By Phil McNulty |BBC Sports|
Adam Lallana’s late equaliser rescued a point for Liverpool at Old Trafford as Manchester United ended the leaders’ flawless start to the Premier League season.
Liverpool were in search of their 18th successive league win to equal Manchester City’s top-flight record set between August and December 2017 but had to settle for a point after a scrappy encounter.
Marcus Rashford’s hotly-contested first-half goal, allowed after a video assistant referee check for a foul by Victor Lindelof on Divock Origi, looked to be condemning Liverpool to their first league loss since they went down at Manchester City in January.
Rashford finished neatly from Daniel James’ cross in the 36th minute but Liverpool, who saw a first-half strike from Sadio Mane ruled out by VAR for handball, struck back when substitute Lallana arrived unmarked at the far post to score from Andy Robertson’s cross five minutes from time.
The draw means Liverpool’s advantage at the top of the table has been cut to six points.
Liverpool grateful for a point
Liverpool’s relentless start to the season ended here at Old Trafford, an arena where they always struggle to produce their best.
They have failed to win on their past six visits to Manchester United, comprising three losses and three draws, meaning manager Jurgen Klopp is still searching for his first win here with Liverpool.
Robbed of the injured Mohamed Salah, Liverpool started with Origi on the left and rarely displayed the intensity and attacking verve that has become their trademark in a strangely subdued performance. They had 68% of the ball but barely created any clear-cut opportunities in a match that swiftly became a war of attrition.
Liverpool, however, are sustained by a fierce determination even when not in top gear and Lallana was on the mark after a lengthy spell of possession to score his first league goal for over two years.
Klopp’s side even threatened to snatch victory, but substitute Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain’s shot flashed inches wide.
Klopp was furious about the decision to award Rashford’s goal but he must also accept that this was a below-par Liverpool performance and in the end they and their fans, who taunted their United counterparts with inflatable Champions League trophies and the number “6”, were grateful for a draw that means they still have a healthy advantage at the Premier League summit.
United show character and fight
Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer will be bitterly disappointed they could not hang on for five more minutes for what would have been a hugely satisfying landmark win.
He will, however, be delighted with the fight, spirit and organisation shown by his side, especially as the five-man defensive system United had been working on this week was disrupted minutes before kick-off when Axel Tuanzebe was injured in the warm-up and replaced by Marcos Rojo.
They subdued Liverpool until they switched off carelessly late on when Rojo went missing and Ashley Young failed to spot the danger from Lallana in behind him.
Overall, however, this was a huge improvement simply in terms of resilience and character.
Goalscorer Rashford worked tirelessly while Scott McTominay continues to mature in midfield, and the Stretford End showed their appreciation at the final whistle.
This is a mediocre Manchester United side but there was no shortage of effort and they deserved a point that Solskjaer will hope provides a platform for a rise up the table.
Man of the match – Marcus Rashford
‘A step in the right direction’ – what they said
Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer: “It’s important to get results. That’s the only way to grow confidence. A win would have been great but a draw is a step in the right direction.
“As a manager you want results now – you can’t lose four, five or six games on the bounce. We’re looking to win games as soon as possible.”
On the lack of a free-kick to Liverpool in the build-up to Rashford’s goal: “It’s maybe a slight touch but it’s not a clear and obvious error. It’s still a man’s game with tackles allowed, and the second one [Sadio Mane’s disallowed goal] was a handball. Today we were on the right end of the VAR decisions.”
Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp: “The result is OK. It’s not what we wanted but we have to be happy given how the game developed. The first half I didn’t like because we gave United the chance to do what they want to do – to put us under pressure and be aggressive. They were not better than we were but they did what they wanted to do.
“They scored a goal which shows all the problems with VAR. Mr Atkinson let the game run I’m sure because there is VAR. For me it was a clear foul. It’s a general problem. VAR looks and says ‘you decided like this’. But it was a foul. Then we scored a goal that was disallowed. Pretty much everything went against us but we still didn’t lose so that is OK.
“We were in charge 100% towards the end. We wanted a different result but to do that you have to play better.”
Match stats – Klopp’s struggles against Solskjaer
- Liverpool failed to win for the first time in 18 Premier League games, since a goalless draw with Everton in March.
- No side has dropped more points from winning positions in the Premier League this season than Manchester United (8, level with Aston Villa).
- United registered their second lowest possession figure (32.1%) in a Premier League home match since 2003-04, second only to 32.06% against Liverpool in March 2018.
- Five of the past seven Premier League meetings between United and Liverpool have ended level (one win each) – just four of the previous 36 between the sides had been drawn.
- English players scored for both Manchester United and Liverpool in a Premier League meeting for the first time since November 2001 (David Beckham and Michael Owen).
- Since the start of last season, Liverpool have scored 28 Premier League goals in the final 15 minutes of games, more than any other side.
- Man Utd boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is the only manager Jurgen Klopp has faced more than once in the Premier League and failed to beat (P2 D2).
- 35% of Marcus Rashford’s 31 Premier League goals for Manchester United have come against ‘big six’ opponents (11/31).
- Liverpool’s Adam Lallana netted his first goal in 29 Premier League appearances, since scoring against Middlesbrough in May 2017.
- Since the start of 2017-18, Liverpool’s Andrew Robertson has registered 19 assists in the Premier League, more than any other defender.
Liverpool visit Genk in the Champions League on Wednesday, with United at Partizan Belgrade in the Europa League on Thursday.
Next Sunday in the Premier League, Liverpool host Tottenham with United at Norwich City.