Liverpool ties Manchester United in Premier League but was it two points dropped?

Posted at 9:30 AM, Feb 24, 2019
and last updated 2019-02-24 12:12:09-05

Liverpool reclaimed the lead in the Premier League with a 0-0 draw at arch-rival Manchester United but if Jurgen Klopp’s men don’t win the title come May, the result could be one they will regret.

A question being asked before the game at Old Trafford was whether Klopp would settle for a point.

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But after United started without two key performers — forward Anthony Martial and midfielder Nemanja Matic — during a revival that coincided with the arrival of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, the Norwegian then had to make three substitutions in the first half due to injuries.

“I am not overly happy but we need to work with it,” Klopp told the BBC. “The next tough task is waiting on Wednesday,” he added, referring to the game against Watford.

“It is a point gained because we have one more than before but it doesn’t feel like that.”

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Indeed it felt like United was there for the taking even if Liverpool lost the tireless Roberto Firmino thanks to an ankle problem but the home side hung on to remain undefeated domestically under Solskjaer, who has looked more like the ‘special one’ since replacing Jose Mourinho in December.

The Portuguese was sacked in December off the back of a reverse to Liverpool.

Sunday though was another performance that will give weight to those who want Solskjaer — the man nicknamed the ‘baby-faced assassin’ in his playing days in Manchester — to be given the manager’s job permanently.

Big lead disappeared

Klopp’s position certainly isn’t under threat but the German is bound to feeling the pressure after Liverpool’s 10-point lead vanished.

As it stands Liverpool holds a slender one-point advantage over Manchester City, which will surely leave the weekend in better spirits than the Reds if it defeats Chelsea in the League Cup final later Sunday.

Liverpool last won at Manchester United in the Premier League in 2014.

When United midfielders Ander Herrera and Juan Mata, and attacker Jesse Lingard, all departed within the first 45 minutes, the visitors appeared to be in a favorable spot to end the drought.

Lingard — a substitute who was less than 100% entering the clash — probably had the best opportunity of the match late in the opening interval.

He was put through by Romelu Lukaku but Liverpool keeper Alisson alertly came off his line to intercept. Lingard left moments later. Forward Marcus Rashford appeared to be struggling physically, too, but played all 90 minutes.

“Everything that could have gone wrong in the first half went wrong,” said Solskjaer. “We had four injuries. It seemed like it was going to be a tough afternoon.

“I can’t remember Liverpool having a chance.”

For all its possession, Liverpool lacked cutting edge in the final third.

Mo Salah — who has yet to score against the big quartet United, City, Tottenham or Chelsea this term — struggled.

Salah substituted

With Liverpool countering and with space in the first half, he was stopped by the ailing Mata at the edge of the box. Later with Liverpool in another promising position, his lofted ball found a United defender instead of an open teammate.

The Egyptian was substituted in the latter stages of the second half.

United midfielder Paul Pogba — completely revitalized under Solskjaer — found himself behind the Liverpool defense on a free-kick but was ruled offside in the 51st minute and United had a goal disallowed — an own goal — on another offside call in the 75th minute.

It appeared to be the right call, based on TV replays.

Successive corners for Liverpool in the 71st minute led to half chances but nothing materialized.

After defender Chris Smalling barely missed latching on to a ball at the far post for United in added time, the teams played to a first scoreless draw at Old Trafford in the Premier League era.

As Klopp said, Liverpool, without a league title since 1990, will be hoping it was a point gained rather than two lost.