“DRAG them down to our level and kill them.”
The words of Jürgen Klopp when he was asked how he would deal with better sides, more expensively assembled sides facing his Liverpool just after he was appointed.
Today Manchester United did an excellent job of dragging Liverpool down to their level. But they didn’t kill them. By Christ they didn’t kill them.
With 10 minutes of the game to go, when Liverpool had barely strung five passes together, when they had made all three subs and taken Sadio Mane further out of the game with every one it became clear that Manchester United were on their absolute last legs.
They had given everything keeping Liverpool at arm’s length. They had been worn down by the bluntest Liverpool imaginable. Liverpool blunt as sandpaper; Liverpool the rock in rock, paper, scissors.
The ball found its way to Robertson who popped it across the box and it was as if time stood still. Adam Lallana recast as Neo in The Matrix, somehow on hand to convert into an empty net. Lallana resplendent, the best of us, loving Liverpool more than you can imagine.
Our end went bananas. It has been a while since one of them, a while since you’ve watched Liverpool get out of jail late in a game. Celebrations have different colours and hues, different flavours. We don’t want to be savouring that one very often but on this occasion it was sweet as a nut, sweet like Tropicana.
Then the game wore on, quality still lacking but I became convinced we were going to continue our references to United 10/12 years ago. A John O’Shea or Rio Ferdinand to break their hearts.
Sadly, it wasn’t to be. Liverpool ended far the stronger, but there was to be no winner for the European Champions against the bottom-half strugglers.
Snide that from me. And in a sense unfairly so.
Prior to the game I spoke to Ant Shaw from the perennially excellent United We Stand and he said United were top six in defence, top six in midfield and relegation in attack. That perhaps overstates and understates the quality but the desire before kick off to think of United as a pub team from so many was ridiculous.
They have good players and those who aren’t good have been around the block. They were never mugs. And they are Manchester United which means something and means something more in a fixture such as this.
We of all sides should know that. Should know about footballing DNA. Should know that some occasions can be risen to, in a way.
Yet though, Klopp’s Liverpool have again failed to win at Goodison Park or Old Trafford, failed to make the superiority tell against the bitterest of rivals and failed to ever really put that hammer down. De Gea wasn’t making save after save. Far from it. And Liverpool didn’t start the game cutting a swathe through before the referee, both here and remotely, got involved.
Writing this while being kept in I am loathe to speak about the specific VAR incidents. I’ve seen nothing back. We can do that elsewhere. The handball rule has changed for attackers and it is what it is.
But the foul on Divock Origi in the run up to the United goal was exactly what referee Atkinson had been giving for our opponents all match. It looked a clear and obvious error. His performance across the 90 minutes was atrocious.
This isn’t sour grapes, let’s be clear right here, Liverpool were atrocious too. But it is in all honesty among the worst refereeing displays I have ever seen. He was absolutely dreadful in almost every aspect of the game.
Liverpool come away with a few things to think about. What they do without any of the front three from the start. Does it involve playing a more expansive midfield? Does it require a change of shape?
What they are doing with Jordan Henderson who has rightly been subbed early in the last four games. Gini Wijnaldum is Liverpool’s best performer first half but he becomes anonymous at best second half. Is the side a tiny bit too predictable? A lot of this feels churlish.
This Liverpool side have been almost perfect in the league since the clocks changed six months ago, only this result has stopped that and while being almost perfect they have won a Champions League. All of these footballers have played their part in being one of the best ever Liverpool sides.
Yet it is tougher to hit a moving target, evolution is nothing to be scared of and a bit of unpredictability hurts no one occasionally. Nothing should be thrown out of the window because of today’s result and performance.
Those who listen to The Anfield Wrap will have heard me gently urging greater variation for some weeks. The urging gentle, the variation required gentle because Liverpool are as close to perfect as can be.
Let’s end this remembering that, remembering that these are all remarkable young men who have thrilled and spilled, who have been part of a ridiculous run. Who now need to start another one.
Let’s remember that we have become United’s cup final and stopped them from winning that, that we are six points clear and that we are Champions Of Europe for a reason. Six times.
