- Published: Tuesday, 17 October 2017 07:45
A dogged and determined defensive performance from Manchester United helped the Reds earn a point against rivals Liverpool after a stalemate inside a typically raucous Anfield.
A first-half wonder save from David De Gea, aided by a completely professional defensive performance was enough for a point to extend the unbeaten run all season in the Premier League. Romelu Lukaku, despite being isolated in attack, could have even grabbed all three points if he had converted a first-half effort which was saved by Simon Mignolet.
Boss Jose Mourinho opted to start with a stubborn-looking formation away from home against one of the Reds' title rivals with Chris Smalling joining the returning Phil Jones and Matteo Darmian replacing the injured Eric Bailly in a central three at the back. Ander Herrera came in for the injured Marouane Fellaini in midfield, while Anthony Martial, who scored on his debut against Liverpool, played on the left flank.
In the build-up, Mourinho stated the Reds' clash with Liverpool was 'just a match', but try telling the fans that! Prior to kick-off, Anfield’s Centenary Stand was renamed the Kenny Dalglish Stand in honour of the Scottish club legend, and a special mosaic was revealed so it only added to what was a stirring Anfield atmosphere. United, however, set up to silence the crowd early on with deep-lying defensive play which saw the team use similar tactics to grab a dogged 0-0 draw here last season.
Georginio Wijnaldum tried his luck from 25 yards but De Gea saved comfortably, before Mo Salah failed to flick home Roberto Firmino's near-post cross. Nemanja Matic, who was patrolling the United midfield, unleashed a fierce half-volley from 30 yards which fizzed past Mignolet's right-hand post as both sides reduced each other to long-range efforts.
Liverpool should have taken the lead on 35 minutes, though, as Firmino's cross found Joel Matip, but his shot was wonderfully saved by De Gea's feet and, after Jones partially cleared, Salah's effort from 15 yards narrowly evaded the far post.
At the other end, Lukaku had a glorious chance to draw first blood in front of The Kop. Cute one-touch football around the box between Martial and Henrikh Mkhitaryan allowed the big Belgian to strike at goal, but his compatriot, Mignolet, palmed the ball away, ensuring the sides went in level at the break.
Liverpool nearly caught United napping after the break as Philippe Coutinho crossed for Firmino, but Jones slid to block, before De Gea grasped the rebound. Firmino was then flagged offside when clean through after a delicate pass from Coutinho before Emre Can should have broken the deadlock, but he volleyed Joe Gomez's right-wing cross over from 10 yards with just De Gea to beat.
Jurgen Klopp's men continued to probe in possession, but United were holding firm at the back with the home crowd becoming increasingly frustrated. Mourinho recognised that and the speedy duo of Marcus Rashford and Jesse Lingard came on to try and secure a 'smash and grab'-style win.
Chances were few and far between as the game wore on and that would have satisfied Mourinho and United. A point gained at Anfield.
Liverpool: Mignolet, Gomez, Matip, Lovren, Moreno, Henderson (c), Can, Wijnaldum, Salah (Oxlade-Chamberlain 78), Firmino (Solanke 87), Coutinho (Sturridge 78). Subs not used: Karius, Alexander-Arnold, Klaven, Milner.
United: De Gea; Valencia (c), Jones, Smalling, Darmian; Herrera, Matic, Young (Lindelof 90+3), Mkhitaryan (Lingard 63), Martial (Rashford 65); Lukaku. Subs not used: Romero, Blind, Tuanzebe, Mata.
Booked: Smalling, Young.
Possession: Liverpool 62% United 38%
Shots: Liverpool 19 United 6
Shots on Target: Liverpool 5 United 1
Corners: Liverpool 7 United 3
TALKING POINTS: REDS BREAK CLEAN-SHEET RECORD
Jose Mourinho's men beat their best-ever clean sheet record when it comes to the start of a Premier League campaign with today's shut-out of rivals Liverpool. With 18 clean sheets now in 2017 - the most in the Premier League, another thoroughly professional defensive performance restricted Liverpool's attacking firepower. A POINT GAINED
Jose Mourinho will look at this game as a point gained rather than two points lost. As we all know, Anfield is never an easy place, especially after an international break. With Bailly missing along with a number of other notable absentees, United can be pleased with their afternoon's work. Liverpool have now failed to beat United in six Premier League games since since a 3-0 victory at Old Trafford in March 2014 (D2, L4).
WHAT'S NEXT FOR UNITED?
Another tough trip awaits, this time as the Reds travel to Portugal to face Benfica at the Estádio da Luz. United got off to the perfect start in the UEFA Champions League after a 3-0 win over Basel before an emphatic 4-1 win over CSKA Moscow in Russia. We are all hoping United can back that up with another win on Wednesday with kick off at 19:45 BST.