Home » Three things we learned as Manchester United hold Liverpool to a goalless draw at Anfield

Three things we learned as Manchester United hold Liverpool to a goalless draw at Anfield

by Derick Kinoti


Manchester United had the unenviable task of travelling to Anfield to take on high-flying Liverpool, off the back of two successive defeats against Bournemouth and Bayern Munich.

The latter result saw United dumped out of the Champions League and out of Europe altogether.

Erik ten Hag needed a big win to relieve some of the pressure that was piling on him and his players.

The United boss started Andre Onana in goal with a defensive four of Diogo Dalot, Jonny Evans, Raphael Varane and Luke Shaw ahead of the Cameroonian.

Sofyan Amrabat started as his side’s deepest-lying midfielder in a trio also consisting of Kobbie Mainoo and Scott McTominay.

Rasmus Hojlund led the line with Antony and Alejandro Garnacho on either side of him. Here are three things we learned from Manchester United’s 0-0 draw against Liverpool.

United attackers offered next to nothing in the first half

During the match, United as expected, didn’t fashion enough clear-cut opportunities or even threaten Alisson’s goal.

To be honest, the Liverpool goalkeeper, especially in the opening 45 minutes, had nothing to do.

It was increasingly clear from the start that Ten Hag’s plan was to sit tight, remain compact and defend while hoping for a break on the counter.

Nevertheless, it was disappointing just how little the attackers were involved in proceedings. To put this into context, Hojlund only had four touches of the ball and completed just one pass in the first half.

He was barely noticeable and one could be forgiven for thinking he was not on the pitch. In the Dane’s defence, he didn’t have anything to feed on – not even the usual scraps.

Beyond Hojlund, Garnacho and Antony were equally poor. Apart from tracking back when needed, they contributed next to nothing offensively.

Garnacho was constantly outdone in duels. It was so easy for the likes of Trent Alexander-Arnold and Ibrahima Konate to just nudge him off the ball.

Like Hojlund, the Argentine couldn’t get into the game and he was largely second-best in everything.

Garnacho had a golden chance to score after the interval when he received a stunning pass from Mainoo to run one one-on-one vs. Allison.

However, he messed it up and gave Alexander Arnold the chance to put a crucial block in to deny United the chance to take an undeserved lead.

Antony was even worse than Garnacho. He couldn’t make the ball stick whenever he had it. As has become the norm with him, he brought nothing to the table.

Game by game, it’s becoming apparent that United made another big mistake by signing the winger from Ajax.

He was arguably the worst player on the pitch in the first half. His lack of quality was made even more glaring by just how good Salah and Luis Diaz looked. It was appalling that he lasted as long as he did in the match.

Antony is simply not United standard and the club would do well by parting ways with him as soon as possible.

Luckily for the Red Devils, they went into the break without conceding and the score still at 0-0.

There’s no legitimate reason to not regularly start Varane

In Maguire’s absence due to injury, Ten Hag opted for a centre-back partnership of Varane and Evans.

It could however be that the Dutch coach’s hands were tied and he didn’t have any other option. Even Lindelof was not on the bench and academy star Willy Kambwala was the only natural centre-back alternative on the bench.

During Varane’s exile from the team, Ten Hag often explained that the Frenchman’s exclusion was purely down to tactical reasons.

On multiple occasions, the United boss said that Varane was not being played because he was comfortable on the right while Evans was better on the left.

However, against Liverpool, the two centre-halves played on opposite sides.

The decorated and accomplished Varane was outstanding against Bayern last week and he was also very good at Anfield.

He led the line well and his leadership was clear. In one instance, he could be spotted shouting and berating McTominay, who had the armband with Bruno Fernandes suspended.

The World Cup winner’s presence at the back was key and his partnership with Evans helped keep Liverpool out for large parts of the game.

The Merseyside outfit had a lot of corners and most of their efforts were met by a towering Varane who seemed inspired.

In the 67th minute, Salah almost got in with Onana at his mercy, but a vital Varane interception to change the ball’s trajectory ensured the Egyptian was frustrated.

For all of Ten Hag’s statements about angles and defensive positioning to justify Varane’s lack of minutes, the four-time Champions League winner seems to have no trouble wherever he’s playing – whether that’s on the left or on the right.

Going forward, barring fitness issues, there are absolutely no reasons to not have him in the starting XI.

Class performance from Mainoo

Mainoo was undoubtedly one of United’s better performers.

In a midfield of seasoned professionals such as Amrabat and McTominay, the biggest compliment that can be paid to Mainoo is that he outshone them all.

There has always been hype around Mainoo and he certainly seems to be the real deal.

Whatever little composure United showed against Liverpool came from the talented 18-year-old who seems to have the world at his feet.

He was instrumental in keeping Liverpool from shedding first blood. He hardly looked out of place and bossed both Endo and Dominik Szoboszlai.

He was taken off in the late stages of the game and even when walking out to the touchline, he was signalling to the away support to increase the noise and keep the players going to get them over the line.

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