Manchester United took on their fiercest rivals Liverpool at Old Trafford on Sunday evening and despite leading for a large portion of the match, the Red Devils only came out with one point. However, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer can be very pleased with his teams’ performance, something they must build on moving forward.
For 84 minutes of Sunday’s match, Manchester United’s display against Liverpool was perfect. Tactically, Solskjaer got it spot on, both in setting up the team prior to the match and reacting to Jurgen Klopp’s own tactics. The players performed their jobs to a very high standard also. United looked potent going forward for large parts of the game and solid defensively.
However, “fine margins” is a saying you often hear in football. It could have been used to describe Sunday’s frustration at conceding a late equaliser.
Marcos Rojo, who had been brought into the game as a late substitute for Axel Tuanzebe, injuring himself in the warm-up, was excellent. Considering he could have been caught cold not expecting to play, he hardly put a foot wrong. Why did he leave Adam Lallana free at the back post though?
You could argue that Aaron Wan-Bissaka or Andreas Pereira should have closed down Andy Robertson’s cross earlier. Perhaps Victor Lindelof and Harry Maguire could have had better body positions to enable themselves to mark their runners and clear the ball if required.
And maybe, Ashley Young should have helped out his Argentine teammate by getting tighter to the eventual goalscorer Lallana.
But, irrespective who was to blame, it showed that despite all of United’s good work and Solskjaer’s tactical planning, one mistake can cost you two points. Had they held on for all three, the Red Devils’ would be sitting 8th in the Premier League table, level on points with Spurs, two off the top six and five off the top four. Instead, they are 14th and only two points above the relegation zone.
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The league is tight. At this stage in the season, it is pointless looking at the table. Performances matter. And on Sunday, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and his team delivered a very good performance against the leagues best side. No one else in the 17 games previous had managed to stop Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool winning – Solskjaer did.
Equally, we shouldn’t overreact, United didn’t get all three points. But the performance answers a lot of questions. Ole can cut the mustard tactically. Pereira’s best position is in the number 10. Marcus Rashford and Daniel James work as a split striking partnership. There a few more also.
The performance was a real positive and it gives hope to fans moving forward that results will start to improve as an effect. Momentum has been built a little and Solskajer and his team must capitalise. With fixtures coming up against Norwich and Bournemouth in the league, Solskjaer has to get six points.
Tottenham, Chelsea and Leicester City all have two away games up next also, with Spurs having tricky tests against both Merseyside teams in Liverpool and Everton.
As much as Sunday can and should be viewed as a good day for Solskjaer, it will count for nothing if they fail to beat the Canaries next week.