Manchester United 1 Rooney 78'
No Liverpool result is more deflating than a home defeat to Manchester United, and this loss will be especially difficult to swallow given the number of chances missed and the set piece screw up that allowed United to steal a win at the end. The Reds played a decent match, but the overall effort simply wasn't good enough against a side experiencing its own spell of ineptitude.
Jürgen Klopp dropped Jordon Ibe to the bench and set up his team in a holding 4-3-3 formation with Lucas serving as the midfield anchor. In terms of movement, aggressiveness and ball retention, the starting eleven produced as well as one could have hoped. However, there was no end product to be found in the side, leading Liverpool to dominate the flow of the match without making United pay for their lackluster showing.
Of Liverpool's front three, only Roberto Firmino posed a legitimate threat to the visitors, and even his performance was a bit uneven. He sprayed a couple of brilliant passes and completed some nifty dribbles in tight spaces but at times appeared too soft on the ball. Meanwhile, Adam Lallana and James Milner looked dreadful in terms of attacking substance on the afternoon, offering Firmino little support going forward.
Jordan Henderson and Emre Can got into good attacking positions on multiple occasions but neither midfielder could bury their chances. For Henderson the culprit was a Coutinho-esque eye for the crowd with his off-target long shots. Can was unlucky to come up empty though, as fine efforts from the left side of the box and just outside the area were turned aside by the ever brilliant David de Gea.
Liverpool's defense played surprisingly well for most of the match. Whether that was a result of genuine improvement from Mamadou Sakho and Kolo Toure or a byproduct of United's own attacking misery is up for debate, but the display was reassuring to see regardless of its root. That is until the 78th minute when a corner kick routine predictably turned the Reds to brainless mush, as Marouane Fellaini's initial header struck the bar and rebounded to an unmarked Wayne Rooney, who smashed his shot past Simon Mignolet.
The players currently available to Klopp are not good enough to produce reliable results. They have enough spark to beat any team on a given day, but widespread inconsistency means a middle of the table finish is inevitable. The hope is that Klopp can inspire the Reds to turn up in the League Cup and Europa League so that this season does not finish as a total waste, and then he can rebuild the squad over the summer.