I WAS travelling up to Liverpool on Monday afternoon and remembered I had to write a piece for Wednesday. So I made some notes of things I could talk about, broadly surrounding that match.
Unfortunately for me, Jose Mourinho basically created a situation whereby there was pretty much nothing for me to talk about. Nothing really happened. Manchester United stifled Liverpool excellently and we came away with a 0-0 draw.
A 0-0 draw at home to United might be annoying on the face of it, particularly with the way it happened. But we’re in a situation whereby we’ve played Arsenal, Spurs, Chelsea, Manchester United and last year’s champions and we sit two points off the top of the table.
You wouldn’t have turned your nose up at that two months ago.
I’ll be honest. I thought United were excellent on Monday night – they came with a gameplan, they quietened the crowd, they stopped us from doing pretty much anything and got the point that they came for. On another day David De Gea doesn’t pull that save from Philippe Coutinho off, but on another day they also take advantage of the Loris Karius error where he passed the ball to Paul Pogba.
There’s a certain snobbery in football whereby only attacking football is acceptable. Well I’m afraid that’s nonsense. At this moment in time this Liverpool side is better than Manchester United – we’re, at worst, the second best attacking side in this country and comfortably in the top ten in Europe. Before the weekend we’d had more shots, and more shots on target, than any side in England. Given our fixture list that’s an impressive achievement, if not rather simplistic as metrics go.
You can say that you aren’t into the type of football that Mourinho played, that’s absolutely fine. It isn’t particularly nice to watch – but why should he care? He isn’t paid to entertain you or me, to provide a situation where Liverpool can create chances aplenty and shower De Gea’s goal with shots. He is there to do the best thing for Manchester United. The best thing for Manchester United was to not lose.
I thought we really missed Gini Wijnaldum and Adam Lallana; Wijnaldum for his ability to move the ball from A to B quickly, and Lallana because he could find space in a phone box. And on Monday night Liverpool were playing a game where the final third was effectively a phone box. You weren’t swinging a cat anywhere near the United 18-yard line without taking someone out.
That was Mourinho’s 12th fixture as manager of United. Twelve. Not one hundred. Not two hundred. Twelve. Less than a quarter of a season and off the back of an international break to boot. United failed to break the top four last season because they weren’t good enough over 38 league games, so why should he suddenly have managed to turn a United side from not being good enough to finish in the top four of what was a poor Premier League, to being able to turn up at Anfield against one of the best attacking sides around and out play them? It’s nonsense to think that he should have done anything different.
If you were Jose Mourinho, what would you have done on Monday night? If your answer is to get on the front foot and leave gaps for Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino to exploit then you’re absolutely crackers. The first thing a football manager should do is look after his own side’s best interests. The second thing is to not play into the hands of the opposition. Mourinho absolutely nailed both of these things.
I’ve seen a few people talk about this being the type of thing Tony Pulis did as manager of Stoke, and will attempt to do as manager of West Bromwich Albion at the weekend. I would disagree with that. That level of side turns up to frustrate but if you do the right things, your superior ability will see you break them down eventually with a good piece of football or the right break. Your class will invariably tell.
Goalkeepers make huge numbers of saves, defenders make lots of last minute interventions. On Monday night De Gea made two saves, an outstanding one from Coutinho and a good, but regulation one, from Emre Can. They were both good saves but if he hadn’t saved them you’d have been asking questions about what exactly he was doing.
Mourinho’s approach could be viewed as wrong if we were picking them open time and time again. As it was we created two chances (one of which didn’t even result in a shot on goal) and Coutinho nearly pulled off a piece of magic. That’s it. West Brom will turn up on Saturday and try and do a similar thing. They won’t have Antonio Valencia’s pace at right-back, they won’t have someone with as much nous as Ander Herrera in the middle of midfield. They’ll have decent Premier League footballers that we are much better than. Players that you wouldn’t dream of having at Liverpool.
West Brom might well walk away with a point on Saturday night but I would be absolutely staggered if it didn’t involve Ben Foster making a string of saves, Gareth McAuley heading everything away, and probably at least one of their players pretty much killing himself to protect their goal.
The difference on Monday night is that these things didn’t have to happen such was United’s level of organisation. Foster may not save the Can shot or the Coutinho effort, and it’s unlikely that Craig Dawson would be able to get back to stop Firmino having a one on one like that.
United came with a gameplan, with the goal of not losing and executed it to perfection. If it’s not for you then fair enough, I don’t blame them for what they did. I’d quite like to have seen us go to Old Trafford and do that at some point. We’ve prevented United from scoring once in a league game at Old Trafford since Rafa Benitez arrived at Anfield – that’s quite a long time. Maybe we should have a crack at that in January?
Bar the 2013/14 game, it has been physically impossible for us to get three points without scoring twice, impossible to get a point away at Manchester United without scoring. The last time we got a draw at Old Trafford in the league, by the way? Patrik Berger scored a thunderbolt in 2000. It sounds defeatist but I’d quite like a 0-0 draw at Old Trafford at some point.
