Wednesday, May 29, 2024

Manchester United 2-2 Liverpool: Talking points as Devils deal another blow to Reds trophy hopes

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In the clash between England’s two clubs with the greatest numbers of trophies, Manchester United and Liverpool shared the spoils at Old Trafford.

Luis Diaz broke the deadlock for the visitors in the 23rd minute, and Bruno Fernandes equalized in the 50th following a bad mistake by Liverpool’s Jarell Quansah. Kobbie Mainoo turned the game around completely with an excellent strike in the 67th, but his team wasn’t able to hold on to the lead as Aaron Wan-Bissaka brought down Harvey Elliott inside the box and Mohamed Salah converted from the spot in the 84th.

The game

The fact that United failed to take a single shot towards Caoimhin Kelleher’s goal in the first half says about enough about the way the game was going before the break, and the home side should thank the stars, their goalkeeper Andre Onana, and the notable lack of concentration from the Liverpool attackers that they didn’t go to the break with an insurmountable deficit. They threatened only once, very early on when Alejadro Garnacho had a goal rightly ruled by the lineman’s flag.

On the other hand, Liverpool pushed their rivals far back, and apart from Diaz’s goal, they had a number of chances they could’ve used to make their lead more tangible, most notably Dominik Szoboszlai who, try as he might, just couldn’t find the back of the net. Onana’s arguably best save of the game came early as he denied the Hungary captain, whose other efforts went narrowly off target.

Still very much in the game at the start of the second half, United notably improved their performance, investing a lot more energy into winning duels in the middle of the park and making smarter runs towards Kelleher, and the result of that improvement came as Mainoo turned inside Liverpool’s box and fired a pin-point shot into the far top corner to send Old Trafford into a frenzy.

Apparently unable to win but determined not to lose, Liverpool got their grip on the flow of the game back after a while and the ball started spending most of the time in the United half. However, the hosts now mostly defended with almost everyone behind the ball and it was difficult for Jurgen Klopp’s men to find a hole to exploit, before Wan-Bissaka slid in late took out Elliott inside the box.

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In the end, neither side can argue about the result being fair reward for everything seen on the pitch, and it will obviously frustrate Liverpool more.

Kobbie Mainoo

If there has been a bright spark at Manchester United this season, apart from perhaps Scott McTominay who wasn’t at Ten Hag’s disposal for this game, it’s Mainoo.

At the age of just 18, after starting the campaign at the end of October due to an ankle injury, Mainoo has firmly established himself as a regular starter for United. Not only that, but having almost never put in a foot wrong, he has been one their best, if not the best, players at the club. Since recovering from the injury, he started 17 Premier League matches. He’s very tidy in possession in the middle of the park, showing unusual levels of maturity for his age, quite capable of winning duels against more proven players at this level, and creative enough when an opportunity arises.

There can be no doubt that United have a proper gem in this boy on their hands, but unless they start qualifying for the Champions League more regularly over the next few seasons, they might be at risk of other clubs sniffing around for a chance to take him away.

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Young Liverpool defenders underwhelm

Much has been said about Quansah, as well as Conor Bradley, breaking into the first-team plans under Klopp this season. However, neither the 21-year-old centre-back, nor the 20-year-old right-back, had a very good game at Old Trafford this time.

Quansah’s positive contribution was mostly marred by his mistake which allowed Bruno Fernandes to score from a long way out. Bradley, meanwhile, picked up a justly awarded yellow card in the seventh minute already, and he was out of his position several times later, with his teammates forced to step in and cover for him. It was therefore no surprise to see Joe Gomez come on to replace him just after the hour mark.

The two youngsters have done very well in most matches they’ve played, but Klopp will surely be happy when Ibrahima Konate and Trent Alexander-Arnold are fully fit and able to retake their roles in the back line.

Table rankings

These teams have now met for the third and final time this season. All three matches ended as draws after 90 minutes, though United won the FA Cup clash after extra time. Given the form Erik ten Hag’s team have been showing lately, Liverpool will be even more frustrated by not winning even once. But the most important aspect of this game, of course, are the points and the Premier League standings.

With 71 points to their name after 31 matches, Liverpool have fallen behind Arsenal at the top of the table, and while only the better goal-difference has the Gunners in front, it’s obvious that they, and not Liverpool, now have the title race in their own hands. Manchester City are third, just a point short.

Meanwhile, United are still very far from Champions League qualification. Sitting sixth at the moment, they trail fifth-place Aston Villa by 11 points – a mountain they need to climb rather quickly. They may celebrate holding their title-chasing arch-rivals off each time this season, but in truth, this result won’t be doing them too much good either.

United still hope for FA Cup glory this season, and though they must do the best they can away to Bournemouth and at home against Newcastle in the league first, they will be keeping one eye on the upcoming semifinal, where they’ve been lucky enough to be drawn against Coventry, while Manchester City and Chelsea face off in the other semi.

As for Liverpool, it’s Atalanta in the Europa League next and the league game against Crystal Palace, both at Anfield, before traveling to Bergamo for the second leg of the quarterfinal tie against the Serie A side.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Veselin Trajkovic


Vesko is a football writer that likes to observe the game for what it is, focusing on teams, players and their roles, formations, tactics, rather than stats. He follows the English Premier League closely, Liverpool FC in particular. His articles have been published on seven different football blogs.

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