United held at Liverpool as Mourinho parks bus
Drab encounter ends with a second successive goalless draw between the two sides at Anfield as City thrash Stoke 7-2 to strengthen their lead at the top of the standings
Manchester United ceded the initiative in the Premier League title race after drawing 0-0 with arch foes Liverpool in a drab game at Anfield on Saturday.
Despite his side having previously matched leaders Manchester City stride for stride, United manager Jose Mourinho resorted to familiar spoiling tactics that meant his team registered just one shot on target.
Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool have now won just once in eight matches, but this was a brighter showing on a balmy Merseyside afternoon, with Joel Matip and Emre Can going close either side of half-time.
The second successive goalless draw between the teams at Anfield preserved United’s seven-point advantage over Liverpool in the table.
“Manchester United came here for a point and got it,” said Klopp, whose side went close either side of half-time through Joel Matip and Emre Can.
“For sure you could not play this way at Liverpool but it’s OK for Manchester United,” he added.
Mourinho said his team had good control in the first half.
“The opposition was good today, but we played our game,” said Mourinho. “In the first half we had a couple of very good chances and good control of the game.
“In the second half [Nemanja] Matic tired and I had no solutions on the bench. I tried with my substitutions to make us more dynamic in attack, but in reality we lost power and energy and control in midfield.”
The result meant United fell short of setting their best ever points tally after eight games of a Premier League campaign, although they have now gone seven games without defeat against their eternal rivals.
It was not the celebration Klopp would have wanted on the second anniversary of his appointment as Liverpool manager and he currently has only one more point than his predecessor Brendan Rodgers had at the moment he was sacked.
Another former Liverpool manager, Anfield great Kenny Dalglish, was present for the inauguration of the stand that now bears his name and with United retreating from kick-off, he saw his team have plenty of the ball.
United’s shackling of Liverpool’s front three meant Georginio Wijnaldum found himself with space to attack and he tested visiting goalkeeper David de Gea twice in the first 15 minutes.
It took a dazzling stop from De Gea to keep the scoreline blank in the 34th minute, the Spaniard jutting out his left foot to block Matip’s close-range volley from Roberto Firmino’s cross.
After pinching the ball off Philippe Coutinho’s toes, Mohamed Salah thrashed the rebound wide of the left-hand post.
Obliged to plough a lone furrow up front, United striker Romelu Lukaku endured a frustrating first half and should have been booked for cleaning out Joe Gomez with a late challenge.
But he almost put United ahead against the run of play following a slick exchange involving Anthony Martial and Henrikh Mkhitaryan, only for Liverpool goalkeeper Simon Mignolet to parry.
Liverpool procured their second big chance 11 minutes into the second half when Joe Gomez’s cross from the right fell invitingly for Can, who could do no better than hoist a volley into the Kop from six yards. Still Liverpool came, still United resisted.
Coutinho unsuccessfully appealed for a penalty after being caught by Ander Herrera right on the edge of the United box, while a lobbed cross from Firmino was just too high for the leaping Salah.
Liverpool fashioned two last openings in stoppage time, but after leaping to meet corners from substitute Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, neither Dejan Lovren nor Matip could keep their headers down.
Meanwhile, Manchester City strengthened their lead at the top of the table with a 7-2 thrashing of Stoke City at home while champions Chelsea stumbled again, going down 2-1 at bottom side Crystal Palace, who had not scored a goal before this game.
Tottenham also won, beating Bournemouth 1-0 at home, Swansea City beat Huddersfield Town 2-0 while West Ham were held to a 1-1 draw by Burnley.