Liverpool’s 16-match Premier League winning streak was abruptly ended by a defiant Manchester United performance on Sunday, though Adam Lallana’s late equaliser ensured the Reds’ unbeaten top-flight run continues after an unpredictable 1-1 draw at Old Trafford.
The league leaders’ sloppy start was compounded by more VAR controversy, as Divock Origi was fouled by Victor Lindelof in the build-up seconds before Marcus Rashford broke the deadlock.
United retrieved possession and on the counter, Daniel James delivered a great cross into the box for Rashford, outsmarting Joel Matip before converting beyond the returning Alisson. Despite a review, the decision to award a United goal stood and even after multiple replays showed a foul should have been given and the consequent finish overruled, play restarted.
VAR was again involved minutes before half-time, this time correctly overruling Sadio Mane’s equaliser at the other end after a review. He handled the ball to control it under pressure from Lindelof, before also beating David de Gea from close-range.
Although the manner of their opener was dubious, United were the better side and deservedly infront at half-time. However, no team has scored more goals in the final 15 minutes of games than Liverpool over the past two seasons and Jurgen Klopp’s tactical changes proved the trick late on as substitute Adam Lallana levelled the scoring.
He couldn’t miss after Andy Robertson’s low cross was poorly dealt with by the hosts’ backline, sluggish and caught ball-watching as the ball was fizzed across the area. Lallana duly punished them, netting his first Premier League goal since May 2017 by doing so.
Without further ado, here’s a look at five hits and flops from a memorable 1-1 draw:
#5 Flop: Jordan Henderson
Despite an enthusiastic showing, Jordan Henderson flattered to deceive on this occasion and didn’t lead by example like a captain is expected to with his sleepwalking teammates struggling to settle quickly.
Instead, it was Georginio Wijnaldum who seemed liveliest in a forgettable first-half display which saw a nervy Liverpool go behind as they were second best against an unpredictable United side who themselves have grossly underperformed this season.
Klopp’s tactical change to a 4-4-2 didn’t help matters after the break either, as Henderson cut a frustrated figure operating on the right-hand side of midfield – an unnatural role – where he looked lost and spent more time growling at teammates and officials than helping get his side back into proceedings.
Despite completing three tackles, two interceptions and one clearance, his crosses were not working and persistence didn’t pay off either: losing possession 12 times, two fouls and only won four of 10 duels contested before being replaced for Lallana with 20 minutes to play.
Roberto Firmino also disapppointed, though Henderson’s club captain status means more responsibility is on him – failed the test against opposition he would’ve relished playing against.
#4 Hit: Daniel James
Largely quiet before the game’s first flashpoint, Daniel James utilised his blistering pace and positioning to good effect as he left Wijnaldum for dead on the counter-attack before delivering a brilliant ball into the box for Rashford.
He made no mistake from close-range, but plenty of credit has to go to the Welshman, energised by his involvement there and grew in confidence afterwards – despite being significantly roughed up by the overtly physical pair of Fabinho and Virgil van Dijk, without winning free-kicks for both with his reputation for exaggerating contact again evident here.
Despite only having 39 touches and featuring across a range of positions as Solskjaer tested with different formations throughout, he created two key passes, won six of seven duels contested while being fouled three times with one successful tackle over the 90 minutes.
Plenty has been said about United’s shortcomings so far this term, though the 21-year-old winger has consistently impressed while providing energy and fearlessness in equal measure since his summer move.
#3 Flop: Marcos Rojo
It was all going well for Rojo, who emerged as a late replacement to start for Axel Tuanzebe who was injured in the warm-up. With less than ten minutes plus stoppages, Manchester United were on their way to a well-earned clean sheet. Instead, a sloppy moment of collective defending – with Rojo at the forefront – saw them relinquish the lead in rather underwhelming fashion.
Man-marking Lallana as Liverpool pressed forward, he charged forward to deal with Robertson’s delivery after Harry Maguire was busy isolating Sadio Mane alongside him. The ball was fizzed into the box and as soon as it went through Lindelof’s legs, he just froze. Either you stay and nullify Lallana’s threat or push forward confidently, clearing your lines. He did neither and instinctively put his hands up, signalling for offside. Hoping his mistake would be rectified.
It was not and again proved another reason why he wasn’t initially trusted to start here, his composure and decision-making at crucial moments in games like these is poor and hasn’t improved much either since he joined from Sporting Lisbon five years ago.
He made five clearances with a block and tackle too, though other match statistics were alarming: losing possession 17 times, only completing 59.3% of his passes, the 29-year-old Argentine was fortunate to avoid a booking or worse after a cynical foul on Fabinho and his involvement in a moment of madness midway through the second-half which somehow went unpunished.
Only Southampton (19) have dropped more points than United’s 15 since Solskjaer’s appointment last December. If he can’t rely on defenders like Rojo to lead by example during tightly-contested fixtures like these, how are they going to improve defensively?
#2 Hit: Andy Robertson
He made one crucial sliding interception early in the first-half from a United set-piece and important tackle too, but those defensive actions will have gone unnoticed if not for Lallana’s timely equaliser – which the Scotland international created himself.
He delivered his third assist of the campaign during another dependable display, one which wasn’t without its hiccups but that is to be expected against a defiant United side who pressed hard from kick-off and didn’t want to be on the receiving end of record-breaking history.
With four tackles, two interceptions and key passes (84.9% accuracy), it wasn’t exactly the day for pinpoint accuracy into the box from the Liverpool fullbacks. However while Trent Alexander-Arnold struggled, Robertson’s persistence paid off as United were weary and made them pay.
#1 Hit: Marcus Rashford
Despite some early tense moments marred by questionable decision-making in the final third, Rashford relished the battle against van Dijk. Relentless out-of-possession, he made Joel Matip pay for sloppy positioning during the build-up to his controversial opener.
On another day, he would’ve had another. Beating two Liverpool players, racing 30 yards goalwards before watching on as his well-struck effort flew narrowly wide of Alisson’s far post on a promising counter-attack, Rashford was left frustrated but this display was encouraging to say the least.
Full of running as he usually is, this was crucially useful movement which proved a real thorn against Liverpool’s backline. They didn’t want to deal with it and struggled for large periods once he got going in transition.
A lot has been said about how he’s stagnated in an attacking sense and become predictable. His responsibilities as a senior player, despite still being young in the grand scheme of things – but he led the line confidently, showing more here than he has in previous weeks, which has to be a positive sign.
Four successful dribbles, he was fouled twice, won six of 14 duels contested with just 29 touches in 83 minutes but a memorable display and well-taken fourth league goal of the campaign before receiving a warm reception after being substituted for the returning Anthony Martial late on. Plenty to be enthusiastic about although there’s again a question of consistency now.
Stats’ source: SofaScore and WhoScored