It isn’t quite perfect but what is? We march on, a 19th league title to win and a great set of lads to win it with, Adam Lallana on his knees in front of the end will do for me. Just.
Nine down, 29 to go. Liverpool’s poorest performance of the season out the way and we are unbeaten.
They’ll have to send a team from Mars to beat us. They’ll at the very least have to send a team from the other half of Manchester.
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“Liverpool were crap and the referee was worse… I’m happy to get out with a point.”
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Given the performance it is a great point, but in regarding the context, the performance was massively disappointing. I hope we don’t play thi game again where we have a healthy, get a draw, then another one and soon City are neck and neck with us again. Feel like this was a hugely missed opportunity to get 3 points against this side. Yes, they made it difficult with their passionate defending but we simply have to do mch better on the ball.
Feel like City would have won this game. We still struggle to get consistent wins at big away. City are superior there.
We definitely need to win against City at Anfield. No two ways about it.
To win this League we need to do more than them. We have to do something special. Winning at United with a good performance would have been special.
Might help if we got the decisions off the officials that City get.
We are still unable to handle a side that attacks us, presses early and high and puts passes over the top of the full backs. It’s kind of become the blueprint for how to beat us. See Sheffield United, see Napoli, see anyone who cares to try it. Just as well we’ve learnt to weasel results when needs be but waiting till the other side is knackered is not a sustainable tactic.
Might be the way Klopp treats these games at Utd and Everton, seems to try and play them down for some mad reason , he’s been here 4 years now and must realise these are not your run of the mill games even if they are in shite form when we play them, they will both raise their game to monumental levels and we have to match them
Nobody will ever be able to convince me that Atkinson did not go to Manchester today with a predetermined mindset about how he was going to perform. That was so bad it verged at times into corrupt.
As usual, we were too nice about it. It’s one of this side’s greatest failings; maybe its only failing. Too nice during the game to Atkinson, not letting him know we can see what he’s doing and aren’t going to stand for it, never in his face and arguing profusely, or pointing out in an over-the-top manner the inconsistency in his decision making and how it only favoured one side, making him give the next 50-50 to us, if only to calm us down and manage the game the way modern officials are told to. Too easy after the game, when only Henderson says something very mild about the referee, and Klopp says nothing.
I want a gang of bastards to support and although I accept this won’t happen under Klopp, can I have at least one? Maybe two? Is it too much to ask for this Liverpool side to become a little bit less Bournemouth and a little bit more Atletico Madrid? Even the great recent Barca teams had an edge & crossed the line at times when it came to influencing referees.
When Matip kicked the ball out for James, who was clearly time-wasting, I wanted Joel to immediately contract a flesh-eating virus and die in agony in front of me. That sums us up on the niceness front – 1-0 down with 20 to go away from home against a club we hate & looking for a record 18th win in a row to keep us ahead of the most expensively assembled squad in history in a race for our first title in 30 years… and our centre back is kicking the ball out for a player who is a known cheat, after our opponents had the chance to put the ball out of play and didn’t.
Given our performance and that of Atkinson, a point will do. But xG stats show we’ve been lucky to win as many as we had this season and we’ve been far inferior to the team we were this time last season. That luck run out today. We need to start performing again.
Absolutely spot on.
Brilliant post, I agree with every word of this. Martin Atkinson has never ever given anything ever, he’s always gone out his way NOT to give us anything, but yesterday that was shocking even by his usually biased standards. His performance has to be looked at (seriously). That was as bent a performance as I have ever seen.
I do agree that we were bad, atrocious, but not as atrocious as Atkinson, who allowed Utd to foul us and yet the opposite way round he gave Utd anything and everything. You can’t play football when you have a man who won’t apply the rules, unless it is against Liverpool and to hamper them. We have to now state that we never ever want Atkinson to be allowed to officiate one of our games because this fella goes out of his way to be biased against us.
Really surprised Milner didn’t start. Everything pointed to it. His rest. His form. Hendos comparative form. But what do I know.
you could watch a nature channel for months/years/millennia on end, hippos in the gambia, kangaroo’s in the bush, penguins in the arctic, but you will never ever find a species more happy and comfortable and at ease in his own environment than martin atkinson at old trafford v the 6 times European Champions.
