Anfield shutout demonstrates United’s solidity

Monday 18 January 2021 11:12

Manchester United’s goalless draw with Liverpool on Sunday may not be remembered as a Premier League classic, but it could yet go down as a significant milestone in both sides’ seasons.

There are few more daunting away grounds in the top flight than Anfield - there’s simply no denying Liverpool’s imperious record at home.

Jurgen Klopp’s men haven’t lost when hosting a Premier League game since April 2017, that’s a run of 68 matches following Sunday’s stalemate.

Yet one long-standing statistic that was quelled by United was Liverpool’s impressive record of finding the back of the net at home. Prior to our visit, the Merseysiders had scored in 43 consecutive league matches at Anfield, stretching back to October 2018.
90 in 20: Liverpool 0 United 0 Video

90 in 20: Liverpool 0 United 0

See how close the Reds came to winning at Anfield in our extended highlights...

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s well-organised and compact defence put an end to that sequence, underlining just how admirable our clean sheet was on Sunday.

The likes of Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane are among the most deadly finishers around, but United reduced Liverpool to just three shots on target throughout the 90 minutes.

While there have been a few complaints posted on social media about a perceived lack of excitement, it is worth remembering United’s display in the context of Liverpool’s last few seasons.

It would be frankly naive to arrive at Anfield looking to bulldoze the home side. We’ve seen plenty of examples of that over the last few years, where teams have managed to put a few past Jurgen Klopp’s side, only for Liverpool to respond by outscoring them.
Even Sir Alex Ferguson, a proponent of attacking, free-flowing football, often recognised the need for pragmatism on such occasions, when the demand to avoid defeat outweighed the need to win.

Not that United went to Anfield simply looking for a point - far from it! In fact, after weathering an early storm from Liverpool, it was United who pushed on and looked for a late winner.

Had Bruno Fernandes or Paul Pogba placed their shots just a few inches either side of Liverpool goalkeeper Alisson, then Sunday may have gone down as one of our most credible wins on Merseyside to date. Yet, two big saves denied United the three points and means the title battle stays as congested as before.

Manchester City’s 4-0 victory over Crystal Palace on Sunday night means it’s our neighbours who move into second ahead of the midweek fixtures, level on points with third-placed Leicester City.

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See what David De Gea, Aaron Wan-Bissaka and the Reds all posted after Sunday's result at Anfield...

Incidentally, it was Pep Guardiola’s side who last came away from Anfield without conceding, during their title-winning campaign of 2018/19. Much like Solskjaer, the former Barcelona manager recognised the importance of stopping Liverpool on that occasion - in fact, had they done so, the ribbons on the Premier League trophy that season would have been red and white rather than sky blue.

During that encounter 27 months ago, there was a grudging respect from both managers that a point was not an undesirable outcome. There were shades of this again at Anfield on Sunday, demonstrating that Liverpool were more than a tad wary of the threats Fernandes, Marcus Rashford and co could pose.

While Solskjaer was experienced enough to know the problems that could ensue from setting up his side in a gung-ho manner, so too, did Klopp.

That in itself is an indication of how the upper echelons of the Premier League table have shifted in recent times, and perhaps this won’t be the last time this season that Liverpool cast an anxious glance towards their rivals from down the M62.