Neither Jurgen Klopp or Jose Mourinho showed ambition worthy of the occasion

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Not so Special: Jose Mourinho at Anfield on Saturday (Getty).

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.

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.

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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Analysis of Mohamed Salah's performance in Liverpool's draw with Man United

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Liverpool versus Manchester United again failed to live up to the hype as Jose Mourinho’s safety-first policy saw him once more frustrate the hosts at Anfield.

United goalkeeper David de Gea made one brilliant reaction save from Joel Matip in the first half, but Jurgen Klopp’s side failed to break down well-organised opponents.

It is a criticism which has been regularly levelled at the Reds this season but was perhaps excusable on this occasion considering the rivalry and the quality – United began the day joint top – they faced.

Here we look in-depth at the performance of Salah.

STATS

Goals – 0

Assists – 0

Shots – 4

Shots on target – 1

Touches – 49

Passes – 20

Key passes – 2

Dribbles – 7

Dispossessed – 4

Salah was particularly wasteful for Liverpool

Salah was particularly wasteful for Liverpool

EFFECTIVENESS

Sadio Mane’s injury brought about warranted hysteria given Liverpool’s impotency in attack when he was out of the side last season.

But the addition of Salah in the summer was meant for these occasions and the Egyptian was consistently the host’s biggest threat until he was brought off in the 77th minute.

Indeed, he put United on the backfoot repeatedly, cutting in from the right and driving through the heart of their two banks of four into the No10 role. His positioning meant he demanded the ball and he was getting plenty of it.

Matteo Darmian had a torrid time trying to pin him down but although Salah was doing everything right to work into dangerous positions, his finishing, as has been the case for much of the season, was wayward.

Liverpool rely heavily on goals from midfield and Salah simply had to be more potent against United. When he’s accurate his shot is tame, when he opts for power they end up in the upper tier of the Kop – his chance off Matip’s rebound perhaps the most infuriating as he dragged wide when he should have scored.

Credit is due for his superb movement and incredible balance which sees him slip past defenders but too many times chances were wasted when they were at his feet with only one shot on target from his four against United.

He was Liverpool’s key player, he just couldn’t turn a key chance into a vital goal.

KEY MOMENTS

15th min CHANCE: Salah spins away from Matic and Herrera in the middle of the park and he drives at United before playing a sharp pass to Wijnaldum on the edge of the box but he really should do better and he scoops it into De Gea’s grasp.

19th min CHANCE: Drifting in from the right into the No10 role he dropped the shoulder to get past Matic and he threads the ball through to Coutinho who shapes up to bend a shot to the far post before Smalling dives to get the ball away.

35th min CHANCE: Should have scored. De Gea makes a stunning stop from point-blank range to deny Matip and the ball rebounds in the direction of Coutinho and Salah. Despite the Brazilian being better positioned, Salah pinches the ball and slides it wide from 15 yards. Golden opportunity wasted.

66th min SHOT: Typical poor accuracy from Salah who receives the ball from Henderson with his back to goal from 25 yards out and he sprints into space before hitting horribly wide and over into the Kop.

77th min SUBSTITUTION: Double change sees Coutinho and Salah – both involved heavily for their countries during the international break – replaced by Sturridge and Oxlade-Chamberlain.

Salah is substituted for Oxlade-Chamberlain

Salah is substituted for Oxlade-Chamberlain

VERDICT

Drifting in from the right into the No10 role meant Salah was seeing a lot of the ball but his performance was hallmarked by frustration at the four opportunities he missed.

In attack, he was their best player, though, he did tire in the 10 minutes before being brought off.

7/10

All statistics are compiled using whoscored.com

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Three things learned as Liverpool are held by Man United at Anfield

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Liverpool versus Manchester United again failed to live up to the hype as Jose Mourinho’s safety-first policy saw him once more frustrate the hosts at Anfield.

United goalkeeper David de Gea made one brilliant reaction save from Joel Matip in the first half, but Jurgen Klopp’s side failed to break down well-organised opponents.

It is a criticism which has been regularly levelled at the Reds this season but was perhaps excusable on this occasion considering the rivalry and the quality – United began the day joint top – they faced.

Here are three things we learned.

GOMEZ IS COMING OF AGE

The left-back spot has been a hot topic of debate for Liverpool ever since Jurgen Klopp took charge and that conversation has only intensified with his renewed trust of Alberto Moreno.

But while the left side has been an obvious weak link, the right has been decidedly more assured – even despite the long-term absence of first-choice option Nathaniel Clyne.

To that end, Joe Gomez deserves a tremendous amount of credit and against United the England U21 skipper furthered his growing reputation.

Indeed, he had the better of Anthony Martial in the first half, completely nullifying the United winger with a display of positional maturity.

Going forward he was an outlet, a delightful ball of the top for Can was a highlight though on the whole his delivery was a little short of quality.

With 63 touches, 26/30 passes completed (17/18 in the opposition half) and two chances created alongside three tackles and two interceptions, he was Liverpool’s standout player at Anfield.

Gomez tracks back with Martial

Gomez tracks back with Martial

REDS NEED TO LOOK AFTER THE BALL

Against teams who sit in deep with two compact banks of four, patience and ball retention are paramount.

Pep Guardiola’s Man City are perhaps the best example in the Premier League of a side who can recycle the ball over and over before finding the space to penetrate.

And Liverpool needed to borrow that philosophy against United. It will frustrate Klopp then to see that they perpetually lost the ball while in United’s final third with Mohamed Salah (7), Roberto Firmino (6) and Philippe Coutinho (4) combining to be disposed a total of 17 times.

That in short is utterly wasteful and Liverpool simply have to look after the ball better because they let a very negative United off the hook at times.

Salah was particularly wasteful for Liverpool

Salah was particularly wasteful for Liverpool

OXLADE-CHAMBERLAIN SHOWS PROMISE

With Sadio Mane set for a six-week spell on the sidelines, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is likely to see more than his obligatory 15-minute cameos.

It will delight Klopp and the Kop that he finally showed glimpses of what he can deliver in his latest appearance from the bench against United.

He was confident, direct and rapid as he came on to replace Salah on the right of the front three and the England international’s immediate intention to get to the byline offered a new dimension to the attack.

The 24-year-old was perceived as a pure luxury signing but Mane’s injury is exactly why he was brought in. Now, he has to use this performance as a platform to build his confidence up.

Oxlade-Chamberlain competes for the ball with Darmian

Oxlade-Chamberlain competes for the ball with Darmian

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