“It has been a while since one of them, a while since you’ve watched Liverpool get out of jail late in a game”
About 2 weeks to be exact.
Feels impossible for us to win there. Shit fixture of which nothing good can come for us ever. I was in no way surprised by our lacklustre performance as I saw it coming a mile off. All the pre-game hype about how we’d roll them over and how a big defeat for them would get Solskajer the sack set the narrative. It was too obvious. Football doesn’t work in straight, logical lines.
It was clear Utd would be pumped up because this game was everything to them. We let them make us play their game. They truly are a terrible side and have reduced themselves to playing like mid-table scrappers, which is precisely what they are now.
Whilst it is two points lost in the context of us being vastly superior to them, against the backdrop of our dire performance it very much felt like one point gained.
There aren’t sufficient words to describe the performance of Martin Atkinson yesterday. That was a performance that warrants further investigation. Genuinely one of the worst refereeing displays in living memory.
I was angered by the predictability of it. The way it was so obvious their goal wouldn’t be ruled out but ours would. I didn’t even celebrate Mane’s goal. VAR has sucked the life out of football. Bled it dry of all vitality and spontaneity.
I concur, Atkinson’s performance yesterday warrants scrutiny. Perhaps if the gambling commission requests this then it would happen. That was a bent performance yesterday.
4 years ago we had 10 points from 9 games. -2 GD.
Klopp and this team don’t need a kicking which they seem to be getting from some quarters for a run of 17 wins, 1 draw and a 6th CL. They will learn from yesterday.
Keita and Ox will surely play more from here on. Tough match for Origi to start in with few minutes under his belt.
Tough match for Origi to play in when the ref is allowing him to be fouled.
Agree with all the comments about the ref. Can’t believe his blatant bias towards utd wont be questioned. Not saying this because of sour grapes we all know our team didn’t turn up but his performance was abysmal. Booked Fabinho then two minutes later allowed a United player to commit exactly the same tackle. Should be suspended.
And that one truly summed it all up for me.
You can guarantee that if the following had happen the other way round it would have seen a different outcome;
1) Liverpool foul Rashford and break away and score… We already know it’s no goal but would be a free kick to Man Utd.
2). Rashford handles the ball on the way to scoring. It would be allowed to stand and claimed to be inconclusive.
3). TAA or Robertson, plays the ball in the box with their should in the 95th minute. Verdict, penalty for Utd.
No saying TwAtkinson is a bent, cheating, corrupt bastard. But he is.
Listening to the podcast today. The thing that is being missed is that the UTD performance is symptomatic of our away form. Napoli, Barcelona, PSG, Napoli, City, Chelsea last year. Lots of examples of the away form being poor in the big games. We are not mentality monsters in the big games away.
What about Chelsea away this year, or Bayern last year or Porto… Sorry we could go on and on and even Barca away last season, we were the better team and as Klopp said it himself, we needed to change nothing for the return.
We didn’t have a great game on Sunday, but according to all Man Utd did and YET, if it wasn’t for Atkinson then Utd would have lost.
I must be missing something as we went to the home of our biggest rivals and dominated against a team that cost twice as much as ours to assemble.
Great review as usual Neil thank you. Always feel better after reading them.
I might be late to the party and it’s already been mentioned but watching back the foul on Origi – I’m not entirely sure that Martin Atkinson even saw it. It looks like McTominay is in between and blocking his view. Surely if a referee is unsighted then the high bar/clear and obvious error rubbish (which they just use to back each other up) to overturn a decision is totally irrelevant. Not that it would have made a difference the way he was reffing the game…
Haha. Never mind – just gone on twitter and seen that Carra has done his MNF virtual reality thing on it!
What Carragher walked around in a Man Utd kit whilst being ably assisted by a guide dog and just awarded Man Utd every decision. we didn’t need a VR thingy for that, we actually watched TwAtkinson do it in real time. There’s 90 odd minutes of footage of it out there to prove it as well… Not that the FA will review it and do anything about it.