Anfield is a tricky place to visit, no matter the form of either team involved. In this scenario, it just so happened that Liverpool were on their most impressive run since their title challenge in 2014, winning five games on the bounce and inciting football hipsters all over Europe to google ‘gegenpressing’ and spout their knowledge of why Klopp is a football genius.
Manchester United’s form, on the other hand, has been depressing—a mind-numbingly rubbish 1-0 win against Zorya (who? Do not ask me) was followed up by the good performance, but poor result, against Stoke City. Liverpool were strong favourites with the bookies and rightly so.
Having dropped Rooney, Mourinho decided to recall Fellaini and Young for the Red Devils’ toughest away game of the season. It is safe to say, the United fan-base on social media were not best pleased.
As the Portuguese manager often does, Mourinho justified his team selection, with Fellaini and Young actually performing as two of the best players on the pitch, it was the high profile players who did not live up to expectation for United.
While the game really was hard to watch at times, a point away from home against one of the most in-form teams in the division is a job well done, as far as Mourinho is concerned. For the fans, this is what it feels like to support a Mourinho side…
De Gea: 8
Having taken a lot of stick for his clanger against Stoke, the Spaniard redeemed himself with a fine performance at Anfield. His brilliant reaction save against Can in the 58th minute set the bar. His worldly punch from Coutinho’s long-range effort in the 71st only raised it.
The Ecuadorian winger-turned-fullback’s stock is growing in every game under Mourinho. The task of nullifying the rotation trio of Firmino, Coutinho and Milner is no mean feat, yet Valencia, with not a huge amount of help from Rashford or Rooney, managed to keep the mercurial talents quiet for the majority of the game. His particular highlight was a brilliant last-ditch tackle against Firmino to deny a clear goal scoring opportunity in the final ten minutes of the game. Was one of the few who managed to push United forward on the offensive too.
Another solid game from United’s young centre back. Composed on the ball and strong when put under pressure. Cleared up after his defensive counterparts when they made a mistake, most notably when Blind slipped in possession in the second half. Made 6 interceptions, the second most of any player on the pitch.
A quiet game for the English international, which may not be a good thing considering how much pressure Liverpool put on United’s backline. Won 100 per cent of his aerial duels but was caught out of position, along with Blind, to allow Emre Can’s chance in the second half. Other than that slip of concentration, Smalling was effective at blunting Liverpool’s forays forward.
Blind: 7Photo: Wikimedia Commons
Another composed performance at left back for United’s highest rated WhoScored.com player of the season so far. Kept Liverpool’s most direct player, Mané, quiet for the majority of the night. Caught out of position for Can’s chance but made up for that lapse with smartly-timed challenges and some good forward passes out of defence. Shifted from full back more centrally for Young to take up the left wingback role with ease and looks the part in Mourinho’s defensive unit.
Fellaini receives a lot of stick for not being good enough to wear the United badge, but the Belgian clearly has a key role in Mourinho’s plans. Early on, Fellaini broke up play with ease and made some impressive (for his standard) passes forwards to put the Red Devils on the front foot. Was imperious in the air winning six out of six duels and strong in the challenge against a tricky Liverpool attack. His only real blemish of the night was a silly yellow card in the dying minutes of the game for kicking the ball away in frustration.
A man-of-the match performance from the industrious Spaniard. Herrera hounded Liverpool’s midfield, in a similar way to Suarez or Tevez against defences, to great success. While his physique may seem slight, Herrera put in a complete midfield performance winning more tackles (7), interceptions (11) and dribbles (5) than any other player on the pitch. Herrera has proved his worth to Mourinho, something he never managed with Van Gaal, and will see considerable more game time in the coming weeks when United face Chelsea and Manchester City.
An incredibly mature performance for a man of his age. Was given more freedom than Young on the opposite flank and was a constant thorn in Milner’s side, beating him brilliantly in the first half with a body feint and put in a dangerous cross. Unfortunately, was crowded out by the Liverpool players regularly through a lack of support from his teammates on the offence. Put in a good shift defensively too, which was notable when he was replaced by Rooney—suddenly the left flank looked very exposed to overlaps.
A tough night for the record transfer player and not one in which he can be truly rated on his ability. Instructed to stay high with Ibrahimović and try to create something with very little support. The Frenchman almost managed it—a brilliant feint (probably accidental) and cross into the box set Zlatan up on a plate, only for the big Swede to fluff his header. Struggled to hold up the ball with so many Liverpool players around him but performed admirably and with a cool head when one could easily have got frustrated.
Young: 7Photo: Wikimedia Commons
Raised eyebrows when selected on the team sheet but put in the dogged display Mourinho had clear asked of him. Dropped deep to play as a makeshift fullback when Liverpool pushed for a goal in the second half and racked up the second most tackles (6) in the game. Earned a petty yellow for whining in the referee’s ear at the end of the first half, but, other than that, showed Mourinho that he is still useful to this United team.
A very frustrating night for the talismanic forward. Really struggled with his isolation up top and failed countless times at holding up the ball. Smashed a free kick high a wide in the opening procedures and missed United’s best opportunity at stealing all three points in the second half with an uncharacteristically poor header. Committed plenty of petty fouls all game and ended up getting a yellow for his troubles in the 89th minute. Zlatan is on a poor streak by his standards, missing a hatful of chances against Stoke and not linking play like he was earlier in the season. With Rooney relegated due to form, it would be a shame if Ibrahimović picked up the skipper’s curse.
Came on for the final fifteen and immediately looked a couple of yards off the pace of the game. Was caught out by Milner’s overlaps twice in quick succession and was lucky not to be punished.
Shored up United’s defence in the dying stages. Will give Mourinho a headache with Blind playing so well at left fullback.