s anything but I’m afraid and his delivery from free kicks and corners is as dismal as his first touch and he shouldn’t be anywhere near our dead ball situations. Ilija called for him to be dropped prior to the game and I dismissed him. Starting to wonder if he had a point...

Firmino (5) - Quite hard to score Bobby, given he went off injured so early. Here’s hoping it’s nothing serious and he isn’t looking at a spell on the sidelines.

Mane (4) - Mane has been in good form recently but today, he’d clearly been reading from ‘The Salah book of passing’ on the bus as he gave the ball away time and again. Never managed to fashion a chance for himself, or anyone else for that matter. Poor.

Subs:

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Sturridge (4) - If there was any doubt about Sturridge perhaps being offered an extension, I think it’s gone now. He’s done nothing since that wonder goal against Chelsea in the early part of the season. Sturridge has been an incredible drain on club resources over the duration of his contract. His huge wages will hopefully be much better spent next season.

Shaqiri (5) - Came into a game which had gone a bit flat from an attacking sense but couldn’t create the spark our game was crying out for.

Origi (N/A) - Headless chicken.

Klopp-watch (4) - Jurgen got things wrong today in my opinion. I said before the game that I expected Milner to start but I didn’t expect it to be at right back and as soon as I saw how defensively United were playing, I knew it was a mistake. All the space was from out wide and we didn’t utilise that anywhere near well enough. I also thought he got his substitutions wrong. Shaqiri should have come on instead of Sturridge. Shaqiri has an excellent record against United and Sturridge has barely kicked a ball in months. Strange decision but considering United’s capacity to change things was taken away from them through injury, Klopp’s substitutions did nothing to change the game.

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Summary:

Desperately disappointing result, the way the game panned out. If ever United were there for the taking, this was it. We could have made a huge statement by beating them and put the ball right back in City’s court. As it is, we’ve now used up our last life in terms of our points cushion ahead of City. The title is now only still in our hands if we win every game between now and the end of the season. One more slip up and we rely on City slipping up more times than us between now and the end of the season. That’s not a bet I would take.

I’m really starting to wonder what we’re working on in training as well. In terms of team shape, we’re positionally brilliant but do we spend so much time working on shape and counter pressing that we’re ignoring the basics? I ask because our passing is simply hideous and our finishing not far behind.

I lost count of how many times Mane and Salah gave the ball away today, it really beggars belief at times how poor they can be, especially Salah with the figures he’s delivering but it’s true. The basics of the game - first touch, short passing, shooting within a twenty yard range... It’s all absolutely abysmal more often than not and I don’t think any of our front three have done enough this season to make us think we don’t need to strengthen in that area but the same can be said of midfield.

It’s been a source of much debate on the site - Gini vs Hendo, are they good enough are they not and so on. I think the truth of it is that all our current midfielders (except Lallana) are good enough in their own way for our team but that doesn’t mean we’re not still lacking in that area because we are. We need a killer ball and a goal threat from midfield. Fekir, Coutinho, Rabiot... whoever it is that floats your creative boat, it doesn’t matter, we need another creative player in this team as chances are becoming harder and harder to come by.

To be fair, I actually think we’re a season ahead of schedule in terms of the position we’ve found ourselves in this season but given the position we were in a few weeks back, it will be absolutely devastating if we blow it again this season.

Anyway, on the up side, much like in the Bayern game, the fact 0-0 away at United feels like a defeat, shows how far we’ve come in recent years but it’s little consolation for what was an incredibly frustrating day at the office.

So it’s Watford at Anfield on Wednesday, another tricky fixture given our current form and then the small matter of the Merseyside Derby, at Goodison next Sunday. The games don’t get any easier and recently, when questions have been asked of this team’s character, they’ve been found wanting. You need a killer instinct if you want to win the Premier League and right now, we’re showing the killer instinct of a three legged sheep. Time for that to change. Every game is a cup final from here on in, starting with Watford on Wednesday. Walk on.
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