A frustrating result on form, but a point from 0-0 draw against Manchester United at Anfield was the deserved result for a nervy, disjointed performance by Liverpool.
In a starting lineup lacking the sort of attack-minded fluidity and link-up play fans have come to expect from the scintillating Jordan-Henderson-Georginio Wijnaldum-Adam Lallana midfield, viewers could have anticipated some early adjustments. Sure enough, man of the match, Ander Herrera along with the towering Paul Pogba and the footballing equivalent of a blunt object in Marouane Fellaini, bossed the center of the park for much of the contest.
Henderson was quick to note that, while the Reds did managed to silence the mercurial talents of Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Pogba on the defensive end and only come out slightly behind in the central areas, it was this lack of fluency in the final third that prevented his team taking more from a very winnable affair, “We’re a little frustrated, a little disappointed because we didn’t play to the level we’re capable of or the way we’ve started this season in the majority of the games. At times it was good but I don’t think the rhythm was there in the final third and we didn’t create many clear-cut chances.
“I thought we defended well at times, winning the ball back and keeping the pressure on, but in terms of creating chances, I think we could’ve been a bit more decisive in the final third.”
There was marked improvement upon Lallana’s introduction late in the second half to replace Sturridge, allowing Coutinho to rejoin Firmino and Mané in the attack to almost instantaneous effect as Liverpool started to find pockets of space around the box, forcing United keeper David De Gea into some world class saves.
“[W]e didn’t start the game great to be fair,” the Liverpool skipper said, “but we grew into it as the first half went on, we kept going, got on the ball more and dominated with the ball, and the second half on the ball, but again we really didn’t create more than that [one] clear-cut chance. Roberto was nearly in at one point and I thought Philippe’s strike was in the top corner, but it was a great save [from De Gea].”
Klopp, while noting that the rotations hindered his side’s preparation for the all-important North-West England derby, however, refused to accept that not having his current first choice XI available should have had such a material effect on the performance, “Emre couldn’t train the last two days with back problems in some very important [training] sessions after the international break that he couldn’t make with us.
“Phil played the different position [that he played] in the last game [against Swansea] when change[d] with Lallana. But that’s not the reason. It’s one reason, of course, but it is not possible and it is not allowed that when we only have these 10 players that we can play our football, that’s not the problem.
“We lost because we weren’t calm enough, there were spaces. When you defend like Man United—that’s their style, that’s absolutely okay—it forces something like respect, then you need to be cool and pass the ball to the next player. We played these risky passes in the first half.
“We have to use [United’s strengths] and make it their weakness, that’s what we didn’t do.”
Henderson agreed, lamenting that “[W]e tried to force it a little a bit [in the first half] and were a little bit hectic at times. Winning the ball back, I thought we had the right attitude, but on the ball a little bit more calmness to get into the final third and then punish them.
“But at the end of the day, we kept the clean sheet. Man U are a very good side and we’ve got to give them a lot of respect.”