The weekend’s premier fixture fizzled out into a nervy, tense and tactical battle that would have made for anxious watching for both sets of fans, but neutral supporters might have been wiser to use the contest as a cure for insomnia.
Jose Mourinho proved once again why he is the master of the big match occasions, stifling a free-flowing Liverpool attack and frustrating the Anfield crowd. The game was not without its moments or chances, though, with Manchester United actually being the side to squander the best opportunity of the game. Mourinho got the point he was after, even if it was in a manner that his club aren’t entirely familiar with. Liverpool enjoyed a large majority of possession but failed to create any real openings; they came closest with a strike outside the box, forcing one of David De Gea’s finest saves. Jurgen Klopp’s men will have to accept the result, with positives to take into the next round. It was, after all, Liverpool’s first clean sheet in the Premier League this season.
Here are the player ratings from the match:
Loris Karius 2/5
Only his third start in the Premier League but is doing little to show why he should be the #1. Was let off the hook in a big way when his poorly hit pass went straight to Pogba, only for the Frenchman’s pass to Ibrahimovic inside the area to be slightly offside.
Nathaniel Clyne 2.5/5
Tried to show incentive by bombing forward up the right flank when Liverpool grew into the game in the second half. Attempted a few shots, which were blocked, and was mostly untroubled by Ashley Young.
Dejan Lovren 3/5
One of the biggest beneficiaries of Jurgen Klopp’s arrival at Liverpool, Lovren continued his solid start to the season with an efficient performance here.
Joel Matip 3/5
Early days in his Liverpool career and partnership with Lovren, but looks a really shrewd pick-up by the club on a free transfer. Liverpool needed a towering presence to deal with Ibrahimovic, and Matip did just that. Unlucky not to get an assist to his name after nutmegging Fellaini with a pass to Can, who was kept out by De Gea.
James Milner 2.5/5
Offers composure to a position where Liverpool aren’t blessed with many options; the Englishman is unlikely to be dropped for Moreno with steady performances like this. Rashford tested him with his pace and trickery on a few occasions, but Milner was up to the task. Taken off with just five minutes to go.
Jordan Henderson 2.5/5
Saw more of the ball than any other midfielder on the pitch, sitting the deepest of the central three. Won five tackles inside his own half, joint-most for Liverpool, and made three interceptions in a good showing to protect his back four.
Emre Can 2.5/5
Not the easiest league game to make your first start of the season, though the German provided a threat and was close to opening the scoring after Matip put him through. The Anfield faithful grew frustrated when Can would sometimes fail to get his head up quickly enough to keep the tempo up, but that will come with more consistent playing time. His inclusion was important, as Liverpool needed a tall, strong option in midfield to balance out their height disadvantage, at least in comparison with United.
Phillipe Coutinho 3/5
Provided a world-class strike worthy of winning any game, but was denied by a full-extension David De Gea. Also played in Firmino with a delicate flick, but his compatriot was prevented from pulling the trigger as a result of Valencia’s pace at right back. The Brazilian was interestingly conservative with his shooting, he attempted only two shots, a contrast from the usual sight of him trying long-rangers from anywhere outside the area.
Roberto Firmino 2.5/5
Once again showed just as much endeavour as he did creativity; the Brazilian attempted more tackles than any other Liverpool player, with 10, and was successful in five of those challenges. Saw a first half header fall straight into De Gea’s arms, and wasn’t quick enough to get a shot away late in the second half after Coutinho put him through.
Sadio Mane 2/5
His pace kept Blind honest at left back, the Dutchman’s slip nearly let in Mane in the second half. Was let down a few times with a poor first-touch and erratic decision making, this being his least productive display in a Liverpool shirt.
Daniel Sturridge 1/5
No shots at goal, no take-ons and a poor first touch. Dropped deep in hope of getting on the ball and growing into the game, but offered next to nothing. Hooked on the hour mark.
Adam Lallana (on for Sturridge 60th minute) 2.5/5
His introduction allowed Firmino and Coutinho to player closer to goal, and the English midfielder added intensity to Liverpool’s second-half approach as they enjoyed their best spell of the game.
Divock Origi (on for Firmino 85th minute) N/A
Came on with five minutes to go, not enough time to make an impact.
Alberto Moreno (on for Milner 90th minute) N/A
Late swap for Milner after the Englishman suffered a knock.
David De Gea 4/5
Had it not been for a spectacular save from Coutinho’s shot and a reflex stop down to his right from Can, then United wouldn’t have come away with a point. A convincing display from the Man of the Match.
Antonio Valencia 3/5
The winger turned full-back is starting to look more comfortable in the role, also providing a match-saving moment when he stopped Firmino from potentially winning the game late on.
Eric Baily 3/5
An impressive showing from United’s centre-back pairing, staying focused on the task at hand as Liverpool increased the pressure as the game went on.
Chris Smalling 2.5/5
Not a single tackle or interception from the centre-half, which looks poor on paper but considering how limited Liverpool’s chances were, is more of a sign of the effectiveness of United’s structure. He did make 13 clearances, though, and held a no nonsense approach when passing out of the back.
Daily Blind 2.5/5
Took United’s one and only corner, playing a nice ball right onto the head of Fellaini, a free header which went wide. Made more tackles than anyone else in United’s back four, but was lucky not to be punished from a slip inside his own half that gave possession away to Mane, a moment that showed shades of Steven Gerrard’s infamous slip in 2014.
Ander Herrera 3.5/5
Would have been named our Man of the Match if not for De Gea’s heroics. Bossed the midfield in a deeper and more defensive display, something you wouldn’t necessarily associate the Spaniard with. More tackles, interceptions and dribbles than any other player out on the pitch.
Marouane Fellaini 2.5/5
His inclusion was obviously to exploit United’s height advantage, which did prove useful when United went long from the back. Played it simple and had the best passing percentage accuracy, at 90.5, while chipping in with four tackles.
Paul Pogba 2.5/5
Provided the contest’s only clear-cut chance, a cross to Ibrahimovic, who headed way wide from inside the six-yard box. His touch let him down on too many occasions, though, with six unsuccessful control attempts.
Ashley Young 2/5
The surprise inclusion on Mourinho’s team sheet, Young was selected with his defensive contributions as his main selling point. He provided six tackles on his left side but offered very little going forward, with no shots, dribbles or successful crosses.
Marcus Rashford 2/5
Might have thought his pace gave him the advantage over Milner, but the youngster threatened rarely. Tried three crosses, though none successful, and put in a couple of tackles in a quiet performance.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic 1.5/5
The Swede was provided the chance to stamp his mark on the game but uncharacteristically failed to hit the target from close range, a guilt-edge miss. A mostly anonymous performance on a night where both strikers were shut down.
Wayne Rooney (on for Rashford 77th minute) 2/5
Showed little discipline out on the right wing, allowing his opposite number, James Milner, to get beyond him and cut-back in the box. It was the only time the Liverpool left-back got in-behind the defence, something Mourinho will have to think about if he plans on using Rooney in such a role.
Luke Shaw (on for Ashley Young 90th minute) N/A
A late time-wasting sub for United.