The occasion deserved a better display. After an agonizing international break and weeks of fevered hype from the Sky Sports marketing team, Liverpool and Manchester United sputtered under the Anfield lights in a 0-0 draw watched by the largest TV viewership in nearly three years. According to the Telegraph, an estimated 2.8 million households tuned into the defensive slugfest; the last match to draw such a crowd was the United win over Arsenal 1-0 in November 2013.
Even with form suggesting José Mourinho’s United arguably came out the better of the matchup between the bitter rivals, preventing Liverpool’s bid to go top of the table and halting a poor run of results that had seen his side win only one of their previous five league ties, the negativity of the play made the whole affair hard for even the United social media wizards to spin:
Realistically, it could only be expected of Mourinho in his first big showdown since his tactical humbling at the hands of Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City a few weeks back, so far his only foray into something resembling expansive football this term. The surprise therefore was that viewers were even surprised that the Portuguese manager would do anything more than procure the biggest and most tricked-out £626m luxury coach he could find and park it just outside his team’s 18-yard box.
After three seasons of watching their team frustrate with risk-averse and negative tactics under David Moyes and Louis Van Gaal, United fans, for some reason, joyously welcomed Mourinho’s capture, completely disregarding his veritable doctorate in negative football tactics. It is only now, after watching a team boasting the likes of Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Paul Pogba and Henrikh Mkhitaryan line up in what can only be described as a 6-3-1 formation, that their fans are now realizing that the attacking football of Sir Alex Ferguson’s increasingly-distant tenure might not actually be coming back for quite a while.
Nevertheless, the considerable turnout to view the bore draw—a million more viewers tuned in than did the Manchester derby, Sky Sports next largest showing this season—is evidence that the appetite to watch each round between the two giants of English football still holds some considerable level of appeal. One can only hope the next installment of the ongoing saga on January 15 at Old Trafford at least provides better viewing.