One win in eight games. Three consecutive draws. Liverpool may not be sinking but can hardly be described as moving forward with purpose. Perhaps blunted purpose, but as the season has underlined so far, a team's purpose must be sharp to fully vanquish the resistance of the opposition. Intent is neither sufficient nor requisite at this stage if the right result has wandered off somewhere. No, this is a time to consolidate and build momentum to help Liverpool reach the halfway stage of the campaign in relatively good health.
Attempting to be the voice of reason by claiming that it’s far too soon to make any sort of coherent assessment of what has transpired up till now is to really be a dubious and questionable peddler of beguiling wares. August—with its rousing victories against Hoffenheim and Arsenal in the absence of Philippe Coutinho—stepped aside for an inordinately sluggish September. In two weeks, Liverpool will be staring right at November's somewhat tepid embrace. Surely the season cannot be described as youthful in November or even in the middle of October's clutches. Whatever 2017/18 will be for Merseyside's finest, it is well underway.
José Mourinho brought his Manchester United side to Anfield without much in the way of enterprise but plenty in terms of tactical cunning. The former Chelsea manager lamented that his "opponent didn't open the door for me to win the game" as his plan was for Jürgen Klopp to make an attacking substitution where a midfielder was brought off for an attacker. However, all three Liverpool midfielders lasted the entire game and helped the home side exercise a degree of control in the proceedings.
The purported "measured positivity" from Klopp that Gary Neville took issue with was probably the right approach against a team managed by Mourinho. It would have certainly served Liverpool well on 27 April 2014. Sometimes Liverpool play energetic but reckless, almost childish football. It is thrilling as it is chilling for those who pledge allegiance to this grand club, but it can produce the most maddening results at times. Why should Klopp make changes that make the game broken and leave Liverpool open to a counter attack that could very well result in defeat?
Play the right pass but squander a good chance. Play the right pass but miss a difficult chance. Play the wrong pass and ruin a perfectly good counter attacking opportunity. Play the right pass but with too much power. Make the right cross only to find that no player had the right level of anticipation to meet it. Waste a set piece and a palpably opportune moment to leech intensity from the enemy. Miss reasonable chances to score. Now, do it all over again but with more feeling. Tedium becomes us.
There has been some form of debate as to what exactly took place at Anfield on Saturday. Was it another game of wasted chances where Liverpool should have won? Did Anfield witness another game where José Mourinho got exactly what he wanted from the game? Was the home side just a little bit unlucky against a fierce and in-form rival that didn't deserve to share a point after Martin Atkinson's final whistle? Or did we all just turn yet another page in an increasingly frustrating and familiar tale of well-intentioned mediocrity?
The season is truly alive with much to reflect on already. Time is not the comforting cloak that some think it is, and while Jürgen Klopp is still the right man to take the club forward, do not be taken in by an illusion of youth. This season is as mature as it is experienced, and it is up to Liverpool to live up to its demands.