Form and fitness stacked the odds against Liverpool coming into the clash at Old Trafford, with the Reds mired in a three-match winless streak and missing numerous key players, while José Mourinho’s resurgent United came in looking to make it 10 games unbeaten. However form—true to form—historically has rarely ever played a part in this charged fixture, a principle that held true today as the home side just about managed to snatch a point in a 1-1 draw.
Reds manager, Jürgen Klopp, in the midst of a packed January schedule that has met him with an ailing squad, was encouraged by his side’s spirit:
“Very positive, very positive performance. We were the better side, played better football, had the better plan.
“We would have deserved the three points today, but we’ll take one that’s OK. The performance was good. It’s for us in this moment, but we’re still playing good football and that’s OK.”
The selection options were thin for the German boss coming into the match as late scratches to the formerly-indestructible Nathaniel Clyne to injury and center half Joel Matip to an enduringly-obtuse FIFA, in addition to talisman Philippe Coutinho and captain Jordan Henderson playing at less than 100% forced tactical adjustments that saw Roberto Firmino play up top with Divock Origi and a rare start for youngster Trent Alexander-Arnold.
“We changed a little bit the system,” Klopp said. “We obviously had line up problems a little bit. The boys did really well, played good football.”
A first half penalty from James Milner gave Liverpool the lead, however the German was rueful that his side couldn’t capitalize further on their superior performance, “Unfortunately we only scored with the penalty. I think there were other situations when we could’ve been a little more clinical to score.”
The boss was particularly derisive of United’s tactics in the second half as they desperately sought an equalizer, on several occasions correcting the interviewer’s characterization of the Red Devil game plan of playing direct to Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Maroune Fellaini by simply re-labeling it instead “long ball.”
He refused to accept that he should be happy with sharing the points, even despite the circumstances, defiantly arguing that all else equal, the Reds were the better side on the day:
“No, no it’s not enough. I’m thinking [about our] performance and what it takes to win a game, the quality of the opponent, who came on and everything. [After all that] watch the game again, pull off the shirts and say ‘who should win?’ Today that would’ve been my team.”
“Tomorrow when I wake up it will feel much better than in this moment,” he quipped. “But in this moment there are two points somewhere I don’t know”