It’s absolutely ridiculous that since 2000 we haven’t come away from Old Trafford with a point. Winning games is great, but not losing away at United is always good. If we turn up at Old Trafford in January and do exactly what they did, I’ll quite enjoy it. Going to Old Trafford and stopping United from having any proper chances? You’d quite like that as well – don’t pretend otherwise.
Onwards to Saturday anyway. Keep ticking over. Get three points on the board and push on. A draw with Manchester United is never a bad result. That’s the first point we’ve taken off them in two and a half years after all.
Mourinho’s tactics might not be your cup of tea, but that’s not what he’s in it for.
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Given the lack of chances for both sides I was just happy they didn’t sneak one. We’d have been shafted. Bore draw wasn’t what I wanted, but if we do the same at their place I’ll be happy enough.
I agree with everything you have written, but I wonder how a Manchester United fan feels about their situation. I couldn’t help feel that I was watching a classic Mourinho Chelsea side, especially since Man. U. were wearing a blue away kit. If Mourinho keeps playing, “negative,” football, I’m not sure how their fans would feel.
With the money spend on Utds squad, the wages they’re on and the philosophy Utd have for their playing style I’m absolutely amazed how so many Utd fans are accepting of 6 at the back with 3 defensive midfielders in front.
It’s Pulis tactics only with a massively expensive squad.
How the worm has turned!
I expected that performance from United and, while I would have liked to see us create a bit more, the most pleasing thing for me was that they came and played that way because they were scared of playing any other way. Aside from 13-14, when was the last time a Man U team did that? The tables have turned, my friends……..
We’re gonna win the league.
I expected them to sit tight and try to hit us on the break. Or maybe get do something from a corner or free but they had absolutely no interest in trying to score.
We’ve been struggling to keep a clean sheet and yet we found one quite easy the other night.
You’re forgetting that Mourinho and others were arguing that they were the most attacking team in the country because they’d had more shots than anyone in the country before this games. The words, hoist and petard spring to mind.
Anyway, he’s a miserable bastard these days and we’ve nothing to fear from United. I think we’ll twat them at Old Trafford because they’ll actually have to engage with the game there. Mourinho is yesterday’s man.
I’m sorry but i’m gonna be that dick head. This article is basically based on kissing Mourinho and Uniteds ass. What place does it have on a website dedicated to LFC? Sorry to act a tit but as much as i think the article makes good points, as a red it was very weird to read.
This had a couple good points but like Chris Mors said above, the overall tone of the article was plain weird.
I dont agree with the part where we should be going to Old Trafford and playing like we are scared shitless. That is not the way Klopp approaches big away games and the results back him up. We go to big away games and play to win because that is what big clubs should aim for.
I can’t believe a Liverpool fan is praising Man Utd for a cowardly performance and justifying it as a good gameplan. Every single team has scored against us in the league this season, even 10 man Hull managed it. United had only SIX touches in our box all game, 1 shot on target, 1 corner and the author is saying that was “excellent”?
And what is this the author is saying about us not getting a point at United since 2000? So he would rather we had drawn every single game there since 2000 rather than a few memorable wins?
Yes, Mourinho did what he thought was right and got the point he came for. But he deserves absolutely no praise for it. If you are a big club, play like one rather than a more expensive version of West Brom. This was a league game not an away leg in knockout competition.
I agree with much of your article Phil but to say it’s ‘nonsense’ to think they should have played differently actually is nonsense. Sure come and play tight and with caution but I don’t care if he’s been there 12 games, 12 years, with the most expensive squad in world football to have so little ambition is piss poor. This weekend is huge (every weekend is) but if we beat West Brom and they lose at Stamford Bridge that negative rubbish that Mourinho trotted out will look even worse and I think that turns our point into a very good one. I for one am sick of Mourinho, have been for years, so chuffed he’s at Utd, couldn’t think of a more perfect fit.
I’d rather read about Klopps tactics in this match. And that even though we had a less than ideal starting 11, the lads finally got a clean sheet and ground out a point against a very difficult side to break down. Mou can do one, I for one am not in the mood for a United love fest. If he had any balls, and new what this fixture meant to their pathetic fans he would have came in and gave it a go.
surly the best thing for utd would be to win, and not to lose would be the second best thing?
Sorry Phil, this article is on par with those cameraphone bellends behind the Utd dugout on Monday night.
As for this:
“United failed to break the top four last season because they weren’t good enough over 38 league games, so why should he suddenly have managed to turn a United side from not being good enough to finish in the top four of what was a poor Premier League, to being able to turn up at Anfield against one of the best attacking sides around and out play them? It’s nonsense to think that he should have done anything different.”
How does this apply to Mourinho yet Klopp, who finished in a worse position than Utd last season, manages to take us to Arsenal & Chelsea without simply packing the 18 yard line with cloggers and fouls?
Why don’t you follow Mourinho to United if you love him so much?
I take the point you’re making Phil, but how many times have we heard Mourinho bleat “Only one team wanted to win the game” somewhat hypocritical wouldn’t you say.