History, both celebrated and reviled, was witnessed at Anfield on Saturday.
Scores of former team-mates, players and even rivals – none more so than Sir Alex Ferguson striding onto enemy territory while sportingly paying respects to his celebrated fellow Scotsman– were present before kick-off to witness the great man officially unveil his own ‘Kenny Daliglish Stand’. Apt reward for the achievements of Liverpool’s defining figure in the last 40 years.
This should have teed up a derby against Manchester United to cherish, past and present clashing in perfect harmony. Regrettably, interminable tedium followed.
The fresh entry for the annals came with the first successive goalless draws ever recorded in this fixture at Anfield. Not the kind of new ground either will cherish.
As the Red Devils refused to compete and the hosts failed to find a way out of Jose Mourinho’s tactical straightjacket, sepia-tinged celebrations of yesteryear look to be the depressing norm moving ahead for both.
United may have won a trio of – lesser – trophies in the Portuguese’s debut campaign, yet this weekend’s ultra-negative approach was both hard to stomach and justify. Even in the financially-constrained last few years of his epochal reign, Ferguson never turned up to Anfield with such a heightened narrow outlook.
On a day when cavalier Manchester City dashingly recorded their own ‘magnificent seven’ against Stoke City, truly defining pieces of silverware, surely, cannot be won in this stultifying fashion.
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) October 14, 2017
Mourinho extravagantly lived up to his negative stereotype, refusing to attack at any stage as the first taxing fixture of 2017/18 was met with a wave of negativity.
Winger Anthony Martial’s searing opening to the season was forgotten as he was utilised as an auxiliary left-back.
Romelu Lukaku’s prolific start in red was ignored during a game in which the centre forward was so isolated only 22 touches and six completed passes were recorded by him.
A serial trophy winner’s mind-set clearly has not altered, no matter the pressing challenge. He is banking on a marked improvement in chance conversion – up to 23.6 per cent from last term’s debilitating 13 per cent – to blast away the lesser lights and cede no ground in direct clashes with his nearest rivals.
The arch-pragmatist will point to a ninth clean sheet in 10 games and a 20-point tally from eight games that equals the club’s best starts of the Premier League-era.
— David De Gea (@D_DeGea) October 14, 2017
In the opposite corner, Jurgen Klopp’s barbed remarks post-match that “you could not do this at Liverpool” earned credit with the Kop faithful. But the wider picture is not so cheerful.
Possession of 62 per cent and 224 extra passes only translated into one glaring moment, David De Gea’s unfathomable act of athleticism to kick away Joel Matip’s first-half shot and the wasteful Mohamed Salah’s spurning of the rebound.
Aspirations about a first top-flight crown since 1989/90 received a further dint this weekend, nine points the expanding gap to rampant City.
The absence of injured star attacker Sadio Mane still remains defining. Yet this cannot be a crutch for Klopp.
In the dugout and on the pitch, there were no victors from this draining derby.
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