Manchester United 0 Liverpool 0
Manchester United and Liverpool’s eagerly awaited showdown at Old Trafford ended in a battling 0-0 stalemate, a result that did little to boost either side's Premier League aspirations.
United will continue to compete strongly for a place in the top four, but while the away fans were pointing out their team have now edged back to the top of the league, they will know that Jurgen Klopp's men missed a chance to win this game in hand over Manchester City.
This was the first goalless match of Solskjaer’s reign as caretaker boss and in truth it was a tense scrap lacking cutting-edge action in the two boxes. It was an intriguing rather than exhilarating affair, following a massive build-up to the latest episode of a classic rivalry.
It wasn’t the ideal start for United with the defence under immediate pressure after only 27 seconds on the clock when David De Gea used a hand to control Ashley Young’s back pass in the area. Fortunately for Solskjaer's men, the free kick was so close it had to be a thunderbolt strike attempt with no room for finesse and the rearguard dealt with the shot from James Milner.
In a frantic opening United did manage to get one early shot on target but Marcus Rashford’s effort was easily handled by Alisson.
Some of Solskjaer and his backroom staff’s pre-match planning went out of the window in a potentially damaging first 20 minutes when injury struck. Firstly it was Ander Herrera who was forced off with a problem after 20 minutes. Within five minutes of his fellow Spaniard's exit Juan Mata, was also down and struggled. He, too, headed quickly and sombrely to the dressing room.
The hasty reshuffle of personnel brought Andreas Pereira and Jesse Lingard into the action. The injury blows were not exclusive to United’s XI as after half an hour, Klopp was having to sort his side out when Firmino had to go off and Daniel Sturridge came on.
It was certainly all blood and thunder but there were moments of calmness as the rivals fought for supremacy.
Both sides were searching for that killer pass that would break the deadlock and after 40 minutes it looked for all the world that Romelu Lukaku had produced the key to unlock Liverpool’s defence.
The hosts had broken away and Old Trafford was on its feet as the Belgian steadied himself and then slipped a beauty of a ball through to meet Lingard’s run. Liverpool’s Brazilian keeper Alisson, however, had read the danger and came out quickly to smother the England attacker's attempt to glide past him.
Lingard, who had returned as a sub after missing the Emirates FA Cup win at Chelsea because of a hamstring injury, was hurt in the incident and United were forced into a third and final change before the break.
Solskjaer's men were determined not to be weakened by the injury blows and Lingard’s replacement Alexis Sanchez demonstrated this by setting up a cross for Lukaku to force another save from Alisson.
United had a glorious chance to open the scoring in the early second-half exchanges when Paul Pogba had stolen into space in the box to meet a cross after his side had won a free kick. But the Frenchman’s header in front of the Stretford End didn’t carry any power at all and it was an easy stop for Alisson.
Old Trafford was doing its level best to raise Solskjaer's men with an avalanche of noise tumbling down from the stands. So much so that the Norwegian appeared to be struggling to get his messages across to his team.
Chances were limited at both ends but Liverpool were starting to control proceedings with their passing. Solskjaer, obviously, had no sub cards left to play after the first-half damage but Klopp played one of his remaining two when he brought on Xherdan Shaqiri for Jordan Henderson.
United soaked up Liverpool efforts to smash down the door and, at the other end, almost snatched a victory at the death. Just as the electronic board went up to signal two minutes of added-on time, Lukaku fired over a low cross that just evaded both Alexis and Smalling as they raced towards goal looking for the winner.
United v Liverpool gallery
Flick through the story of a tense and absorbing match against our historic rivals.
United: De Gea, Young (C), Smalling, Lindelof, Shaw, Herrera (Pereira 20), McTominay, Pogba, Mata (Lingard 25 (Alexis 42)), Lukaku, Rashford.
Subs not used: Romero, Bailly, Fred, Dalot.
Liverpool: Alisson, Matip, Van Dijk, Robertson, Milner, Wijnaldum, Henderson (Shaqiri 71), Fabinho, Mane, Salah (Origi 79), Firmino (Sturridge 30).
Subs not used: Mignolet, Alexander-Arnold, Keita, Lallana.
Booked: Milner, Shaqiri, Wijnaldum.