Neil Atkinson’s post-match review for The Anfield Wrap after Manchester United 2 Liverpool 2 in the Premier League at Old Trafford…


TWO dropped. Well and truly dropped as well.

It’s an infuriating result brought to bear in an especially infuriating way. Infuriating squared.

The Manchester United circus has become almost like a genuine big, top show – shifting from a tightrope to walk, to clowns, to lions to be tamed easily, to sword swallowing, to mesmerism and then back to clowns with a slab of all the above. You never know what the ringmaster is bringing next and that makes the game difficult to pace.

Regardless, though, Liverpool have more than enough of the first half to go 0-2 up and it is here they most let themselves down. It is here the game isn’t won the most, here where the collective need to do and be that bit more. Chances and chances to create chances define the whole game and, while Liverpool end with two goals, they should end the first half with the same and the whole match with four.

With the possible exception of Alexis Mac Allister all of the non-centre back players should do more, be better and be smarter when attacking. What’s difficult is that it is those same players who get you to the final third.

Or is it? You see this is the weird mesmerism, the circus act, Manchester United are so structurally inept it can only be by design. The mind trick is they want to spring across 80 yards and choose accordingly.

It is no way to live and no way to win across a football season, but it is a way to be a moments football team made up of moments footballers, a way to be moments squared and a way to make the best of the shortcomings.

That doesn’t let the Liverpudlian collective off the hook, in fact if anything it further intensifies the reasons you make sure you get in 0-2, the reason you take it away before moments impact. Infuriating squared. Cubed. The two points dropped are significant and if they are ultimately significant then it will be before half time we should look.

Old Trafford was silent leading into the break. I mean absolutely gone in a way one rarely sees from any away end. There is a thing – a lot of those supporters have seen what it looks like when it is good, when it is real, when it isn’t a circus, some stupid find the lady game, but instead when it is football and they had nothing to offer their side. You can’t keep kidding them. Liverpool had done what needed to be done except score the second.

Infuriating squared.

But. But. It needs to be better there at 0-1, second half. We are not here to bury today what has been excellent through the season. Jarell Quansah will get 200 games minimum for Liverpool and he will continue to impress us all. However, the pass is sloppy and it gives the most capable moments footballer of all of Manchester United’s footballers the opening.

I don’t want to come over all hands across the M62, but a few times in this fixture I have felt Bruno Fernandes has been singled out for the failings of the many and his manager’s set up. He’s been shite, don’t get me wrong, but the relish with which both the general and United-specific punditry class has stuck their fangs into him has been a bit unedifying.

It’s a marvellous strike. I was right behind it fading into the corner and it is absolutely brilliant. He doesn’t do much else during the game which is memorable, but then he has to worry about that funny darts game they have outside the big top and ensure the donkeys are fed. He can’t be across everything.

It changes everything. Old Trafford had been like a morgue, they’d known the extent to which they were second best, but suddenly they knew they could stick it to the Scousers and say what you want about their trousers they enjoy that sort of thing.

Liverpool still could see the end goal through the hall of mirrors, but the decision making which had been poor all game took another blow and worsened again. Repeatedly, Dominik Szoboszlai had the absolute run of the gaff, but managed to make the wrong choice and the truth is that Manchester United have a wealth of experience of being the poorer side, being ran at, having to do chaos defending.

Liverpool conceded possession far too cheaply on three or four occasions and were eventually punished by another excellent strike, this time Kobbie Mainoo.

But still the game felt live, so live, still the game was taped to a swirling target and still Liverpool could throw knives and see if they could hit the playing card. Manchester United only completed 11 final third passes after making it 2-1, but then again this is their tombola.

Harvey Elliott was the best player on the pitch from the minute he was and it felt it would come from him. The penalty was nailed on and well taken by Mo Salah who, like the other non-Mac Allister starters, had found the game difficult for reasons he probably wouldn’t be able to explain.

Curtis Jones got caught occasionally, but improved Liverpool. Cody Gakpo embraced the madness, but the game became about whether Liverpool could get Elliott and Joe Gomez on it. That would be the source of the winner which sadly didn’t come.

Elliott swung one to Andy Robertson who nodded it down and Luis Diaz couldn’t convert his second when he should at least hit the target. That was on 94 and it felt like there was still ages left. Loads of time for one more chance because this is Manchester United.

It wasn’t quite to be and it hurts, not because we failed to beat them – they really are none of our business for a while – but because of the look of the league table.

The feeling we can be rope-a-doped half remains and we have more away games against moments footballers to come where we need to assert the dominance on the scoreboard.

It’s two dropped. There isn’t a grand salve for it, no written lotion to take the sting away. The sting actually needs to sting. It simply can’t happen again.

Seven to go and no more wiggle room.


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