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Liverpool 0, Manchester United 0: The Best Lack All Conviction

Liverpool were tasked with breaking down a resolute, bus-parking United side; they failed.

Liverpool v Manchester United - Premier League Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

Liverpool 0

Manchester United 0

When does a day end for you? Is it when the clock strikes midnight? Is it when the sun rises? Or is it when you go to sleep?

A number of us fans of the Mighty Mighty Reds who reside in the western hemisphere often find it easier to cope with early kickoffs by pulling an all-nighter. (This is particularly true of us on the West Coast, like Jordan, for whom 12:30pm at Anfield is 4:30am in the morning. It’s rough business.) I ended up doing exactly that; after coming home late from getting new a new tattoo, I realized it wasn’t worth it to try and get any sleep.

So that question on when exactly a day ends is relevant; because for some of us who tuned in to watch this, arguably one of the biggest fixtures in English and European football, it was still Friday the 13th.

I suppose we can be grateful, then, that the game wasn’t a complete disaster. But that doesn’t make this a particularly good day, either. Mourinho brought his Manchester United side to Anfield with ten men behind the ball and two middle fingers raised proudly upward. It went about as well as you’d expect— ending with a goalless draw and a bitter aftertaste.

I greeted kickoff for this game the way I usually do when we go up against United— with a discrete sense of terror. Liverpool’s defensive performance in the first 10 minutes or so did little to relieve that. I don’t understand what exactly possesses this team to make so many lateral passes inside their own box while an opposition attacker lurks mere feet away.

Maybe it’s part of a greater commentary of the futility of existence. “It is good that you are finally seeing the truth,” says Simon Mignolet as he tries to do some fancy dribbling around Romelu Lukaku inside his own six. “None of this matters. We are all shadows and dust.”

Dejan Lovren chimes in after passing directly to the opposition. “We cannot escape ourselves.”

Eventually Liverpool managed to pull themselves back onto something resembling equal footing. But they struggled to gain an upper hand, or indeed do much of anything other than not commit any stupid, unforced errors. (Which, to be fair, would be an improvement relative to the season so far.)

I have to hand it to this team— they’re remarkable at finding new ways to try and give me a heart attack. To wit: the 35t minute, when Roberto Firmino’s close-range shot was barely saved by David de Gea and Mohamed Salah’s rebounded shot careened wide of the post. I mean, really. Fellas.

As the game groaned toward the end of the first half, it became clear that the game that was happening on the pitch was perhaps only tangentially related to the game of football. Which is to say, United players tried to murder their Red-shirted opposition, and Liverpool players, for their part, tried to avoid being murdered. They would occasionally spice things up by approaching Martin Atkinson and saying, hey, so, these guys keep trying to kill us?? For which Atkinson would merely shake his head and remind us of the words of Nietzsche: the greatest dangers lie in pity.

Halftime arrived with no goals scored, and it is here that we must contemplate how organized proceedings of human activity can present a flurry of activity while also being devoid of life.

The second half began with United continuing to sit deep and thwart Liverpool’s gameplan (this is a Mourino team, what did you expect?) and Firmino being caught offside on what was otherwise a decent chance. You’d be forgiven for thinking an against-the-run-of-play goal for United was mere moments away.

Particularly after Emre Can had a huge opportunity to make it 1-0 in front of the Kop after catching a Joe Gomez diagonal on a half-volley. But we live in a cold and broken world— the kind that sends sure-fire opening goals well over the crossbar.

To the extent that it could be called a “chance,” Liverpool really should’ve gotten a penalty around the hour mark when Coutinho was body-checked inside the box. But Martin Atkinson had made it clear he wasn’t going to call anything— which is to say, he was saving his bid decision of the game for awarding a penalty to United in stoppage time after someone breathes on Lukaku— and Liverpool were left once again to ponder moral relativism.

But here, I must admit my failings and my hubris, and give Atkinson some credit. He had cards after all! And he used them! Against Ashley Williams, after fouling Coutinho. Hey, it’s a start! None of us are beyond redemption!

In any event, the rest of the game played out much as you’d expect any game where Mourinho comes to Anfield. United hunkered down and played for the draw, and Liverpool, try as they might, couldn’t make a big enough chink in the armor to get all three points. Thus ended a frantic yet airless 0-0 draw.

In isolation, this isn’t the worst result. In the context of what is now one win in eight games? Let’s just say the furtive glances being cast at The Panic Button are much more furtive now.

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