Man United 0-0 Liverpool: Talking points as Ole Gunnar Solskjaer shows pros and cons

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Mata was one of three United players subbed off during the first half.

Manchester United hampered bitter rivals Liverpool’s Premier League title bid with a damaging goalless draw, despite losing three players to injury before the break.

In a bitty contest low on quality and entertainment, Ander Herrera, Juan Mata and substitute Jesse Lingard all suffered apparent hamstring issues by 43 minutes. Striker Marcus Rashford also played on, even though he picked up a knock early doors.

All these factors went against them, but Brazil goalkeeper Alisson clawing the ball away from Lingard’s feet represented the brightest moment of a limp match.

Here are the United talking points:

WALKING WOUNDED

United’s overworked physiotherapist’s heat map was glowing magma red by half-time.

But do not mistake three injury enforced changes for hard luck. They represented a litany of naive mistakes.

First, ceaseless Spain midfielder Ander Herrera departed to the dressing room on 21 minutes. Then compatriot Juan Mata followed four minutes later, prior to his substitute Jesse Lingard – rushed back to fitness after he was hauled off against Paris Saint-Germain with a muscular issue – lasting just 18 minutes prior to trudging off.

Rashford also performed on painkillers after an early collision.

A trio of hamstring problems and trio of avoidable replacements. Burnley were the last to suffer such a shameful fate in the Premier League by half-time, against Newcastle United in January 2015.

There was no sign of an inquest, even though Anthony Martial and Lingard departed at the interval on March 13 versus PSG.

Solskjaer was at pains, pre-match, to say the latter could not play 90 minutes – and then thrust him on.

Nemanja Matic was also injured in training on Saturday. He and fatigued midfield partner Herrera have played 1,077 and 918 minutes, respectively, out of 1,170 under Solskjaer’s watch, before this game.

What type of team will United take to Crystal Palace on Wednesday?

The Norwegian’s mid-season impact has been dramatic. This was a public exhibition, however, of the fact he’s still learning on the job.

SOLSKJAER SPIRIT

And now for the positive.

The odds of the fractured and disenchanted squad that Solskjaer inherited gaining this result approach zero.

Predecessor Jose Mourinho signed his own death warrant with the reprehensible 3-1 loss at Anfield in December. The, once, Special One played, what resembled, a shameful 8-1-1 formation then – and came nowhere close to a shut-out.

On Sunday, goalkeeper David De Gea had to face just one shot on target. On Merseyside, it was 11.

Bar wretched starts to both halves from skipper Ashley Young, United’s back-four were near faultless on Sunday. Maybe club legend Nemanja Vidic’s battle cry in the build-up about not wanting to swap Liverpool’s peerless Virgil van Dijk for any resident centre-back wasn’t fatuous, partisan drivel, after all…

They were ably assisted by youngsters Scott McTominay and Andreas Pereira. Plus, a Paul Pogba, who although wasteful in possession, did a job defensively with three interceptions, two tackles and one clearance.

Roared on by a rejuvenated Old Trafford-crowd, United continue to make a steady ascent back to English football’s top table.

DE GEA – THE CENTURION

A landmark achievement risked being lost amid the hoopla that surrounds this fixture.

United’s David De Gea became just the seventh goalkeeper to reach 100 clean sheets in the Premier League. The only shock would have been the ease with which he gained the latest one, against anaemic Liverpool.

The Spaniard’s transformation from spindly, error-strewn replacement for Edwin van der Sar in 2011 until today is mind blowing. It is credit to his reserves of character, plus unquenched desire to learn and improve.

For context, the great Dutchman did not reach the 100 club in 186 top-flight matches for United. Only Peter Schmeichel has also got there for United.

De Gea has taken 264 games to achieve it. Van der Sar, however, had the likes of Vidic, Rio Ferdinand and Patrice Evra guarding him.

His successor has looked forwards to see the likes of Phil Jones and Chris Smalling.

A new contract for De Gea is of equal importance to whomever will be managing him, going into 2019/20 and beyond.

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How Ole Gunnar Solskjaer managed depleted Man United to draw with Liverpool after show of inexperience

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Ole Gunnar Solskjaer

Manchester United were walking wounded during their Premier League encounter with Liverpool at Old Trafford as the injury-hit side managed to secure a goalless draw on Sunday.

