Liverpool vs Manchester United result: Five things we learned as title rivals fight out goalless draw

Liverpool and Manchester United fought out a 0-0 draw at Anfield to leave the Red Devils still top of the table.

The Reds started on top and created a few openings early on, but United maintained a counter-attacking presence with the speed of Fred, Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford. Roberto Firmino spurned the best opportunities for the hosts, while Bruno Fernandes sent a free-kick just wide of the upright for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side.

Firmino missed another chance from close range after a Robertson cross, before Bruno Fernandes was denied by Alisson and David de Gea palmed away a Thiago strike.

READ MORE: Premier League fixtures and table – all matches by date and kick-off time

Late on Alisson came to Liverpool’s rescue to save from Paul Pogba, while the Reds went a third straight league game without a goal.

Here are five things we learned from the big game at Anfield.

Liverpool’s altered defence

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Another game, another change for Jurgen Klopp and his defensive set-up. This time it was systemic, rather than personnel, as a failure for Joel Matip to recover in time led to Jordan Henderson sticking as Fabinho’s partner.

Ignoring the FA Cup clash which saw several changes, the alteration here from the last league fixture was the two stand-in centres-backs switching sides: Fabinho right, Henderson left, in an apparent bid to combat the speed of United’s left side of the attack with Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford.

In that respect, it was a success; the recovery runs and tackles thwarted United and the offside flag did the rest in the first hour. Thereafter the game did open up more, but a clean sheet was just reward for the home side’s combined efforts.

Misfiring Firmino

Liverpool had plenty of first-half openings, if not clear chances, but they all fell the way of Roberto Firmino.

Twice his shots were weak and misdirected, once he should have played in an overlapping Andy Robertson, but sent a shot wildly into the Anfield Road stand. Second half, too, the first good delivery from wide found the Brazilian at the far post but his connection was lacking and the block came in.

There has never been any doubting his work rate, movement and game intelligence, but here even his link-up play and final touch in the last third was below the needed level in a game of fine margins.

Not all fingers can be pointed Firmino’s way, with Mohamed Salah well below par and the team scoreless as a whole for a third league game in succession.

Full-back battle

Usually the focus is on the attacking players, which outlet or finisher can edge the game.

Here it was rather more about the full-backs; Trent Alexander-Arnold and Aaron Wan-Bissaka have been guilty of poor performances of late and are considered rivals for an England berth in the future, while Andy Robertson is considered by many the best left-back in world football.

But Luke Shaw was the stand-out in the 90 minutes at Anfield.

His defensive work against Mo Salah was flawless, his recovery runs were vital on more than one occasion and, going the other way, he provided a real threat on the overlap.

Alisson serves up reminder of talent

Liverpool in recent weeks have dominated games without having a cutting edge, conceding a goal at the odd moment without being troubled consistently through games – but nothing to constantly trouble the goalkeeper.

Here United had several good openings and it was Alisson who had to come to the rescue repeatedly, with both his reactions and his awareness being called upon.

The Brazilian’s footwork denied Fernandes from close range, a quick left-footed stop after a cut-back fell the way of United’s attacking midfielder. The most notable stop, though, was from Pogba’s piledriver on the run, inside the box on an angle – it was judgement and anticipation as much as strong wrists which allowed Liverpool’s No. 1 to preserve his clean sheet.

Another stop soon after came low down after a corner bounced in front of him – though the offside flag had gone up in any case.

Top end

For a game billed as a top-two meeting for most of a week, this fixture was within an errant Harry Kane finish of being fourth vs. first. The Spurs striker missed his late finish earlier on Sunday, but Leicester’s Saturday night win moved them between these two rivals.

They remain in between the duo, and a Manchester City win on Sunday night will leave Liverpool in fourth place – their turn to follow Tottenham in a drop-off in results, having held top spot themselves previously.

As for United, they face what might be a defining run.

This point will be seen as a positive, and keeps them clear at the top, but it could also be tinged with disappointment that they didn’t go at the champions a little more when they have been vulnerable of late.

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