Manchester United remain on top of the Premier League table, with a three‑point advantage over Liverpool, as the season approaches halfway. It is a state of affairs that would have felt ludicrous as recently as early October, when they were losing 6-1 at home against Tottenham, and even now will cause a few eyebrows to travel skywards.
Ole Gunnar Solskjær, the manager, had admitted during the week that his team had “not really set the world alight too many times”. They continued the trend at Anfield, wanting primarily to be difficult to beat, and yet they will reflect on having fashioned not one but two glorious opportunities to secure a smash-and-grab victory.
Alisson’s first intervention came on 75 minutes after Bruno Fernandes had opened up his body to sidefoot Luke Shaw’s cut-back at goal from the edge of the six-yard box. He would have wanted to summon greater power but Alisson still needed to be sharp to stick out his leg and clear.
The second was an even bigger opportunity and there was an element of fortune for United when Aaron Wan-Bissaka’s cross deflected to fall perfectly for Paul Pogba. He had more time than Fernandes and went for power only to strike the ball too close to the Brazilian goalkeeper, who beat it away.
Liverpool flickered at the start of the second half but nothing more than that. Harry Maguire crowded out Firmino at the far post while a gaggle of United defenders would do likewise to Salah. He got his shot off belatedly only for it to deflect wide. Liverpool could also point to Thiago extending David de Gea on 78 minutes.
United had offered little, save for a Fernandes free-kick that fizzed wide on 33 minutes. But they reasoned that they might need only one clear chance. As it was, they created two. Alisson would be the Liverpool hero.
Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp:
“If we won 1-0 I’d think it was completely fine. You can’t deny Manchester United chances for 90 minutes. You never could. They’re in a good moment. With all the things said before the game – they’re flying and we’re struggling – my boys did a good game tonight.
“First half the counter-press was great, passing was good. But we didn’t score. That’s the most important thing in football. The second half was a bit more open. They had two big chances – Alisson made two good saves.
“There is no easy explanation [for their recent lack of goals]. You always miss chances. You have to keep going and try to ignore the talk around it. Everyone wants to see goals. You cannot force it.
“It’s football. These moments happen. You have moments where you can’t explain why you score from all angles. Against Crystal Palace everything ended up in the net. It’s a bit annoying in between these moments.
“I like the game. I saw a lot of really good individual performances and the team performance was good. Not the result we wanted, but the result we got.”