Marcus Rashford was struggling early in proceedings after riding a challenge from Jordan Henderson but had to soldier on for the full 90 minutes as injuries to Ander Herrera, Juan Mata and substitute Jesse Lingard – all the first half – saw the hosts blow through their quota of changes.

Despite that, the home team held firm and had the better chances over the course of a disappointing contest.

Here’s how Ole Gunnar Solskjaer fared as he navigated a tricky encounter.

BASIC STATS

Tactical battled: Solskjaer v Klopp

Tactical battled: Solskjaer v Klopp

30-SECOND REPORT

Solskjaer set his side up in a diamond 4-4-2 system and during a first half that was riddled with stoppages, due to injury, it held them in good stead. A narrow midfield helped congest the central areas and forced Liverpool wide from where they were unable to deliver quality crosses to hurt the Red Devils.

Meanwhile, United lost Herrera in the 21st minute with Lingard replacing Mata soon after, only to hobble off himself before half-time. Solskjaer was left with no substitutions to influence the second half and towards the closing stages the hosts were forced to retreat and defend deeper as they tired. However, they were never under any serious pressure.

Mata injured

TACTICAL TALKING POINT

Switch in shape

The flurry of injuries forced Solskjaer to rethink his 4-4-2 formation with a midfield diamond and he opted to switch to a more straightforward 4-3-3. A narrow midfield asked too much of a hobbling Rashford in a defensive capacity while also stretching Liverpool with runs in behind and out wide. Sanchez’s introduction meant he took up the left wing role with the England international through the middle.

That also seemed to open up another avenue to goal. Sanchez has looked a shadow of his former self at United but his crossing has been the one aspect of his game that’s still been menacing. With Lukaku moving to the right, the big Belgian was a target at the far post and the deep cross was always on. Unfortunately, Sanchez didn’t really capitalise on that mismatch between Lukaku and Andrew Robertson. Instead, it was the burly striker who delivered the more threatening crosses.

Marcus Rashford

VERDICT

Solskjaer’s management of the players’ fitness levels must be questioned. Three muscle injuries inside 45 minutes does not bode well while Nemanja Matic was ruled out from the start. Bringing on Lingard was also a poor move. That said, he did well to tweak his system as per the circumstances and managed to get a solid performance out of a seriously depleted side in the second half.

Rating 6/10

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Man United 0-0 Liverpool: Player ratings as walking wounded dig in

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Manchester United hampered bitter rivals Liverpool’s Premier League title bid with a damaging goalless draw, despite losing three players to injury before the break.

In a bitty contest low on quality and entertainment, Ander Herrera, Juan Mata and substitute Jesse Lingard all suffered apparent hamstring issues by 43 minutes. Striker Marcus Rashford also played on, even though he picked up a knock early doors.

All these factors went against them, but Brazil goalkeeper Alisson clawing the ball away from Lingard’s feet represented the brightest moment of a limp match.

Here are the United player ratings:

MAN UNITED (4-3-1-2)

David De Gea 6: Faced just one shot on target. Should have needed to work harder for 100th PL clean sheet.

Ashley Young 6: Right-back survived wretched beginning to dig in, while his team-mates fell like flies.

Chris Smalling 7: Slow game suited centre-back. Everything was in front of him. Should have gambled on late chance.

Victor Lindelof 7: A growing presence. Doubled up on Salah when the Egypt superstar drifted inside.

Luke Shaw 7: Had the Premier League’s joint-top scorer to deal with. Instructed to neglect attacking duties.

Ander Herrera 5: Blink and you missed him. Made one rash foul on rampaging Matip – then was gone.

Scott McTominay 7: Shock starter, because of Matic injury. Did well, apart from some suspect grappling in box.

Paul Pogba 6: Second-worst pass accuracy from United’s starting XI. But did more than his fair share of defensive duties. This made up for it.

Juan Mata 5: Another one to say an early ‘goodbye’. Wasted one promising counter-attack by dallying on ball.

Marcus Rashford 6: Stayed out after early knock, but at what cost? Hard to see him starting at Crystal Palace on Wednesday.

Romelu Lukaku 6: The Belgian had several poor touches, yet he set-up Lingard and Smalling for game’s best chances.

SUBSTITUTES

Andreas Pereira 7: Redemption after horror show against Burnley when he was last seen in top flight. Performed valuable job.

Jesse Lingard 5: Simply, he should never have played. Especially as a rushed substitution. Almost scored when he tried to round Alisson, though.

Alexis Sanchez 6: Better, but still not at his Arsenal best. Buzzed around park.

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